Kaiyukan Aquarium, Japan

My first stop on my summer holiday in Japan was to Kaiyukan Aquarium in Osaka.  I was really excited to visit Kaiyukan for several reasons.  1) I really like aquariums.  I feel like the ocean is as close as we can get to space on earth, and I REALLY like space.  (does that make sense?)  But in a way, it is a completely different environment than what we experience on land, with a completely different life forms.  And in terms of what we know about it, the ocean is huge, and what we know is not that big.  2) Kaiyukan is famous for being one of the best aquariums in the world.  and 3) I actually taught a lesson about Kaiyukan to my students.  So I was filled with all sorts of strange facts about the aquarium.

Osaka is really well set up for foreign tourists.  A lot of information is available in English, and the people are really helpful if you’re looking particularly lost.  (Thanks lady who showed me how to use the subway ticket machine!!) So I was quickly on my way out to the aquarium.  Walking up to Kaiyukan, you first see the Tempozan Ferris Wheel.  The reason you see the Ferris wheel first is that it is HUGE.

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And is it just me, or does it look like it’s tilting, just a bit?  Needless to say, I didn’t spend the $7 to ride it.

Just next to it is KAIYUKAN!   One of the largest aquariums in the world!!

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It looks surprisingly small from the outside.  But I liked that you can tell it is an aquarium just looking at it.  It has fish on it, it’s painted blue.  I’m a fan already, and I haven’t even entered the building.  When I do go in, I buy my ticket, and despite everyone saying how expensive Japan is, the roughly $25 ticket is $10 cheaper than the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and about the same as the SeaLife Aquarium in Busan.  (… I might spend too much time in aquariums… but for your international aquarium pricing questions… you know who to talk to!)

Now, let’s talk layout.  All too many times, when in museums or aquariums or castles I find myself slightly confused on whether or not I’ve actually seen all that was offered.  Especially art museums.  Why are there so many nook and cranny rooms in art museums?!  Even if you number them- it’s confusing!  Ahem.  Sorry.  Kaiyukan completely eliminates this confusion by structuring the entire aquarium roughly around the main tank.  You pretty much only need to walk straight and the aquarium will lead you around to every tank.  And no children will be running willy nilly from one tank to the next (always shouting NEMO!!!)

Another very cool thing that Kaiyukan does is post its feeding times at different tanks.  While I was there (and with a little help from my cell phone alarm) I was able to see the river otter, sea otter, dolphin, penguin, and squirrel monkey feedings.  As well as the touching pool feeding time (which is a whole other story.)

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The dolphin feeding time was really more like a mini dolphin show.  They had one handler/feeder per dolphin and they jumped in and brought the dolphins up close to the glass and did small tricks with them.  The main woman talked a lot, and explained a lot about the dolphins.  I think.  It was in Japanese.

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Now everyday I have will be, ‘well it was a good day, but it wasn’t a ‘high fiving a dolphin’ kind of day.”  You could also really tell when feeding time was about to happen, because the animals started freaking out.  Especially the dolphins.  They were all calm, just swimming swimming, and then the women came out and they were jumping all over the place.  They were like popcorn they were so excited.

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That’s how I look when someone brings out food too.  My favorite penguin just stood there the whole time, staring at the ceiling.  Looking back on it, I’m slightly afraid it may have been stuffed, or a dummy penguin.

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I called him Fred.

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I love that rays look like they have little happy faces.  The rays are in the main tank of the aquarium, which is huge.  As I said you walk around it, and it is about three stories tall, so you see a lot of fish.  This is where I would be writing about how @**)@*@^!% big the whale shark is, but alas, the whale shark was not out that day.  (Where do you keep a WHALE SHARK, when it’s not in the giant tank, I wonder.)  Instead there were spotted eagle rays, and sting rays, and hammerhead sharks… and lots of other fishy- things.  My favorite thing about the tank was how different it seemed just from looking at it from the top or bottom.  You notice totally different things.  On the bottom, it’s all about the sharks and some of the rays, but up at the top there are more fish, and a whole school of fish that seemed to spend all of its time just avoiding the sharks.

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There was a sea turtle that legitimately looked like it was flying.

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Also, behind Mr. Sea Turtle, you can see a diver.  Cleaning.  This was a common site at Kaiyukan.  The aquarium was very clean, both in and out of the tanks.  Several times I saw people cleaning.  It was nice to see.  I’ve been to a few aquariums… and I was definitely impressed by the habitats in Osaka.  They were all large and clean.  Most of them were modeled to look really realistic.  Which was all very nice to see.  I have been to aquariums and zoos where all the animals looked unhappy and the cages/tanks too small…  this wasn’t like that.  And I was also happy to see the interaction between the employees and the animals.  They seemed to genuinely enjoy and care for them.

Back to the fishes.

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Now, to be very clear, I think crabs are delicious.  But I really don’t like looking at them.  They seriously creep me out.  And I really want to meet the first guy that ate crab meat.  Because seriously.  Who looks at a crab and thinks… ‘ooo yummy.’  They’re all spindly looking… and shell-y.  I mean, it just doesn’t look appetizing.  The only thing in aquariums that I like less than a crab tank is a GIANT CRAB TANK HIDING BEHIND A CORNER, SO YOU CAN’T PREPARE YOURSELF FOR WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE.

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Absolutely unnecessary.

At this point I was kind of bummed that there were no jellies.  Jellyfish are my favorite thing to see at the aquarium.  And I thought an aquarium of this stature would at least have a jelly or two.  And then joy of joy, I came to the jelly room!

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Important to note that the white part of that last one there is bigger than my head.  Also important to know, these giant jellyfish are eaten in some places.

So after the excitement of the Jellyfish room, I was not expecting even more excitement.  But more excitement there was.  A touch pool!!  With… sharks and sting rays?  Rad.  This is one of those times in my life that I have to remind myself that I’m an adult, and that it’s not appropriate to push small children out of the way.  No matter how excited I am.  But, I petted the shark and the ray, after waiting my turn like a responsible adult.  Extra points go to the mom next to me though.  Her daughter was really young and couldn’t really reach any of the fish.  So she held her by both of her braided pigtails and the little girl leaned way over the edge to touch a shark. And then Mom pulled her back up.

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It took me about 4 hours to walk around the aquarium.  Definitely a fun way to spend an afternoon.  Definitely worth going to if you find yourself in Osaka with nothing to do.  Or even if you find yourself in Osaka with lots of things to do, make sure Kaiyukan is on the list!

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