Location: Kagoshima, Japan
Highlights: Large multi-species tank, Deep sea dark area, Whale shark
Photos: Dec 2015
Children Friendly (10): I believe children would have a great time at this aquarium! There are so many ‘changes’ that occur they would not get bored easy. Changing floors and types of animals you see was great in keeping the anticipation of the next animal high. There was a play area AND an interactive zone full of hands on activities and exhibits for children to play in. The tanks and exhibits were at good heights for kids, many of which were floor to ceiling or close to it. They have outdoor exhibits for the dolphins as well as an indoor show area to keep the children busy throughout the visit as well. A big aquarium but not large enough to take up the entire day or exhaust the kids.
Animal Diversity (7): For an aquarium they actually have a large amount of diversity. They showcase a large amount of fish, invertebrates, and a handful of reptiles and mammals as well. You will be able to see a number of species not common in other aquariums which is great.
Animal Viewing (9): I was very impressed with the viewing of many exhibits. The tanks are for the most part quite big and have viewing on more than one side in many cases. Some exhibits have multi-level viewing and you can get right up to the glass to get close to the animals. Even the exhibits with hiding spots for the animals did not appear empty and most exhibits had plenty to look at. The glass was for the most part well maintained making it easy to see the creatures inside.
Animals Happiness (8): In most cases this aquarium was great in this category. The exhibits appeared very natural with plant life and natural looking hiding spaces for the more private animals. The larger animals are where they seemed restricted. The tank for the whale shark was noticeably smaller. For the dolphins it appeared their only indoor tank for night time was the show tank. During the day they are outside in the canal which provides a much more natural experience for them (and the guests). I also loved the dark area where you used red lights to view the animals, having the creatures in the dark for the majority of the time would make them much happier.
Photography (9): I was very impressed with the quality of the photography at this aquarium. At aquariums it tends to be harder to take good quality photos as the lighting and glass can be quite tricky. At this aquarium I did not have as many issues, the lighting was usually very well done. The glass was also quite clean, with only a couple exhibits having a little bit of problems with cleanliness above the water line.
Layout/Map (8): I actually really enjoyed the layout of this aquarium as it kept the pace well and introduced new climates/types of species in an interesting way. There were floor changes fairly regularly making it clear when you were changing what you were looking at and kept the anticipation up for the next exhibit. For 90% of the time you knew where you were going next, a couple times we would second guess if we were supposed to take a different route. The map, although a little confusing at first, is excellent. They provide just enough detail to sort out your whereabouts without being overwhelming. If they made it a bit bigger they would be able to put in some more detail. Also on the map it does not show the best time/way to view the outdoor exhibits or then the route to exit properly which was a little like a ‘what now’ moment.
Hours (9): Pretty good hours for an aquarium in Japan, they are open the same hours every day until 6pm. Opening time is 9:30 which I feel is a bit late, even just 9am would be better especially with how early the sun rises. They are closed four days out of the year at the beginning of summer which isn’t too bad. They also are open in the evenings until 9pm on weekends in the summer which is fantastic. I would argue those times on weekends year round!
Price (9): They have some of the cheaper prices for an aquarium I’ve seen, not only in Japan! At 1500 yen for an adult that is considerably cheaper than many I have been to. There are discounts for infants and children up to Junior High School age. The memberships are quite reasonable being the price of two visits (with discounts even more if you purchase two or members of your family purchase at the same time). Although there is a parking charge it is not overly expensive and is very close to the aquarium.
Food (9): Food options were good with a sit down style restaurant. They had a variety of easy fan favourites that were a good size and a decent price. They also had kids meals and dessert which was nice. I did take off a point as it would have been nice to have a couple more ‘fast’ or snack options somewhere else in the aquarium.
Website (8): The English site is well done with all the necessary information simply laid out. There’s nothing essentially wrong with the website but it definitely doesn’t do the aquarium justice. Having more photos or a map posted with some exhibits you see would bump this up for sure. The Japanese site is much better (not entirely different) and I love that their map online is interactive and shows you exactly what the exhibits look like when you click on them – very well done!
Gift Shop (7): I was a little disappointed with their gift shop to be honest, with the size of the aquarium I thought it would be better. There are two shops, both not very big. They do have quite a bit of whale shark souvenirs but overall variety was pretty low. More options for adults, more clothing, and less generic souvenirs would do wonders I think.
Quiet Areas (9): I was surprised at how well this aquarium did in this category. Most indoor aquariums with a guided route do not have many places to take a moment but this aquarium did really well. They had a number of spots you were able to cut through to a different part of the route which created areas to take a break. There were also a couple spots designed to regroup, take a rest, or just enjoy the view. I feel even in their busiest times there would still be a good flow throughout the route making it less congested overall. With the outdoor viewing of some of the animals it also makes for a larger area for people to gather and/or get away.
Safety/Cleanliness (8): In general this was a pretty clean and safe attraction. There were not any noticeably dirty areas or exhibits, the glass was kept clean and the exhibits were well maintained. In terms of safety, the interactive section did have rock you could lift up to reveal creatures inside which I feel could be slightly dangerous as some children would try to then pick up or touch those animals. Also the rock covers did blend in well and could be tripped over or stood on if not paying attention. A little more presence of staff in these areas might be a good idea.
Extras (8): Throughout the day there are multiple feedings at a number of different exhibits. There is also dolphin training as well as performances conducted every day. A daily talk by staff at a set location as well as a guided tour are available free of charge which is awesome. On the Japanese website it also appears there are workshops and events held regularly.
Overall (8.4): I would recommend this zoo to anyone visiting the area. The exhibits were nice, with a good variety of animals on display. The cheaper price than many aquariums nearby is also a huge plus. A great family outing or a fun date night!