by Bryce Marley-Jarrett
From Tokyo to Osaka Bay, today we're headed south, down to the port city of Osaka, to show you one of the city's most amazing attractions, the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. The Osaka Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the world, and the stand out in Japan. Centrally located, the beautiful building holds one of the most organised and fascinating aquariums in the world, focusing on marine life around the pacific rim.
Part of the Tempozan Harbor Village precinct in the port of Osaka, the Osaka Aquarium is the star attraction. Opened in 1990, and has been a major tourist attraction for local and international visitors to Osaka since.
On entering the aquarium, you actually start on the eight floor of the complex and begin your descent & tour of the pacific rim. The way the aquarium is designed and organised is quite amazing, the touring path is designed in a way for you to experience each of the 27 tanks and exhibits with a transition from "land" to "sea".
Once you purchase your ticket, you enter the aquarium through a tunnel tank (very common at many aquariums), however this is where your "run of the mill aquarium" ends.
You enter the first main exhibition of the Japanese forest, where you will experience the smells and sounds of the forest and also see some of the cutest inhabitants at the aquarium: the oriental small-clawed otters! Here you will find them in their enclosure that is built to be identical to their natural homes. Make sure you at least try to get a photo of one standing still, but they can be quick little critters, so this could take a while to achieve, so be patient! Once you've visited the otters, you may notice the transition to ocean starting, with many land and river Japanese natives like the satsukimasu, and Japanese giant salamander and other species making cameos.
Continuing your tour onwards, you will start to get more of a mix of land and sea animals, as well as sea life, and as you venture further along the tour, you will start to notice that you are on a descent and working around the entire aquarium going deeper(sam note: use italic here) into the ocean, through your tour you will see both animals and marine life from all areas of the pacific ocean.
From sea lions and seals from California, to sloths, squirrel monkeys and iguanas from Panama Bay and the Ecuadorian Jungle. You will also see spectacular penguins from Antarctica.
You have a tour of the Tasmanian seas of Australia, with the majestic pacific dolphin, then, as you descend further, you head up north to the Great Barrier Reef and see some spectacular marine life and coral formations that resemble one of the natural wonders of the world.
Now you are getting close to the biggest tank at the aquarium, which stays with you for a large majority for the remainder of your tour: The Pacific Ocean Tank. This tank is 9 metres deep, and situated in the centre of the aquarium, so you actually keep descending around it as the tour continues.
In the Pacific Ocean Tank you will find the big players of the ocean, all living together. The aquarium's world famous whale sharks are here, and also massive manta rays, bluefin tuna and many other large marine species.
Continuing on the other sides of the aquarium, opposite the Pacific Tank, other regions of the Pacific Rim are represented, like Seto Inland Sea, Chilean Rocks, Cook Strait, and the Japanese Trench. In these you will find many exotic and rare species that most people will have never seen before. The Osaka Aquarium boasts the most diverse range of species of any aquarium in the world, so for sea lovers, its a must see (more like must sea) attraction.
Next up, in the Deep Sea Zone you will find animals that almost seem like mythical Japanese monsters...and they have names to fit. Like the giant isopods, Japanese lobsters and trumpet fish, to name only a few.
Following the Deep Sea Zone you will come across a fantastic jellyfish area, where you can see these fish swim around like silk, than move onto the Arctic zone where you will feel the cold, and see the amazing Ringed Sea. Then the Aquarium brings you back to land with a cute enclosure of the Falkland Islands and their native rockhopper penguins.
The final exhibition is a must do for children and kids at heart: The Maldives area features touch pools for everyone to get close to, and be able to touch and feel the texture of, rays and sharks as they swim by under your fingers.
As you exit the main building you will cross a walkway into the gift shop, where you can pick up souvenirs and gifts for those back home.
Japlanning tip: If you're lucky, you may see some adorable infant otters being raised and looked after in the rehabilitation area nearby.
The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is open daily from 10:00am until 10:00pm. Admission is 2300¥ per person, however the admission desk does close closes one hour before the aquarium closes for the night. The English website can be accessed here.
Once you have completed your self tour of the Osaka Aquarium, don't feel like you must leave the prescient immediately.
Opposite the Aquarium is the Tempozan Harbor Market, which is a large shopping, dining and entertainment complex, with great restaurants, some crazy arcades and laser mazes, a food theme park, and also houses one of the largest ferris wheels in Japan, the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, which stands at a towering 112.5 meters tall!
Although Japlanning would not recommend not dedicating at least an entire day to this, just across the waterway is the world famous Universal Studios Japan, which is accessible by a ferry boat if you want to go check it out.
Admission to the Tempozan Ferris Wheel is 800¥ per person and open from 10am to 10pm daily.
Getting to the Osaka Aquarium is easy from anywhere in Osaka. The aquarium is located just by Osakako Station on the Chuo subway line.
If you are staying in the Universal City area, you can also catch a boat from outside the Hotel Universal Port on the Captain Line Ferry.