Kaiyukan – Osaka Aquarium

Growing up in Hong Kong means that when I travel, aquariums rarely make it onto my to-do list. We have Ocean Park and we take these things for granted.

As a “been there done that” kind of traveler who sees a sight and does not know what to do with it, being in Osaka posed a small problem for us. We just did not quite know what to occupy ourselves with after each meal. We did some shopping, hit the arcades, visited the nearby Kyoto and Nara, and mostly spent our evenings at bars. On the last day of our trip in Osaka, we caved and headed out to Osaka-ko to see us some fishies.

Having spent a few days in the city, it was refreshing to go out there and be in the open space where we were greeted by the first snow… that we’ve seen in years. It was a strange moment of euphoria. I was so cold for so many days that I really felt I should at least see some snow; and snow I saw.

The admissions for Kaiyukan cost us 2,300 yen each, but you can get them with round trip train ticket packages if you buy them from the information booth inside the train stations. We read online that the aquarium tour would take us about two hours and I thought we would be in and out of there in half the time, but it actually took us the whole two hours.

Scattered through different points of the tour through the different oceans are mini exhibits of a mysterious specie or just some fun facts about Nemo and Dory. My ADD brain really loved that they mixed things up a bit and that I had something else to look at and think about other than “that’s a huge/tiny/cute/ugly/weird fish”. As if they knew I would be bored, the aquarium tour ended on a high note with a petting pool where you can stick your hand in and see how many fingers you walk away with. Wait no, you just pet tiger sharks and rays. Riding off everyone’s high, the next thing you see is the gift shop. Of course it is the gift shop. They do this so well that even I wanted to buy something. Who actually sells quality merch?! How dare they put well-designed and quality products on their shelves.

I must say though, the highlights were definitely the otters and penguins that won over everyone’s hearts, even my husband Jon’s big manly heart. Next time I will be sure to have my live video on my Facebook Page so that you can all see him saying in the manliest way possible, “yes they are pretty cute”.

All in all, the aquarium was pretty awesome, but it also made me think about how humane all of this was. The penguins had a pretty narrow but deep (like 4-6 storeys deep I think) enclosure, but it still seemed pretty small and I hope they have a much larger area to go to when they are not ‘on show’. The rays at the petting pool weren’t completely immersed in the water and it just looked outright uncomfortable. I wonder what the considerations are between the animals being in a protected environment vs their natural habitat.

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