Posts Tagged ‘dolphin’

Nagoya Aquarium

Location: Nagoya, Aichi, Japan

Website: http://www.nagoyaaqua.com

Highlights: Dolphin show, Kuroshio tank, Orcas

Photos: June 2016

Children Friendly (9): Very well done! The huge floor to ceiling viewing areas for many exhibits allow children to feel absolutely immersed in the experience. Up close views of the animals are easily accessible for even the smallest of children without the need to be lifted up. Plenty of talks, shows, and demonstrations will keep their attention as well. The touch tanks would need parental supervision and caution but everything else is well displayed for kids.

Animal Diversity (7): Quite a bit of diversity for an aquarium including large and small mammals, birds, turtles, fish, and invertebrates. They have a wide selection of the animals you would expect as well as nice displays of ones that are not as focused on like deep sea creatures. Many aquariums are either large marine mammals or a variety of smaller aquatic life, but Nagoya Aquarium is able to provide both.

Animal Viewing (9): Every animal that was promised was on display and visible. It also appears that there are not scheduled times where they are taken off display (during shows and talks you can still view them in the regular exhibits). The floor to ceiling displays of many exhibits also allows for viewing of many of the animals from a distance or above the heads of a crowd which is awesome.

Animals Happiness (7): Now I’m sure this will be the largest area of contention for this review. Yes, they house dolphins and whales, and yes after looking into them the vast majority are wild caught from the infamous Taiji. As I have never looked into where animals came from for past reviews and I feel this is a separate issue unrelated to the actual daily experience of visiting the aquarium I shall leave it as separate. It is widely reported that the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium has the largest outdoor tank in the world and I myself was impressed with the size of it. All of the whale and dolphin tanks are much larger than I have seen at other aquariums and quite clean. Also, none of these animals were solitary, with at least three individuals in each tank (thirteen dolphins were together in the largest of the tanks). While captivity is overwhelmingly criticized for these species I do give this aquarium credit for the amount of space and interaction these individuals get. Performing shows are also criticized but the show I viewed was much more educational than non-stop action. While tricks and stunts were performed the majority of the actions were natural behaviours done on command. Also, no humans entered the pool during the show I watched. Throughout the rest of the aquarium, I saw no animal welfare issues or unnatural displays. The exhibits for other animals throughout were also quite large.

Photography (10): I was absolutely blown away by the photography I was able to do at this aquarium. Aquariums are notoriously more difficult for taking photos due to the obvious glare from glass, fingerprints, curved/angled glass, and watermarks – but this aquarium had very little of any of those. I repeatedly said during the visit that everything was so clear! Considering the amount and size of the exhibits it really was impressive how good the shooting was.

Layout/Map (7): The aquarium is divided into two buildings – one for the large mammals (dolphins, whales, seals), and one for everything else. The divide makes sense in terms of zookeeping and logistics for displays and shows, but it would definitely create huge crowds in one area for much of the day. The layout itself is set up for a one way trip through the displays and for the most part is successful in having a natural progressions, however there were one or two times where I second guessed which direction was correct. This isn’t helped by the fact that you go back and forth between floors a number of times giving you the feeling that you haven’t completed it before moving on. The map itself is quite good and does it’s best with numbering the exhibits and providing guide lines – any confusion from the map I contribute to the route not the map itself. Plenty of pictures and details in the English map was greatly appreciated.

Hours (8): Fairly good hours with consistent opening times year round. Closing times are generally 5-5:30 in the slow seasons, with extended hours until 8pm during vacations and holidays. During the off season they are closed every Monday.

Price (8): Not as cheap as Japanese zoos but for an aquarium these prices are pretty good. Discounts for children, students, and groups are available. During the extended hours, night time prices are discounted. Memberships earn money back by the third visit which isn’t too bad.

Food (9): Actually quite the variety of food options at the aquarium. They have a full service sit down restaurant with a variety of dishes. They also have more of a cafeteria style restaurant with quite a few options for both adults and kids, at affordable prices! Near the dolphin show there is a food counter area with snacks and drinks. Quality of food seems decent and lots of options.

