A Deep Dive into Osaka Aquarium Kaiyūkan: Home to Whale Sharks and Ringed Seals
Osaka aquarium Kaiyūkan rivals Universal Studios Japan as a star attraction in the city’s bay area. Famous for its huge tanks featuring whale sharks, Kaiyūkan is the centerpiece of the Tempōzan Harbor Village entertainment and shopping complex.
Just a five minute walk from Osakakō Station on the Osaka Metro Chūō Line, the distinctive blue- and red-banded building soars high on the ocean side of Harbor Village. The aquarium exhibits myriad aquatic creatures, focusing on the Pacific Rim. The building’s blue band represents the ocean, the “ring of life,” and the red band symbolizes the Pacific’s Ring of Fire, which skirts the edges of the encircling continents.
A Stroll under the Sea
Navigating the immense facility may seem daunting, but visitors need only follow clearly marked routes to find their way around. Elevators on the third-floor entrance whisk patrons to the eighth floor to start their tour. From there, a circular slope descends the building, passing between the aquarium’s giant tanks.
The eighth floor exhibit is dedicated to aquatic and other life found in Japanese forests. The area, bathed in natural light, features Asian small clawed otters. Continuing down the slope, the path darkens, and the tanks to the left display creatures from regions including the northern Pacific Aleutian Islands, California’s Monterey Bay, and continuing to Antarctica, with unique sea creatures and birds of each ecosystem.
The seventh floor tank recreates the environment close to the ocean surface, with sea lions frolicking on land and diving penguins. As visitors gradually descend to the sixth floor, they can enjoy the sensation of diving deeper into the ocean as they catch underwater glimpses of seals and penguins swimming about.
Whale Sharks and Ringed Seals are the Star Attractions
The central Pacific tank is enormous, measuring 34 meters across and 9 meters deep, and houses whale sharks, the world’s largest fish species. Whale sharks grow to over 12 meters in length, and different floors offer a view of their graceful movements of the creatures from various angles. Twice a day, at feeding time, they swim vertically to retrieve food from the water’s surface.
The whale sharks share their environment with other species, including scalloped hammerhead sharks, spinetail devil rays, and giant trevally. Each species has its own unique appeal, with some swimming in schools and others lurking in the lower depths. However, the imaginative design of Kaiyūkan lets visitors observe them all at eye-level.
The third-floor jellyfish tank and the aquarium’s new ringed seal attraction are popular draws. The jellyfish swim against a pitch-black backdrop and are illuminated by 700 ceiling lights that flicker dimly so that only the creatures are visible. Visitors are spellbound by the otherworldly sight of the jellyfish, which appear to be floating in outer space.
Ringed seals, from the Arctic region, are the smallest variety of seal. Kaiyūkan’s chubby ringed seals, Yuki and Arare, are star attractions. They frequently peek through the third floor ceiling-dome, to the delight of onlookers.
The Kaiyūkan official shop sells a range of unique souvenirs, including ever-popular ringed seal and whale shark cuddly toys. The cafe serves refreshments, such as whale shark-themed soft-serve ice cream and other treats.
Within neighboring Tempōzan Marketplace is a back alley-style food court featuring renowned Osaka eateries and local fare like okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and curry rice with Worcester sauce topping. The Harbor Village is home to a giant Ferris wheel, a cruise ship, the Legoland Discovery Center, and many other attractions.
- Address: 1-1-10 Kaigandōri, Minato-ku, Osaka
- Admission: Adults (16 or older) ¥2,400, elementary/junior high school students ¥1,200, preschool children (3 or older) ¥600, seniors (65 or older) ¥2,200
- Hours: Please check the Kaiyūkan website
- Getting there: 5 minutes on foot from Osakakō Station, Osaka Metro Chūō Line, C11 exit
(Originally published in Japanese. All photos by Nippon.com, unless otherwise noted.)