I have mixed feelings about this place.
An animal lover through and through, I’ve always enjoyed going to zoos. In fact, I make it a point to visit at least one animal sanctuary on every trip. Thinking back on our travels, watching an 8-ft Komodo dragon wolf down an entire chicken and feeding eucalyptus leaves to a koala remain some of my fondest wanderlust memories.
The older I get though and the more petitions I sign in protest of animal abuse, the less inclined I am to go. In many cases, it just doesn’t seem humane anymore to keep animals in captivity for our entertainment, especially the larger mammals.
But with this Kaiyukan being an aquarium, housing mostly fish that aren’t as intelligent nor self-aware as mammals, I didn’t think I’d have any moral reservations about the place. Until I saw the dolphins. Ugh. 👿 More on that later.
Entrance to the aquarium is ¥2,300 for adults. One of the world’s largest aquariums, the tanks at Kaiyukan hold nearly 11,000 tons of water.
You start at the top and make your way down through the exhibits in a circular motion. At the center of the spiral is the aquarium’s largest tank (pictured below), with many smaller tanks around its perimeter. This main tank is 9 meters (30 ft) deep and holds 5,400 cubic meters (190,699 cubic ft) of water.
The undisputed stars of the large central tank are two juvenile whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, both of which unfortunately weren’t on display today. According to the staff, they had been refusing to feed for weeks so were isolated and put under observation.
Spotted eagle rays, Aetobatus narinari
Leopard sharks, Triakis semifasciata
One of the smaller perimeter tanks housing one of my favorite types of seafood, squid!
Ocean sunfish, Mola mola. The heaviest known bony fish, these strange-looking creatures can grow up to 11 ft and 5,000 lbs.
Sea otter, Enhydra lutris
Olive ridley sea turtle, Lepidochelys olivacea. Like the dolphins, I didn’t think these guys were housed in a big enough enclosure. 🙁
Japanese spider crab, Macrocheira kaempferi
My favorite part of the aquarium, the jellyfish exhibit. So beautiful! I would have been happy with an exhibit filled with just jellyfish and seahorses.
These little guys were cute.
Aren’t they adorable? Like little undersea Teletubbies, each one was just a few millimeters long.
Leopard whipray, Himantura leoparda, at the petting pool. I can’t imagine hundreds of oily, grubby human hands being too good for their sensitive skin, noh? 😕
Cute and cuddly baby otters
You’ll notice that there are no pictures of the dolphins I mentioned up top. I was disappointed to find them here so I wasn’t keen on taking their pictures. This may be one of the world’s largest aquariums, but their tank still wasn’t big enough. Dolphins can swim up to 100 miles per day hunting and playing, so no tank on earth can possibly provide them with enough space to facilitate their natural behaviors.
There’s a growing number of people in the world who are against keeping cetaceans in captivity, and I’m one of them. Dolphins aren’t fish. Like us, they’re highly intelligent mammals that live in complex social groups. Keeping them in undersized aquariums like this is inhumane and something that we really shouldn’t be doing anymore.
Dolphins aside though, I thought that the rest of the aquarium was pretty decent. It’s big, with many exhibits to see, so you can easily spend a couple of hours here. The jellyfish display was the best part for me. It would have been nice to see the whale sharks too, but I’ve swam with them before in Donsol and Oslob so I wasn’t too disappointed.
Looking back at that Donsol experience, I realized that in most cases, interacting with animals in their natural environment really is the best way of appreciating them.
For anyone interested, the Tempozan giant ferris wheel is next door to the aquarium. For ¥700, you can hop on this 17-minute ride that boasts a wheel diameter of 100 meters (330 ft) and an acrophobia-inducing maximum height of 112.5 meters (369 ft). No thanks! 😯
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
552-0022 1-1-10 Kaigan-dori, Minato-ku, Osaka City, Japan
Regular Operating Hours: Mon-Sun, 10AM-8PM
Suggested Length of Visit: 1.5-2 hours
¥2,300 for adults aged 16 and over
¥2,000 for seniors
¥1,200 for children aged 7-15
¥600 for children aged 4-6
FREE for children under 3 years old
HOW TO GET THERE:
Take the Chuo line towards Cosmosquare and get off at Osakako station. It’s a five-minute walk to the aquarium from here.CLICK HERE for more information.
For travel tips to Osaka, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Osaka, Japan
JB and Renée are the Traveleaters behind Will Fly for Food, a travel blog for the gastronomically inclined. They enjoy experiencing food from different cultures so they’ve made it their mission to try every country’s national dish. Read more about them and their National Dish Quest here.