Editors Note: I promise this is the last time I will mention this. This post will not be exceptionally long due to the fact that much of the day was spent in the Apple Store getting my laptop worked on. Moreover this day was already planned to be short because our flight left in the early evening for Seoul.
One of the commons things we had heard from people who had been to Osaka before us was that the Osaka aquarium was an awesome experience. We had set aside a relatively easy day before our flight to Seoul to do nothing but visit the aquarium and relax before heading to the airport.
The Osaka aquarium is very easy to get to and is situated next to a large shopping mall and another museum. The train station is about a ten minute walk from the aquarium ticket gates proper. The Japanese word for aquarium is kaiyukan.
Let me take a moment to talk about aquariums in general. Aquariums are great. I could likely spend all day in an aquarium if it weren’t for two things 1) screaming children and 2) fish get really boring after about 30 minutes. My general rule with aquariums is: 1 aquarium every 2 to 3 years. The last time I went to an aquarium was on a business trip in Atlanta in 2008 so I was due for an aquarium visit.
Osaka’s version of water-terrariums is pretty impressive to look at just from the outside. It has two massive wings that sort of jut out from the central building that resembles a whale’s tale. It was already getting bloody hot at around 9:30AM and I noticed the rows and rows of stanchions around the ticket box. I can’t imagine what a long wait in this heat would feel like. Or the relief that you would get once you are inside the temperature controlled environment of the kaiyukan.
The price is a little steep but more reasonable than Marine World in California (although there are no roller coasters at this aquarium). We were one of the first groups admitted to the aqua-rium and it was already packed like sardines (I’m sorry).
I will take a short aside to describe a very cool and yet also very problematic aspect to the way the Osaka kaiyukan is laid out. After the main entrance there is an escalator that goes about five maybe six stories. The exit from the escalator is the first exhibit and happens to be some rather cute sea otters. The passageway in front of the otters is quite narrow and the escalator doesn’t have a feedback loop letting it know that critical mass has been reached in the otter exhibit at the top. The result is a heap of people all shouting at otters in Japanese while slowly being compressed together like the trash in a compactor. You can see the otters later in the tour but that didn’t seem to stop everyone from trying to hold their ground against wave after wave of tourists flowing off the escalator. In their defense, sea otters can be really cute.
I mentioned that sea otters are visible again later in the tour. This is due to the ingenious design of the aquarium. Once you are at the top, the scenic route makes descending circles back down to the ground floor. This allows you to see the same tanks from different levels as well as some new eco systems that are present and other pertinent side exhibits on the opposite walls. The theme for the aquarium is the “Ring of Fire,” a moniker that was given to the seismically active regions that form the border of the Pacific Ocean. In a circular fashion the exhibits replicate the different habitats on the Ring of Fire including: Japan, California Coast, The Great Barrier Reef, Coastal New Zealand, Coastal Central America and Chile, and even Alaskan islands. Being able to go deeper and deeper into each eco system was a very cool experience.
The center piece to Osaka Aquarium is the “ocean” tank that sits appropriately in the middle of the exhibit walkthrough. A four story descent into open ocean with sharks, large open water fish, skates, rays and their top money earner, the whale shark. The whale shark is basically an ocean vacuum sucking up gallons of sea water and extracting plankton and other lifeforms in the process. No bitey teeth on that guy. However the hammerhead shark and several of the larger fish in the ocean tank and some nasty looking teeth.
At the bottom the tour closes with several tanks of jelly fish and tide pool where children can stick there hands in to touch gross things. A highlight of any child’s day, I’m sure.
With our oceanic voyage and at end we regained our land legs and headed back to the train. From there we spent the rest of the day at the Apple Store and on a plane which was quite boring but on a logistical note, if you fly Peach airlines out of Osaka, they land at a different terminal than every other airline. Make sure you build in an extra thirty minutes to get to the second terminal.