Website (9): A pretty impressive website! The English version has everything you could need (except for info about restaurants) and looks nice. They provide PDFs of both the maps and the event schedule on the site which is awesome. They do have this version of the website in three other languages as well. From searching through their Japanese site it appears they give a lot of detail about each exhibit (not just the most popular!) and plenty of news from the aquarium.

Gift Shop (10): Awesome gift shop! We experienced the Museum Gift Shop in the South Building fully, but there is also a gift shop in the North Building as well. The gift shop had a huge variety of souvenirs for every age group – clothing, stuffed animals, toys, stationary, decorations, etc. They highlighted quite a few of the species they housed, including ones that maybe aren’t as popular. While food is a hugely popular souvenir in Japan and they did have a large selection of cute food options to buy, the entire space was not taken up by it which I appreciated.

Quiet Areas (10): For being an aquarium I was very impressed with how well they incorporated spaces to rest and take a break. Benches or seats were present at quite a few of the exhibits and near many were boxes with padded mats you could use if you wanted to have a seat to take it all in (or during demonstrations). It was also a pretty spacious aquarium, I do understand I went on an off day, but even with crowds there should be enough area to be able to step to the side for a moment with your family. They also have a large outdoor area to relax or have a picnic.

Safety/Cleanliness (9): Very clean throughout the aquarium from the exhibits to the walkways and everything in between. I saw no cleanliness issues anywhere. Safety was also well done, with staff and security guards placed throughout the aquarium to monitor visitors and the animals. Touch tanks had staff present and hand wash stations. They do provide interaction experiences with the dolphins in some cases which I have said before are usually fairly safe but the potential for injury or mishaps is always increased.

Extras (10): So many extras! I was very impressed by how much they offer at this aquarium both as part of your entrance fee but also extras you can plan for. Besides the very well publicized dolphin show they also have a variety of keeper talks, training demonstrations, feedings, and movies in an IMAX theatre, all included with admission. From their website they also have sleepovers, yoga classes, dolphin interactions, educational presentations, and community events.

Overall (8.7): Overall, I was more impressed by this aquarium than I was expecting to be. The displays were big, clean, and provided awesome photography opportunities. They had a good variety of species to view and provided many opportunities to learn about them through talks and demonstrations. A fun family experience worth the money!


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Umitamago Review

Location: Oita, Japan

Website: www.umitamago.jp/en/

Highlights: Outdoor beach, Local Waters displays

Photos: Dec 2015

Children Friendly (10): This aquarium has a lot inside, with quite a bit of it geared towards kids. There is more than one play area with plenty of interactive structures designed to be educational. Multi-level viewing areas allow for children to get great views of the animals and interact with many of them as well. Since the aquarium is both indoor and outdoor (but not overly huge) children will be able to stay stimulated without completely wearing themselves out.

Animal Diversity (7): The aquarium does a good job showcasing a wide variety of animals from the main attractions (dolphins, sea lions, sharks) to smaller less known ones. The inclusion of some birds and amphibians is also a nice way of showing more diversity. For an aquarium their diversity is pretty good.

Animal Viewing (8): Many of their exhibits are multi-level and/or have both indoor and outdoor viewing areas, which is great. Almost all animals were on display during my visit which is good, especially since I visited later in the day. That being said, many of the exhibits were also being cleaned while I was there which isn’t the for viewing the animals.

Animals Happiness (2): While many of the exhibits were well done and looked very natural, there were also quite a few that looked rather bland and devoid of natural atmospheres. The biggest faults in this category were in the larger mammals: dolphins, sea lions, seals, and walruses. The tanks for these animals were much too small and devoid of enrichment or stimulation. Repetitive ‘pacing’ was seen in both sea lion tanks. While there the smaller dolphin pool was being cleaned which involves raising the bottom of the tank high enough for a staff member to stand in it about knee-high and clean the bottom – with the dolphins still in the tank. The fact that the tank is already far too small for one dolphin let alone four should already be a concern for the aquarium.

