If you read my 10 things from July post, you would know that around the end of July, our good friends, Marine and Ben stopped by in the Osaka area to hang out. Despite the absurd amount of humidity gradually sweating out our sanity, we had a great time bringing them around Osaka and Nara. One of the places we went was the famous aquarium: Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. First time for all of us!
I’m going to be honest- Kaiyukan was OK. I really enjoyed seeing the whale sharks because I’ve never seen one in person before, but there were unfortunately several factors that just didn’t pin Kaiyukan to be the place I expected it to be…
It is unbelievably crowded. This is the main reason I didn’t enjoy Kaiyukan. Kaiyukan is one of the world’s largest public aquariums, so while it is to be expected that a place as such would be crowded, it isn’t until you are actually there in person to really experience how bad it is. If you don’t mind crowds, this isn’t something to worry about. However I’m not one for cramped spaces and screaming children. It also makes viewing the animals not so enjoyable. I personally felt rushed and couldn’t take my time at each exhibit.
Make sure to eat enough and drink enough before you enter the exhibits. Food and drink are not allowed in the exhibits (rightfully so) and there is a cafe dubbed the “Mermaid” coffee shop- however it is on the 4th floor so you must endure five levels if you forget to fill your stomach up.
You cannot backtrack. The layout of the aquarium is pretty much seven levels of a straight-way path you must take. So if you want to see the small-clawed otters again (8th floor) and you’re already on the 4th floor, you can either attempt to go back up (don’t know if the workers will call you out on it) or come back another time to see them.
So while yes, those above points didn’t make Kaiyukan my all-time favorite place to visit, there are several points that make it maybe worthwhile to visit once.
The Good Points
Whale sharks!!! Personally, I thought the whale sharks were worthwhile to see. What’s great (and maybe not-so-great) is that you can see them on multiple levels- the two whale sharks along with other fish swim in the central tank which the main path of the aquarium circles around downwards. So while it’s great that you can see the whale sharks on more than one occasion, it also can feel a little repetitive to some. I didn’t mind it so much- the whale sharks were so cute! Also, depending on what time you go, you can get a chance to see a worker feeding all the sting rays! (Same tank as whale sharks)
The Mermaid Coffee shop food. Even though the menu was a little pricey (obviously), it was still really cool to see how this coffee shop incorporated the sea theme into their food and beverage! The four of us were really hungry while we were walking through the aquarium, so we stopped here and got a looong hot dog! The box it was in was supposed to look like an eel. There were also frozen treats made to represent the whale shark as well!
The rest of the animals! Arguably, the whale sharks are the star of this aquarium, but that doesn’t mean there are other cool animals to see! Some of my other favorites besides the whale sharks were:
- the various types of sting rays
- the Asian small-clawed otters
- the Loggerhead turtle
- the colorful jellyfish
- the Ringed Seals (hoooo so cute <3)
Of course there are many other animals that make up this multi-level aquarium! (Like penguins and dolphins and such)
***So I know there aren’t a lot of photos of the animals- that’s because it was hard for Trevor to take photos when there were people constantly bumping into him and blocking his view of the animals. To see some really cool footage of some of the marine animals of Kaiyukan (and some parts around Nara and Osaka!), please take a look at this quick video Trevor made of our get-together with Marine and Ben! If you want, you can skip forward to the part when we’re at the aquarium. (3:44)***
Some other things
I was pretty surprised to see on Google Reviews how many people absolutely loved this aquarium. There were only a handful of people who had the same thoughts as I- super crowded and many kids running loose. Kaiyukan is definitely a place marketed towards families. There are some off-path exhibits designed for children and even a huge pool where mainly kids can interact with sting rays. Like I said before, for me, crowds are a nightmare. However if you’d like to try and “beat” the crowd, a couple suggestions on Google Reviews say to try visiting the aquarium about an hour before it closes.
Getting to Kaiyukan by train is relatively easy. We took the JR line from Imamiya to Bentencho, and then took the Chuo Line (Subway) from Bentencho to Osakako. If you plan on using the JR Pass (like Marine and Ben were) then you will still have to pay for a ticket on the subway line. (Don’t worry, it’s cheap) Upon arriving at Osakako, we needed to walk about 10 minutes to the aquarium. On the day we went, naturally with the summer heat, it was insanely hot. 10 minutes almost felt twice as long as we were walking to Kaiyukan. We needed to make a couple stops inside konbinis to cool off. Summer may not be a great time to go if you don’t do well in sweltering heat and humidity.
Once we got to Kaiyukan, we needed to wait in line to get tickets. And the line was LONG. Add into that classic Kansai summer air and you can say it was pretty miserable to be waiting for as long as we did. Tickets are￥2300 for an adult. After buying our tickets, we were ushered into another line. It was much shorter than the line to buy tickets, but it still felt a little crummy to be waiting in an area where there wasn’t any tent shade to block the sun… By the time the four of us left the museum (maybe around 2 or 3PM) we glanced at the ticket line and it almost looked as long as it did when we came. However the day we did go was on a Sunday, so that may explain it.
If you want to experience a part of Osaka and love marine animals,
and want a huge hotdog on delicious bread, then yes, I think it’s worthwhile to venture to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, if not solely for the whale sharks. To avoid crowds, it may be best to go on a weekday around closing time. The tanks do seem a bit small for some of the animals, but since this is Japan, it’s sadly almost expectant to see lack of space for them. I don’t think I’ll be going there again in the near future, but I will say that it was great to spend time with Marine and Ben while we were there. We did have fun seeing all the animals!