For our last excursion in Japan, we decided to check out the Osaka Aquarium. Located less than 10 minutes walk from the Osakako stop on the Chuo subway line, it was very easy to get there from the Hyatt Regency. On the way to the aquarium is the Tempozan market and Ferris Wheel. It rained all day, so we did not do the Ferris Wheel, but we did eat an early lunch at the market place, that had an interesting indoor “street” food court. Austin tried takoyaki (octopus pancake balls) and Landon, Owen and I shared noodles and pork cutlet. Our lunch was better than Austin’s. Also in the Tempozan market place were numerous souvenir shops, normal mall-type stores, and a Sanrio store where I picked up some official Japanese Hello Kitty merchandise.
Since it was raining so hard, I did not get a good picture of the outside of the aquarium, so I borrowed one from the internets. The ticket booth is out in front and to the side of the aquarium, and when we went on a rainy Monday morning, the line for tickets was fairly long, which surprised me. I had read on their website that strollers are not allowed inside the aquarium, but we brought ours along to transport the kids to and from the aquarium. One hitch that we did not anticipate was that we could not leave ANYTHING in our stroller when we checked it. That led to a frantic rearranging of our gear as we had to shove all of our extra water bottles and random baby junk into our backpack and carry it along with us. Another weird thing is that when we reached the actual aquarium, there were couples there with babies in strollers. They were all foldable umbrella-type strollers, but I’m not sure how they got in…
Once we had our stroller situation squared away, we entered an aquarium tunnel with fish swimming over us and all around us. Then, we took the longest escalator ever to the top level of the aquarium. The concept for this aquarium is really neat. It starts on the top level with the Japanese forest, and then as we descended we saw fish and animals from different areas of the world around the Ring of Fire- or Pacific rim. These tanks were on the outside of the circle, and were several stories tall. First, we saw all of the creatures from above, then as we descended, we got another view of them from underwater as well. Although we have visited zoos with underwater viewing areas, this is the only aquarium I have visited with consistent on top of the water and underwater viewing areas across a majority of the exhibits. After a few levels, we reached the main tank. This tank is huge- one of the biggest in the world, and is home to two massive whale sharks, manta rays, and other giant sting rays. There are also several hammerhead sharks in the tank, along with other fish, but compared to the whale sharks the hammerheads look quite puny!
This is the first time, I think, I have seen emperor penguins in real life. I remember loving learning about them in elementary school, and they are just so majestic! There were also several other varieties of penguins, along with seals, otters, dolphins, and many other creatures. It is hard to snap quality pictures at an aquarium while keeping track of two boys! Several of the exhibits had feeding times, but the aquarium was not really built for large crowds to gather, so Landon was able to squeeze through to the front, but Austin and I did not actually see anything that was going on. Placards were in English and Japanese, but presentations were in Japanese only. After getting stuck in a huge crowd by the sea lions, we skipped feeding times for the rest of the fish and animals!
I grew up near Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, which sets a high precedent for aquariums for me. One creature I had only ever seen at Monterey Bay Aquarium were sunfish. Well, Osaka had four sunfish. I remember as a kid feeling sorry for these guys, thinking that they had been bitten in half or something. Not so, just funny-looking fish!
Even though I love Monterey Bay Aquarium, I can unabashedly admit that Osaka aquarium is much cooler than Monterey Bay. The whale sharks and the giant middle tank, along with the really neat concept of viewing the tanks from multiple levels take it over the top for me. Landon was mesmerized watching these giant creatures swim around the tank. He is very interested in all sharks, but especially giant sharks, so this was perfect for him.
Off to the side of the main exhibits was a children’s exhibit with all the different fish in Finding Nemo and Finding Dory. We had to take a photo op with the famous fish! Owen really enjoyed watching all the creatures from the baby carrier. He’s a champ!
It was so neat that as we went down the ramps of the aquarium, eventually we made it to the ocean floor and there were exhibits with deep sea fish and crabs. This tank was full of spider crabs. They are so big! There were several climbing up vertical rocks- it was really interesting to watch them climb! We spent some time at this tank!
Down on the bottom level was a special jelly fish exhibit. I find these creatures to be so fascinating! They had the color-changing LED lights in the tanks that make the jellyfish look so magical. The jellyfish pictured above, though, was something I had never seen before. It was the size of a basketball!
Landon loves megalodons. Enough that, even though he is only four, he has watched hours-long documentaries on them, and had Austin read him the very dry Wikipedia Wikipedia article on them for bedtime stories. He was thrilled that there was a megalodon replica at the aquarium, near the stroller check!
Osaka aquarium is a must-see attraction in Osaka. We made the decision this trip to focus on Kyoto, and just take one day in Osaka- specifically to go to this aquarium- and it did not disappoint. With unique features and a huge main tank, this place is great for kids and adults alike!