Photography (7): The photography here isn’t too bad, but has some room for improvement. Some exhibits did have a lot of glare or odd angles to shoot from. The glass was clean with minimal scratching or other damage. The lighting for most exhibits was ok but nothing extraordinary, some displays were a little difficult to get the photos I wanted.

Layout/Map (4): This was a very disappointing category. This was possibly the worst one-way route attraction I have been to. The route is not clearly marked in the aquarium itself making you constantly second guess yourself on whether you are heading in the right direction. Also, there are multiple entrances/exits to the outdoor portion which is great in terms of emergencies and choices for guests to go in and out as they please but adds to the confusion of route. Also, the beach area is at a different area outside than the other show areas which could also be confusing, especially since it is skipped over in the suggested route on the map. The map itself is actually not bad – visually appealing, good photos and information – but it has the same problem as the aquarium, it’s confusing! Once you get the hang of it you can manage, but having essentially five layouts that look very similar it would be hard to see where you are quickly.

Hours (9): Open year-round with consistent hours, the aquarium does have this going for it. They also are open for night visits during busy holiday seasons which is great. They are open a little later than other aquariums in Japan tend to which I appreciate.

Price (6): A little steep for price with adults being over 2000 yen. There are discounts for children, youth, seniors, and the disabled but it is still more expensive than I’d like to see. Also, I was disappointed that the membership prices were not better, not making your money back until the third visit.

Food (10): I was impressed that the aquarium had not just one but two restaurants on site. One appears more family oriented with more a cafeteria feel featuring quick, easy meals for families. The second is a restaurant with sit down tables and French cuisine more suited for dates, dinners, or events. Having the different options is great and opens up the aquarium for hosting events as well as the day to day guests.

Website (10): Their website is impressive, providing lots of good information to prospective guests. They have a good layout with nice graphics, showing what the aquarium will look like when you arrive. I was impressed that the English version looks very similar although simplified in its information. The website definitely sells the aquarium well.

Gift Shop (10): I was also impressed with their gift shop. They actually have more than one, with a smaller version on the second floor. Unlike many gift shops in Japan they showed a wide variety of souvenirs apart from the typical boxes of food. They had a good assortment of souvenirs for both children and adults including clothing, toys, décor, and even some beauty products. They were themed around the animals we did see at the aquarium which I appreciated.

Quiet Areas (8): Having a confusing layout and multiple entrances/exits to the outside exhibits does benefit this area. There are many areas to step aside and collect your group or quiet areas to take a moment. I would like to see more benches or places to sit within the aquarium though.

Safety/Cleanliness (8): The aquarium was quite clean despite having both indoor and outdoor exhibits. Glass was well maintained as well as walkways and other facilities. Safety was also fairly high, doing quite well in the indoor areas. I did take off marks for their outdoor areas, as many exhibits are far too easy for a guest to enter. The one section is widely advertised as being interactive and while this is a draw for many people the risks are also much higher.

Extras (7): During the visit they do have a number of extras including animal shows, keeper talks, feedings, and demonstrations. These happen every day and multiple times a day which would greatly add to your trip experience. They also have various art work and other displays throughout the aquarium. I could not find information about programming or camps, which would be greatly beneficial for them.

Overall (7.6): Overall the aquarium was well done in terms of the extras of restaurants, gift shops, and interaction for children. Many of the smaller exhibits were well done and executed but by today’s standards they need to greatly improve their large mammal exhibits. More enrichment in all the exhibits would also go a long way for the health and happiness of their animals.

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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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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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Nixe Aquarium Review

Location: Noboribetsu, Hokkaido, Japan

Website: www.nixe.co.jp/

Highlights: Penguin parade, Sardine galaxy tank

Photos: Album

Children Friendly (7): One of the first things you notice driving into the parking lot is that the place is mostly geared towards children. There’s a carnival area right outside with lots of bright colours and rides. There are touch tanks and shows which will definitely please the children. Overall the park is fairly small, small children would be able to walk throughout and it would not take the whole day. That being said there are some areas where they could improve, the carnival area looked like it was in need of an update. I don’t think I’d feel completely safe putting small children on those rides. Also the touch tanks did not have any staff at them which could also be dangerous if the young children (or even adults) were not being careful.

