Translated by Shinji Takaramura
Come See The Whale Sharks At The Churaumi Aquarium
Churaumi Aquarium, located in Okinawa Prefecture, is the home of Japan's largest aquarium, where visitors can enjoy watching 8 m long whale sharks swim by.
Written by Keisuke Yamada
Of all the aquariums in Japan, the one with the largest water tank is located in Okinawa. It is the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, a staple sightseeing spot.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium features reproductions of the territorial waters surrounding the islands and its creatures. The word "chura" means "beautiful" in the Okinawa dialect.
As the name suggests, visitors can enjoy the beautiful Okinawa sea at this aquarium, reproduced in huge water tanks.
They can also enjoy the view of the actual sea.
The aquarium is located inside the Ocean Expo Park, where the visitors can also bathe in the sun and relax.
The size of the water tank entitled Kuroshio Sea is 7,500 cubic meters. There are 77 tanks in total, however this tank is one of the largest in the world. The concept of this aquarium is "an encounter with the Okinawan Sea," and the various tanks display the creatures swimming in the coral reefs, the Kuroshio Current and in the deeper waters.
The whale shark and the giant oceanic manta ray are popular with the visitors and have been part of a successful, long-term breeding program, which is a world first. The whale shark is also the symbol of this aquarium.
The Kuroshio Sea
This is the tank titled Kuroshio Sea. It is 35 meters long, 27 meters wide and 10 meters deep. With a capacity of 7,500 cubic meters, it is one of the largest in the world, spanning from the first to the second floor of the aquarium.
The acrylic panel separating the tank and the visitors is 60 centimeters thick, and its total weight is 135 tons. Until the Dubai Aquarium opened in October of 2008, this panel was the largest in the world.
The view of the whale sharks, seen through this panel, is breathtaking.
The elegant manta ray.
Besides the whale sharks, giant oceanic manta rays and other sharks are swimming around in this tank. The view makes the visitors feel like they've dived right into the sea.
Viewing the Creatures from Various Angles
From the center of the tank, move over to the left side. The whale shark will swim over your head, creating a fantastic view.
Taking a photograph with the whale shark in the background makes a great souvenir, as they always seem to swim by.
Taking a Break at the Cafe
There is a cafe beside the Kuroshio Sea tank, where the visitors can watch the whale sharks and mantas.
While the author was here, a small child got scared by the imposing sight of the aquarium, and started to cry.
The Whale Shark Souvenirs
At the souvenir shop, there are various items with whale sharks on them, such as these boxer-briefs.
The whale shark socks are also cute.
This is an original product - the beni-imo tart (purple yam tart), a popular Okinawa snack, with a whale shark on it.
This is another popular Okinawa snack called chinsukō which is similar to a shortbread or butter cookie, with a whale shark.
The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is a must-visit sightseeing spot, where visitors of all ages can have fun. Although located away from the central area, it is still worth making a drive to visit. The visitors can enjoy the whale sharks inside the aquarium, and they can also watch the dolphin show outside.
If you travel to Okinawa, be sure to visit this aquarium.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Address: Okinawa, Kunigami, Motobu-chō, Ishikawa 424
October to February 8:30-18:30, last admittance at 17:30
March to September 8:30-20:00, last admittance at 19:00
Closed: On the first Wednesday and Thursday of December.
Credit Cards: VISA, MasterCard, American Express, JCB
Other Languages: –
Menus Available In: –
Access: 2-hours by car on the expressway from Naha Airport
Adults 1850 yen; High School Students 1230 yen; Junior High & Elementary age Children 610 yen
**After 16:00, the fee changes to 1290 yen for adults, 860 yen for high school students, and 430 yen for junior high and elementary age children.
Official Website: Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium