Posts Tagged ‘children’

Location: Itsukushima, Hiroshima, Japan (Miyajima)

Website: https://www.miyajima-aqua.jp/english/

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!


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Kagoshima Aquarium

Location: Kagoshima, Japan

Website: http://ioworld.jp/english

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!

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Nagasaki Penguin

Location: Nagasaki, Japan

Website: http://penguin-aqua.jp/english/

Highlights: Dive tank, outdoor penguin beach

Photos: Dec 2015

Children Friendly (8): A small indoor and outdoor aquarium which has plenty of hands on and interactive activities. Children would be able to complete it before getting tired. Most exhibits are easy to view for smaller children with multi-level viewing areas. I also noticed stools at a couple exhibits which would help as well. The outdoor exploration areas are very interactive with options for even more at an additional cost.

Animal Diversity (3): As the name suggests it is based around penguins, housing nine different species. I was surprised by the number of other species there though, with sharks, rays, fish, and invertebrates as well.

Animal Viewing (9): I was impressed with how well we could see the animals both underwater as well as above. The dive tank was awesome showing the underwater swimming. No animals were off display during our visit as far as I was aware of. The outdoor swimming area was a very nice touch in showing what the penguins look like in a more natural environment. When they are in the water however the actual viewing of them is not as good as it could be.

Animals Happiness (9): All species appeared happy and healthy. Having the outdoor area allowed some individuals to have an even more natural environment to interact with. Most of the tanks were very realistic and appeared quite clean. As with most aquariums larger pool sizes are always needed, at this aquarium it was the one section of outdoor pools with above ground viewing that I noticed this the most.

Photography (7): In general the photography was actually quite good with very clean glass in the underwater viewing areas. The large main tank had a lot of water spots on the inside making it quite difficult to photograph through which is the main area they lost points in this section. There was some difficult glare in a couple displays as well. Most other tanks had low glass which you were able to take photographs over easily. The outdoor area also had no barriers making for good photography.

Layout/Map (9): The layout is generally a one way route but they do make it easy to cut through and go backwards and/or choose your own route to a certain extent if you want to see feedings or something first. There are a couple offshoots or dead end branches off the main path making it a little confusing in which direction is best to take. That being said the map is fantastic and numbered exhibits to show the proper course. It is also has cartoon figures and colourful making it more exciting to look at!

Hours (9): Open year round every day is obviously a huge plus! They are open 9-5 every day with it extended to 6pm in August. I do understand it gets dark early but I feel they could extend their hours a bit, even opening an hour or so earlier.

Price (10): Absolutely awesome prices. About $5 for adults and $3 for children up to Junior High age. Free admission to children under 3 and senior citizens who are residents of Nagasaki city. Their year round memberships are also an amazing deal, saving money by the third visit. Even though you have to pay for parking, the cost is minimal and with such low admission costs I feel like it is not that much of an annoyance.

Food (7): A decent selection of drinks and ‘light meals’. It’s not huge but the prices are okay and if you are peckish during your trip you can head there. Since it is a small aquarium I understand not having a huge amount of options or a large cafeteria but if you are in need of an actual MEAL this isn’t the best place for you.

Website (10): A very well done website actually. The English version is easy to navigate, gives all relevant information, and is still nice to look at. It doesn’t look overly different from the Japanese version just more simple and streamlined.

Gift Shop (7): The gift shop was small but had quite a bit of merchandise in it. I did appreciate that it was mainly themed around penguins and/or aquarium animals. The products were mainly what I consider Japanese style souvenirs and more geared towards children. Having a wider selection, especially for adults would be a good improvement.

Quiet Areas (7): Even though it’s a small aquarium there were more quiet areas than I thought there would be! Having outdoor portions allow for more space to sit quietly or regroup yourself. Having the dead end areas also does provide some quieter portions of the zoo as well which is one positive of them I guess! I would appreciate some more benches or sitting areas especially near the larger tanks to allow for more appreciation of the tanks. During busy days I imagine it is quite busy though with not a lot of room to spread out and get away from crowds in the indoor areas.

Safety/Cleanliness (8): Cleanliness was well done throughout the aquarium, more so than I expected with the constant indoor/outdoor traffic. Low exhibit walls/glass could pose a safety hazard to children if leaning over them. It was raining slightly during my visit and it did make some areas of the flooring quite slippery, especially on the stairs which could be quite dangerous to guests.

