As an island nation, Japan is, not surprisingly, culturally and historically tied to the oceans and seas. For countless centuries, the waters along Japan’s shores have provided its people with foodstuffs and the transportation necessary to connect with the rest of the world in trade and commerce. Today, this connection to the sea lives on in Japan’s numerous modern aquarium attractions.
Have you ever seen a whale shark, one of the largest fish alive today? What about orcas, polar bears, and penguins? You can see these amazing animals and more in Japan’s aquariums.
Japan is home to at least 17 major aquariums and numerous smaller aquatic attractions. Here, we highlight seven of the most amazing aquariums that Japan has to offer.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Heralded as the best aquarium in Japan, Churaumi is one of the largest aquariums in the world. Its main attraction is its massive Kuroshio Tank housing numerous whale sharks. The three-story aquarium also features hands-on exhibits of seashells and starfish, the world’s largest living coral exhibit, feedings, and animal shows.
- Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Address: 424 Ishikawa, Motobu-cho, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa Prefecture, Kyushu-Okinawa, Japan
- How to Get There: The island of Okinawa can be accessed by flight or ferry. From the airport, take the Yanbaru Express Bus to the Aquarium, located in the Ocean Expo Park.
This small aquarium caters to local schoolchildren but is a treat for travelers as well. The two-story aquarium has nine zones highlighting different environments. A notable exhibit displays the ecosystem and wildlife of Kyoto’s rivers, including the rare Japanese giant salamander.
- Hours: 10 a.m to 6 p.m.
- Address: 35-1 Kankijicho, Shimogyo-ku7, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Kinki, Japan
- How to Get There: The Kyoto Aquarium is a 20-minute walk west of Kyoto Station.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Considered the second most spectacular aquarium in Japan and one of the largest in the world with more than 470 species, the Osaka Aquarium has eight floors that spiral around a central tank housing a whale shark. It is also next to the Tempozan Ferris Wheel.
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Address: 1-1-10 Kaigandori, Minato-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Kinki, Japan
- How to Get There: The aquarium is located just outside the Osakako Station.
Aqua Park Shinagawa (Tokyo)
The highlight of this medium sized aquarium is its dolphin pool. The Epson Aqua Stadium seating surrounds a central circular pool, where shows are frequently held. A nighttime dolphin show includes special lighting effects.
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Address: 4-10-30 Takanawa, Minato, Tokyo, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
- How to Get There: This venue is located in the Shinagawa Prince Hotel complex, just outside JR Shinagawa Station.
Sendai Umitamago Aquarium
The design of the Sendai aquarium resembles an art museum. Located at the seaside of eastern Sendai, it features nearly 100 water tanks of different fish, including the largest dolphin and sea lion performances in the Tohoku region.
- Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Address: 4-6 Nakano, Miyagino-ku, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Tohoku, Japan
- How to Get There: From Sendai Station, take the JR Senseki Line (bound for Ishinomaki) and get off at Rikuzen-Takasago Station. From there, it’s just a 20-minute walk. Or, you can also take buses 205 / J205 or 200 / X200 which will drop you off only 12-minutes walking distance from the aquarium.
Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium
One of the largest aquariums in Japan, Port of Nagoya spans two separate buildings. A highlight of this aquarium is the marine mammals, which include orca whales, beluga whales, and dolphins. The Garden Pier on which the aquarium is located also features museums, an amusement park, and a shopping mall. An exploratory expedition ship, the Fuji Icebreaker, is docked in the nearby harbor.
- Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., open later during summer holidays.
- Address: 1-3 Minato-machi, Minato-ku, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Chubu, Japan
- How to Get There: Travel by train from Nagoya Station to Kanayama Station. Transfer to the Meiko Subway Line to Nagoyako Station. Nagoya Port is within walking distance of this station.
Although affected by the 2011 tsunami, Aquamarine reopened to become one of the largest and most impressive aquariums in Japan. Its exterior architecture resembles a large, glass submarine. In addition to ecosystems of Japan and around the world, the aquarium features the exhibit “Waters of Tropical Asia,” a greenhouse pathway demonstrating the environment where waters and jungle meet.
- Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Address: 50 Tatsumicho, Onahama, Iwaki 971-8101, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan
- How to Get There: From Yumoto Station, take the bus to the Onahama bus stop. From this stop, the aquarium is a 15 to 20 minute walk.
Japan houses much natural beauty, both inside and outside the attractions discussed above. Use your Japan Rail Pass to explore this inviting land. Check out our other handy travel guides and start planning your trip today.