Translated by Lester Somera
Experience The Pacific Rim At The Osaka Aquarium KAIYUKAN
Written by Keisuke Yamada
Marvel at giant whale sharks in the world's largest water tank at the Osaka Aquarium KAIYUKAN, and enjoy faithful recreations of the world's ocean environments.
It is said that there are over a hundred aquariums in Japan. Each aquarium has its own concept, so no matter which one you visit, you can try out fun experiences and see peculiar fish.
Out of all of the aquariums in Japan, we would like to introduce a particular one: the Osaka Aquarium KAIYUKAN. Founded in 1990, the Kaiyukan Aquarium has been a popular institution for many years, thanks to its concept and well-thought displays. This article will introduce the appeal of Kaiyukan and take you on a tour around its interior.
What is Kaiyukan?
The main concept behind the Kaiyukan Aquarium is that of twin rings - the “Ring of Fire”, as the Pacific volcanic belt is known, and the “Ring of Life”, otherwise known as the Pacific Rim. The geography of the Pacific Rim is faithfully recreated inside the aquarium, and visitors can observe various natural environments, as well as the aquatic organisms that live in those areas.
As you enter the Kaiyukan, you will first go straight up to the eighth floor by escalator. On the escalator path, you will see the surrounding displays, with the huge main water tank in the center, before descending to the fourth floor gallery corridor. Other areas in the aquarium are set up in a similar fashion, so that you can enjoy looking inside the tanks from various heights. When your perspective changes height, the scenery completely transforms; you can also see from the point of view of creatures inside the tank.
The exterior of Kaiyukan is meant to evoke the elements of earth, water and fire. The paintings of fish on the outer walls were drawn by a resident of the United States, the English designer Serge Ivan Chermayeff.
An Introduction to Some Areas Inside Kaiyukan
Kaiyukan is split into a total of 16 areas. The various channels, gulfs and continents that encircle the Pacific Ocean have been painstakingly reproduced, so we will introduce the respective features of these areas.
The Aqua Gate
After you go up the escalator, you will first pass through the Aqua Gate, as shown in this picture. After you head through this tunnel-shaped fish tank, your exciting Kaiyukan adventure will truly begin.
The Japanese Forest Area
What awaits you beyond the tunnel isn’t a fish tank but a forest, spreading out before your eyes. Japan’s waterfronts, mountain streams and woods have been recreated in the Japanese forest area, where you can look down at Oriental otters (*1) swimming peacefully, as well as giant salamanders (*2) and dark chubs (*3).
*1 Oriental otters: belonging to the weasel family, live in East and Southeast Asia.
*2 Giant salamanders: a protected species in Japan, giant salamanders are large amphibians.
*3 Dark chubs: a variety of fish that populate East Asian rivers.
The Aleutian Archipelago Area
Harsh volcanic rock crags formed from eruptions have been reproduced in the Aleutian Archipelago area, where you can venture into the territory of otters and witness their cuteness up close.
The Ecuadorian Rainforest Area
Capybaras - the world’s largest species of rodent - live alongside Amazon River fish in the Ecuadorian Rainforest Area. Enjoy the contrast between the worlds of above-ground and underwater life.
Here, you can observe many kinds of aquatic creatures, like the arapaima fish, which live in the huge tropical rainforests of the Amazon River basin.
The Antarctic Area
Rock and ice form the unforgiving environment of the Antarctic Area, where you can witness the penguins’ humorous looks and marvel at their nimble underwater movements.
The Tasman Sea Area
You can see the energetic swimming of Pacific white-sided dolphins here in the Tasman Sea area, a recreation of the small sea between Australia and New Zealand.
The Seto Inland Sea Area
More than 3,000 interconnected islands of various sizes make up the Seto Inland Sea, which has a particularly prosperous aquaculture industry in Japan. Any Japanese person from this region is likely to be well-acquainted with the fish species in this area of the aquarium.
The Cook Strait Area
The Cook Strait refers to the channel which runs between the north and south islands of New Zealand. In this area, you can observe the leisurely swimming of loggerhead sea turtles.
The Chilean Reef Zone Area
Nutrient-rich waters from the depths of Antarctica flow into the Chilean reef zone, which has huge quantities of plankton, and has been recreated here. Enormous schools of sardines await visitors to this area.
The Pacific Ocean Area
Surrounded by five continents and comprising 33% of the planet’s surface, the Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. Its grandeur is expressed at Kaiyukan through a gigantic water tank that is nine meters deep and 34 meters wide, with a water capacity of 5,400 tons. Here, the variety of fish you can see includes enormous whale sharks, stingrays, and migratory fish like mackerel, as well as schools of grouper, all calmly swimming about.
Every day at 10:30 and 15:00, there are fish-feeding sessions held in the tank. The sight of the whale sharks inhaling their feed in one gulp is the best part.
New Experience Area
In the New Experience area, visitors can touch sea creatures, feel North Pole temperatures on their skin, and smell the scent of the ocean. Just like in the picture, you can touch manta rays here with your bare hands.
In addition, you can observe seals from below, swimming around in tanks designed to recreate the Arctic Circle. You can also see their restful sleep from up close.
There Are Plenty of Souvenirs Available
After checking out all the exhibits, let's take a look at the souvenirs. There are plenty of goods here which can only be purchased at Kaiyukan, as well as cute items with aquatic creature motifs.
The Nanoblocks and capsule toys are particularly popular, so how about picking one up to remember your visit by?
Osaka Aquarium KAIYUKAN
Address: Osaka, Osaka, Minato, Kaigan-dōri 1-1-10
Open: 10:00 - 20:00 (varies according to season)
Closed: None (some special holidays)
Credit Cards: Yes
Other Languages: Yes
Closest station and access: Five minutes’ walk from Osaka-Minato Station (Chūō Line, Osaka Municipal Subway)
Price range: 2,300 yen for adults, 1,200 yen for children, 600 yen for infants and toddlers, 2,000 yen for seniors aged 60 and up
Phone number: 06-6576-5501
Homepage: Osaka Aquarium KAIYUKAN