Location: Itsukushima, Hiroshima, Japan (Miyajima)
Highlights: Oyster Farming Rafts, Otters
Photos: August 2016
Children Friendly (9): Being a smaller aquarium this is a great place to take little ones for a break from the heat. Being completely redone recently means everything is clean, new, and well signed. Exhibits are floor to ceiling, creating great viewing spots for children and plenty of opportunities to see things up close. Plenty of interaction also available with hands on opportunities and activities.
Animal Diversity (5): Being an aquarium that automatically means less diversity (for the most part) and this one being a smaller aquarium their diversity certainly took a hit. That being said they state they are focusing in the Seto Inland Sea, the waters surrounding the island itself, and in that sense they do a great job. Go here to learn about Japan and its animals not a world encompassing aquarium.
Animal Viewing (9): Like I’ve said, they’ve completely redone it recently and the new exhibits are great. Plenty of interesting exhibits which makes viewing the animals more fun. No animals were off display during our visit and for the most part were easy to spot or find. Great multi-level displays also.
Animals Happiness (8): The vast majority of the exhibits were very well done – natural looking, spacious for the animals, and plenty of natural enrichment. Interactive aspects are only done at certain times/days which gives the animals a break. The finless porpoise exhibit was an extreme letdown though. While we got good views of them their exhibit was bleak. Small with zero enrichment and it doesn’t appear to have any other exhibits for them, definitely a disappointment after seeing all the other well done exhibits.
Photography (8): This category was ok but not amazing. The exhibits were great with all the natural settings and interesting set-ups making for good photos. Multiple levels and viewing windows provided plenty of angles for pictures and spots to see animals. The lighting for many of the exhibits were dimmer, making the pictures sometimes appear lackluster or blurry as the exposure was longer. This isn’t awful but for the average photographer or tourist this might be tricky.
Layout/Map (6): Due to its multiple floors, the map of this aquarium is more confusing than most. The fact that the assigned route switches between the floors without completing all of one first makes it even more difficult. Arrows on the map help as does the general flow of the aquarium once inside but overall it’s not completely easy. Many exhibits are also multi-level which can throw some people off in terms of orienting themselves to the map.
Hours (7): A standard 9-5 opening hours means consistency which is great. I do feel like on weekends or in the summer time those could be extended, especially since most of their attractions are indoors and they’re near a HUGE tourist draw of Japan.
Price (7): Cheaper than your standard North American aquarium and some others in Japan but I wouldn’t consider it a deal, especially since it’s smaller than a lot of other aquariums I’ve been to. Discounts for students, children, and seniors helps as would a membership but you’d need at least three visits to start saving money.
Food (8): What I’ve come to associate with aquarium restaurants, quick easy meals which won’t break the bank but satisfy the majority of the population. Some ramen options, curry rice, and fun aquarium themed desserts. The prices were decent and plenty of children’s options but nothing to rave about.
Website (8): Again a satisfactory English version website. Gives all the necessary information right off the bat with times and prices, easy to navigate as it’s all on one page with skip down options. I thoroughly appreciated the photos of each exhibit right on the website which helps you get an idea of where you’re going and whether or not it’s worth your visit. Some more up close animal shots would be appreciated or information on any seasonal events or promotions.
Gift Shop (10): Another great gift shop! Japan seems to excel in this category, which is probably helped along by the type of consumers Japanese tourists are. Great themed merchandise with plenty of appreciation for many species they carry. Great souvenirs for adults and children alike with toys, food, and clothing all options.
Quiet Areas (8): At first I wasn’t going to give this as high but it turns out they have an outdoor picnic area which would drastically increase their opportunities to take some time to the side or have a lunch break. It wasn’t overly crowded when I visited towards the end of the day which meant plenty of space and time to spend in front of the exhibits.
Safety/Cleanliness (7): If you don’t join into any of the extras this would be a point or two higher actually. The aquarium in terms of cleanliness if quite high scoring. They recently redid the aquarium with new exhibits and signage and everything looks awesome. Safety is more in terms of parents watching their children for the most part. Many exhibits have open tops and children could potentially reach inside or even touch the animals if they’re so bold and being held up by a parent. They do have touch tanks and interactive options with some animals at certain times of the day – again posing a potential hazard.
Extras (7): They do have some animal shows and interactive areas such as touch tanks, holes in exhibits for the otters to hold hands, and supervised petting of penguins as well. It does appear they have some talks throughout the day. I couldn’t see any information about events or programing beyond those though which I feel could be added in quite easily.
Overall (7.6): I enjoyed this zoo! It wasn’t necessarily one I would go back to or list in my top aquariums but they did a great job showcasing the animals in the Seto Inland Sea. If you’re in the area and want to learn more about Japanese animals I would recommend it for your afternoon – it doesn’t take the whole day so it’s a nice break indoors!