Location: Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
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!