Location: Osaka, Japan
Highlights: Whale sharks and the huge Pacific Ocean exhibit, Arctic ringed seal exhibit
Photos: Nov 2015
Children Friendly (8): An indoor aquarium circling around one large central tank means children would not get tired out quickly and can view everything in a couple hours. The majority of the exhibits have floor to ceiling glass so even little ones can get a good view without being lifted up. At the end of the aquarium are some touch tanks and more interactive areas but in general there is not much ‘extra’ for kids throughout.
Animal Diversity (7): They do showcase a decent amount of animal diversity. They focus on the “Ring of Fire” and have animals from a wide variety of water habitats. It is largely focused on the ocean and gives good variety of mammals, fish, and invertebrates.
Animal Viewing (5): Many exhibits it was a little difficult to see the animals. Many exhibits were multiple stories high so the animals were not always in view when you passed by one section of their exhibit. On crowded days you would also have to be right at the glass to see which means not the best view of the exhibit either.
Animals Happiness (5): The draws for this aquarium are the large animals: whale sharks, dolphins, sea lions, etc. While they do have huge tanks for them…they still are not big enough. It is a little deceiving as you walk through as the exhibits are multiple stories high, but they are actually not that wide. There also wasn’t very much enrichment observed in many of the exhibits.
Photography (5): The lighting in the aquarium when I visited in the evening was not the greatest, some exhibits were quite dark. The glass cleanliness was ok, some exhibits were extremely difficult to shoot though (the penguins especially). Viewing glass was often curved and the angles depending on where the animals were in the exhibit were not good. Photography at the aquarium would require a lot of patience and visiting during off peak times for sure.
Layout/Map (4): The map was accurate to the building but sometimes it was a little confusing where you were. While I like the idea of being able to see exhibits at multiple levels and angles it ended up feeling very repetitive in this case. Especially if some animals are not being very active it ends up just looking like a big empty tank for the next one or two times you pass by it. They also had some small exhibits in small side rooms on some levels but they seemed very disjointed. It’s also virtually impossible to skip to areas quickly or backtrack to see feedings, etc if you wanted to.
Hours (9): The hours are pretty standard throughout the year and being indoors they are quite long as well. Closed only four days out of the year is pretty good. They do have some months/times when they are open a half hour earlier/later as well.
Price (7): The price is pretty standard for aquariums anywhere. A little expensive for the amount you can do within but not outrageous. There are discounts for seniors, students, and children as well. Their annual pass is a pretty good deal if you live close by and planning on going multiple times. They are also part of an Osaka city discount pass which would be a good idea for tourists.
Food (5): Due to the timing of when I went I did not eat any food and the main restaurant was actually closed. They do have multiple food areas on sight though with a sit down type restaurant and more fast food one available. Unfortunately I cannot find anything online via their website or otherwise in terms of prices or options.
Website (9): The English and Japanese versions of the website are quite different but they are both pretty well done. The English website looks great and they did a good job of showing which animals they display and what inspired the design of the aquarium itself. The only this I feel it is lacking is information in regards to the restaurants actually at the aquarium (not in the mall next door) and any events that happen throughout the year.
Gift Shop (10): The gift shop was pretty well done. Their small one towards the entrance/exit was clean and classy. They had souvenirs for multiple age levels and featuring a number of different species…not just the whale sharks! On the lower level they also had a much larger shopping area with more species represented and different products.
Quiet Areas (8): Being indoors and one directional it is difficult to have quiet areas and spots to collect yourself. They do have quite a few benches and areas to rest and view the exhibits which was nice. They also have a number of small ‘wings’ off from the main path which are often not exhibit space necessarily which are good spots to step to the side out of the path of others.
Safety/Cleanliness (8): The aquarium was quite clean during my visit but I can easily see the glass getting dirty very quickly during the busy season. In terms of safety they did quite well. The touch tanks were a little concerning as there wasn’t a lot of supervision when we were there and the rays and sharks within were of a decent size. It would also be very easy for someone to reach over and try to touch the penguins in this area.
Extras (8): Through the Japanese website it shows they have quite a few other programs going on such as newsletters and events. School programs, night tours, and research programs all take place at the aquarium. I love that they have downloadable wallpapers from their website as well!
Overall (7): This aquarium was pretty impressive for the reason of seeing whale sharks alone. While some of their exhibits were very well done and I like their idea of multi-level viewing it did end up feeling very repetitive by the end. If you’re wanting a more interactive zoo with shows and play areas you’re better off somewhere else. This is a good aquarium for sitting and watching the tanks.