Extras (8): It does appear they have quite a few extra programs on their website including feedings (both by zookeepers and the public) as well as interactions with the animals. They have small tours and parades throughout the days and even experiences riding in kayaks. They could expand more into summer camps and the like considering their outdoor space.

Overall (7.9): It was an enjoyable aquarium, especially if you love penguins! They had good exhibits with the outdoor one adding an interesting touch. A fun way to spend an afternoon but nothing state-of-the-art.

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Osaka Aquarium Review

Location: Osaka, Japan

Website: www.kaiyukan.com/language/eng/

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.

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Toba Aquarium

Location: Toba, Mie, Japan

Website: http://www.aquarium.co.jp/english/

Highlights: Animal feedings (sea otters, sea lions), Japan river exhibits

Photos: Nov 2015

Children Friendly (9): A fun atmosphere for kids, lots to see and do. Most exhibits are at their level and easy to see the animals. Mostly indoors and not huge means little legs will be able to walk through it all before getting tired. It also wouldn’t consume your entire day going there unless you’re really taking your time. There are a couple more interactive areas for kids to explore.

Animal Diversity (9): Their diversity is actually one of their main selling/advertising points – the most diverse aquarium in Japan (and I would argue the world?). I was amazed by their diversity! They definitely highlighted Japanese animals, more specifically local ones which I appreciated. They had an impressive range of fish, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and even some birds! They did a good job of showcasing animals which were not necessarily fully aquatic but still fit into an aquarium setting.

Animal Viewing (9): This aquarium also did well in this category. Almost all the animals advertised were on display/easy to see. Quite a few of the exhibits had multiple viewing areas, viewing from multiple sides, and/or multi-level viewing. Tanks which did not have any of the previously listed features often had large viewing screens making it still easy for viewing by multiple guests at a time.

Animals Happiness (4): This category was the aquariums biggest downfall. While the smaller aquariums were really well done and showcased very natural environments for the animals within, the larger exhibits were lacking quite a bit. Particularly the aquatic mammals such as the dolphins, seals, and walruses, the tanks were quite small and lacking in enrichment items. While it looks like they’ve taken considerable care in smaller exhibits, they need to spend some serious time and effort making the larger animals exhibits equally as enriched. If this means reducing their diversity to do so I think it would be to their benefit.

Photography (7): Lighting was done quite well in the aquarium and photography in general was pretty good. Some of the glass dirty or had quite a bad glare making it hard to get good photos. Having multiple levels/sides to exhibits helped this a little. Water clarity in some tanks also made it somewhat difficult to achieve clear pictures.

Layout/Map (7): The map was well done and showed the facility quite well. It did not list all the animals but did let you know the main features in each section. In terms of the layout that is where I took some points away. They have signs stating there is no suggested route and you are free to roam which in some ways can be good but also makes it difficult to navigate the aquarium a bit. With multiple floors and the entrance being in the middle (both vertically and horizontally) I imagine many guests end up missing an entire floor or wing quite easily.

Hours (8): Open year round and what appears to be every day the hours are fairly good. For a mainly indoor facility I expect longer hours into the evening, even if that means having limited access to the outdoor areas.

Price (6): The price was fairly high, especially considering the typically low prices of zoos in Japan. While they do have quite a large variety of animals and you can spend a significant amount of time here, the quality of the larger exhibits needs to be higher for this kind of price.

Food (8): There are a number of food options at the aquarium including sit down eating as well as more fast food type options. The food appeared to be mainly Japanese style at the restaurants with set meals. Prices weren’t too bad but I’d like to see a bit more variety.

Website (9): Their main Japanese website it done quite well with lots of information and graphics. Their photos on the website are quite accurate of what you will see in person which is great. Their English website is in need of some updating, while it is sufficient it is in no way comparable to the Japanese version.

Gift Shop (10): There were multiple gift shops in the aquarium, large and small ones. They had great variety in their souvenirs with products for both adults and children. I greatly appreciated their focus on animals they indeed had at the aquarium with items representing all the categories of animals which was great. They also had some smaller stores with products more representative of the area of Toba itself, for example pearls, which is a great touch.

Quiet Areas (8): Being a mainly indoor facility this tends to be a more difficult area to score really well in, but they did quite well. Some of the levels were quieter than others and they had benches throughout the floors for guests to sit and take a break. There were also a number of bathrooms throughout.

