Next Stop, Japan

Next Stop, Japan

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

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As of 2015, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is among the top 3 most visited aquariums in Japan. In terms of total water volume, it is fifth largest aquarium in the world. It opened in 1990 as part of a redevelopment of the Tempozan waterfront area. The word "Kaiyukan" was invented by putting together the Chinese characters for ocean (海/kai), play (遊/yu) and building (館/kan).

The Ring of Fire or the circular of volcanic activity around the edges of the Pacific is said to have been the inspiration in picking the ecosystems and animals to display. Although, saying you concentrate on displaying what accounts for almost a half the world's oceans is meaningless. Its massive size means the highlights of the world are on stage in its 17 different themed areas. Some 29,000 animals and 470 species are housed at the aquarium.

The route through the aquarium starts with a long escalator ride up to the 8th floor to deep within a Japanese forest. You wander past Monterey Bay, the Great Barrier Reef, the Pacific parts of Japan and much more you descend through the building until exiting through the gift shop. While there is nothing wrong with the main route, it is basically the only route through aquarium. If you want to make it to a specific show on the other side of the building, good luck figuring out a quick way to navigate around the route markers through dark corners to your destination.

The showpiece tank is a miniature Pacific Ocean that is up to 9 meters (30 feet) deep. Holding back 5,400 cubic meters (1.4 million US fluid gallons) of water back from crushing gawking tourists like bugs is a maximum of 30 centimetres (12 inch) of acrylic. Up to two whale sharks circle amongst manta rays, tuna and other large fish. The center of 3 stories of the the building is taken up by the tank. The route winds past it a number of times allowing you to fully observe all the activity going on from all angles and heights.

There is plenty of marvellous sights within the aquarium like the sunfish, jellyfish, a tunnel tank, loggerhead sea turtles. It does show its age when its comes to comparing quality of display per cubic meter of water. Plenty of newer aquariums have more innovative or better dressed tanks. Its layout feels mechanical and laid out to serve the purpose of moving vast numbers of people through. For the traveller looking to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the exhibits and see hundreds of species, the preceding complaints are irrelevant. You won't leave disappointed that the highlight was a touch pool filled with sad specimens dredged from Osaka harbor. There's no doubt that it provides a world class spectacle.

Getting There

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is easily reached by from anywhere in Osaka City. If arriving by JR train, you'll need to get off at Bentencho Station and switch to the subway. Osakako Station on the Osaka Municipal Subway Chūō Line is a five minute walk. You'll pass the Tenpozan Ferris Wheel and a small mall beside the water along the way. From JR Osaka (Uemeda) Station, it will take around 30 minutes to reach the aquarium. A shuttle ferry operates between Kaiyukan and Universal Studios Japan. The crossing by ferry takes about 10 minutes.

Posted: June 10, 2015 Updated: June 10, 2015


Minato Ward

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