Animal Diversity (6): While this location is mainly an aquarium they did also have reptiles and amphibians on display. In terms of the aquarium itself they also had a decent selection of species, some of which I had never seen before. They had some larger animals including dolphins, seals, sea lions, and penguins which helped them to expand their diversity as well.

Animal Viewing (5): The viewing at the aquarium was fairly mediocre. In the larger tunnel tanks the lighting was not very good which hindered the viewing of the animals. The dolphins and sea lions were only able to be seen during the shows which limits visitors, especially on busy days when the shows could become quite crowded. Many exhibits did not allow the greatest views of the animals due to many hiding spots provided or the shape of the viewing glass (domed). One thing that did have an effect on my viewing enjoyment was the fact that they had recipes/meal signs posted by a number of the exhibits, it was a very weird feeling observing an animal in a zoo/aquarium setting that way.

Animals Happiness (2): In this regard the zoo was really lacking. Many tanks in the castle seemed too small for the animals they housed, most notably the sawfish. Outdoors and in the pavilions the most obvious offending exhibits were the dolphin, sea lion, and seal exhibits. The tanks were much too small and barren. Some tanks inside the castle were quite barren as well and I do realize certain aquatic species prefer empty or minimal tanks.

Photography (4): The lighting at many exhibits caused either bad glare on the glass or very poor lighting to shoot in. As big and vibrant as the castle is outside, it is quite dingy indoors. The glass was not exceptionally clean, especially in the reptile/amphibian areas. Angles looking into some exhibits, not notably the penguins, made some awkward shots as well. Their animal shows were the only opportunity to photograph the dolphins and sea lions, so ‘natural’ or non-performing shots were not an option.

Layout/Map (8): The map was very accurate to the grounds of the park, as well as a map of the castle interior is available on their website. The layout itself is ok, inside the castle it is a one was path. There are not too many exhibits outside the main castle however they are scattered somewhat randomly.

Hours (10): The hours are okay, open from 9-5 everyday. They are open year round as well. Not the longest hours daily but the daylight is shorter in Hokkaido so it’s understandable.

Price (3): The price of the zoo was not worth the number of animals/attractions in my opinion. At about $25 for adults, plus having to pay for parking this was quite expensive. This may not seem like that high of a cost especially considering many zoo prices in North America, but this is more than double what I’ve paid at other, larger zoos in Japan. They do have yearly memberships but you do not start saving money until your third visit.

Food (7): There were plenty of food options available at the aquarium. The food looked fairly good at the sit down restaurants; however it was very mediocre coming from the food stalls. Prices were about average.

Website (10): The website is quite good. That Japanese main site has quite a bit of information and has good graphics and layout. They do have an English brochure online, a pdf of the version you would get at the zoo or information booth.

Gift Shop (8): There were multiple gift shops, all of a pretty good size. I was pleased with the selection available. Plenty of children’s toys and gifts. I did appreciate that almost all the animals represented in the gift shop were in fact seen at the aquarium, or at least marine animals. They did not have a big selection of higher quality gifts for a more adult audience or many clothing options.

Quiet Areas (7): There were benches and tables throughout the park but they were not necessarily away from the ‘action’. There were areas to take your time and sit and look at exhibits but on busy days it could be crowded and not very calming.

Safety/Cleanliness (7): The grounds were fairly clean, and I saw a couple employees cleaning while going through the castle. As mentioned before there were no employees present at the touch tables which could be a potential safety issue. Guest involvement in the dolphin and sea lion shows, although minimal always brings a risk. The safety of the carnival area was not overly convincing when I walked through it to the exit.

Extras (5): Having live animal shows does add to the feeling of ticket value, and there were multiple show times throughout the day. Having a carnival within the park is also great to extend time spent on the grounds.

Overall (6.4): All in all I wouldn’t recommend this zoo. It has some neat aspects to it but it really isn’t worth the money. I feel this aquarium is pretty amazing to guests who have maybe never been to one but there are much better aquarium options out there.

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