Safety/Cleanliness (7): The main area they lost points in this category is the high number of open top tanks. This makes it quite easy for guests to drop things in, purposely put hands in, or anything along those lines. There were also touch tanks in the outdoor area with minimal signage and some species which should maybe be monitored with guests more than they were.

Extras (7): From what I can tell they have a number of extras at the aquarium. They have a sea lion show as well as multiple feedings throughout the day for different animals. The feedings/keeper talks I did see were also long which was nice, if you arrive a couple minutes after the scheduled time you will still be able to see quite a bit. On their website they do have an events page but not much was listed the times I have checked, it may be a slow time of year but more events or programs would be a huge plus.

Overall (7.7): The aquarium was pretty well done, although its location is out of the way for most people visiting Japan, their animal diversity alone makes it worth a visit. I was able to see a number of species I have never seen before and their smaller exhibits were very well done.

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Sumida Aquarium Review

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Website: www.sumida-aquarium.com/en/

Highlights: Natural Aquascape tanks, Penguins

Photos: Sept 2015

Children Friendly (7): I wouldn’t describe this aquarium as geared towards children. Children would still enjoy it I’m sure but it doesn’t have the interpretive areas and fun cartoon graphics of other aquariums and zoos. Many exhibits are on a child’s level and the penguins especially would entertain them. Some tanks many children would be tempted to touch or put their hands in (which I happened to witness on my trip).

Animal Diversity (3): Being an aquarium it naturally has less variety than other zoos. It does have penguins and fur seals which does add some larger animal diversity. Japanese species are well represented.

Animal Viewing (9): Animal viewing was quite good, many of the tanks had viewing from all sides which was great. The penguins and fur seals had a walkway above which allowed viewing. Some exhibits were quite low which is great for kids but older guests would have trouble viewing.

Animals Happiness (8): The tanks seemed quite clean and well maintained with natural environments. I would like to see a larger exhibit for the fur seals with some more enrichment. I also removed a mark as some exhibits have a lack of cover for the fish (ex. the tanks with viewing from all sides).

Photography (6): The photography in aquariums can be quite tricky sometimes with the lighting and I found this one especially so. The overhead lighting was quite dark which did make the exhibits pop, but when you got to the penguins and seals and the lower level it was too dark. Also with their main area of tanks that allow viewing from all sides it could be quite difficult to get shots without other guests in the background.

Layout/Map (8): A one way route through the aquarium was fairly well laid out especially considering the location. The multi-level worked well for the larger main exhibits but I feel some exhibits could be easily missed on the lower level. Good signage inside showed directions which was appreciated.

Hours (10): Great hours! Open every day of the year and great hours everyday, 9am-9pm. Works well for tourists and frequent visitors alike.

Price (5): Fairly steep pricing, especially considering the prices of zoos in Japan tend to be quite cheap. This is one of the top tourist areas in Tokyo with Skytree in the same complex, BUT for the size of the aquarium I feel it was too expensive. Discounts are available for students and children. Memberships were a decent deal being double the single entry price.

Food (7): Even with the aquariums small size and huge selection of restaurants nearby they do have one inside which surprised me. They offered a decent variety of food and desserts but if a full meal for a family is required you might want to check out somewhere else. The gift shop also had quite a bit of snack options.

Website (9): The website is quite well done, giving visitors a good idea of what the aquarium will be like. Simple layout and easy to navigate are a huge plus. The only thing it is missing is information about events or seasonal changes.

Gift Shop (10): The gift shop was quite large and had great diversity in types of souvenirs and species showcased. They had great educational products, souvenirs for children, small and large gifts. The aquarium has a very simple, classy logo and it works well for merchandise. Adults and children alike will be able to find something they want to take home.

Quiet Areas (9): Although it is small the aquarium did do a decent job with providing benches and seating to take a break. Rooms are available for nursing moms away from crowds, as well as multiple changing tables throughout the aquarium. Due to its location there are definitely going to be times where it will feel overcrowded I’m sure.

Safety/Cleanliness (8): The aquarium was very clean, both for guests as well as the animals. Entirely indoors, it is well kept and modern. In terms of safety some tanks have open tops which can be dangerous for small children or overly curious guests. There are also stairs in the aquarium which could be troublesome for elderly guests.

Extras (6): There were not many extras noticeable throughout the aquarium in terms of interpretive stations, talks, or demonstrations. No events are listed online either. They do have an area which is said to host workshops but there was not one taking place when I visited. There are a couple behind the scenes areas showing the growth of jellyfish and other species which was quite interesting.

