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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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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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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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Many zoos list feeding times for different animals throughout the day. These times are a great opportunity to get a better view of the animals – they are more in view and will be more animated. In some of the more laid back animals this provides an opportunity to see them moving around; in some of the more active animals that are normally difficult to get non-blurry pictures of, this can provide moments where they’re staying still.

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One of the active Ring-Tailed Lemurs at the Toronto Zoo taking a moment to enjoy a snack.

With many of the feeding interactions the zookeeper will also say a little blurb to the crowd about that particular animal and what they are feeding it. This is a great learning opportunity and also a chance to ask any questions you may have. With the lesser dangerous animals the keeper may be in the exhibit with the animals which displays the bonds these keepers have with their animals.

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Zookeeper feeding the African Penguins at the Toronto Zoo.

You can normally find these feeding times on the zoos website before you go for the day. If you can’t find any displayed online or on the map ask at the front gate when you go in!

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