Overall (7.5): Overall I did enjoy this aquarium quite a bit. It was the classiest aquarium (or zoo) I’ve been to and it was an enjoyable way to spend an evening. It wouldn’t be my first suggestion for families but it would be great for a date!

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Ueno Zoo Review

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Website: www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/ueno/

Highlights: Gorilla exhibit, Nocturnal animals

Photos: Sept 2015

Children Friendly (6): The zoo is fairly large which involves quite a bit of walking, including some hills. For some exhibits viewing areas are at a higher level than small children. There is a Children’s Zoo area but I feel more interactive spots throughout the zoo would make it more children friendly as a whole. Some barriers would be quite easy for a child to cross if parents were not paying attention.

Animal Diversity (10): Quite a large collection of animals representing mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians well. Their species represent many different regions as well. Not only do they have all the major zoo draws but also some species I do not see often.

Animal Viewing (7): There were a couple of exhibits where I was unable to spot the animal, and a couple where it was very difficult to see them. Some exhibits this was due to awkward lines of sight from the viewing windows. I did appreciate having indoor viewing areas for the rhinos, giraffes, and hippos.

Animals Happiness (7): Most exhibits looked well done in terms of natural looking environments with plenty of shade and suitable vegetation. Some however were in need of updating such as the penguin and seal exhibits. Some animals were also seen methodically pacing, the tiger and sun bear most notably.

Photography (6): Although indoor areas provide viewing even when the animal is not on exhibit, they tend to not have the greatest photographic potential. Some outdoor exhibits were a little difficult as well with fencing choices.

Layout/Map (7): The map itself was quite good, very accurate to the layout of the actual zoo with animal icons which were also found throughout the zoo. A clear, colourful map. The layout was very disorganized. It was kind of separated by region, kind of by taxonomy, but not enough of either to make any real sense. The East Gardens especially had a lot of cross pathways making it easy to get disoriented and potentially missing exhibits.

Hours (7): The zoo is closed every Monday which is the main reason its score was reduced. If a holiday lands on the Monday it will be closed the following day, still reducing its open days for that week. Its daily hours are pretty standard, with slightly extended hours during the summer.

Price (10): The price is EXCELLENT. Not only are general admission prices only 600 yen (less than $10 Cdn) but they offer some amazing discounts on top of that for seniors, students aged 13-15, and groups. Children up to the age of 12, junior high students living or studying in Tokyo, and guests with disabilities and their attendant all receive free admission. These awesome rates are also reflected in their membership programs. They also have three set days a year that admission is free for everyone.

Food (6): The restaurant areas were not as frequent or big as expected for the size of the zoo. The menu options were also somewhat limited, offering some standard fast food, children friendly options. The quality of the food was lacking a bit I found. Foreign visitors would also be expecting larger portions considering the price.

Website (8): The website is quite well done, very simply laid out and easy to navigate. I do appreciate that the website gives a short history of the zoo and key features. I think adding more descriptive animal information and pictures would greatly enhance their website. Also news and event information would be appreciated as well.

Gift Shop (7): There were a number of gift shops which was nice but they were rather small and products were a little limited. Having feature animals is common in zoos but I found they focused too much on these and having a bit more variety would serve them well. In terms of types of products offered they had a decent variety, but more options in clothing especially would be nice.

Quiet Areas (8): I visited on a holiday weekend which was quite busy but I feel on a regular day there would be some great options. Even despite the crowds when I was there, there were moments to myself and areas which felt quieter. They also have designated rest areas and benches throughout the zoo.

Safety/Cleanliness (7): As mentioned earlier some barriers were not overly safe, most notably the indoor pygmy hippo exhibits. It would be easy for guests (especially children) to cross into the exhibit and be potentially injured. There are a couple of steeper hills which can cause concerns for strollers or wheelchairs.

Extras (6): One of the great extras I noticed was a portable information system which provides information about the animals and zoo as you make your way through. Available in a couple different languages I think this is an awesome idea which would be great at other zoos as well. There are a number of sculptures and monuments throughout the zoo which add to the zoo.

Overall (7.3): The zoo was enjoyable with a great variety of animals. I would like to return on day when it is not as busy and I can spend more time at the exhibits. Certain displays are in need of updating but considering the price of the zoo you’ll have a good time regardless.

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