Affordable marine theme park island is one of Japan’s favorite escapes from the city30 June, 2014 by Chad
Today we’d visit Hakkeijima Sea Paradise for the first time. Been wanting to visit here for years, but its out of the way location at the south east corner of Yokohama meant that I’ve never found the chance. Hakkeijima is an entire theme park island which combines ride attractions with a number of aquariums, restaurants and shops.
What makes Hakkeijima unique is that its completely free to enter, though you will have to purchase passes if you wish to make use of the various attractions. Hakkeijima Sea Paradise is highly popular with local families looking for an affordable place to spend the weekend, making it one of the most visited theme parks in the world despite being relatively unknown overseas.
The only downside is that it is quite costly and time consuming to get from Tokyo to Hakkeijima. It costs approximately 1,000 yen and takes an hour and a half to get to Hakkeijima. The first hour is on the local line through residential areas to Sugita, before you get to change to the more scenic Seaside line.
At the Sugita stopover we managed to pick up some breakfast from a Vie De France outlet at the station mall. Even the bakery was having its own Fukubukuro offer for the new year, with a large bag of assorted pastries going for 1,000 yen. We didn’t notice this earlier though so made our purchases separately for around 160-180 yen a piece.
The Seaside ride to Hakkeijima was only somewhat scenic, since the Yokohama coastline was broken up by factories, oil processing plants, power stations and other coastal projects, still it was an interesting view. Hakkeijima definitely seemed like the main purpose of the line, since the train was themed after the park and pretty much everyone on board got off at island’s station. Didn’t take many photos since we were too preoccupied with having our breakfast on the way there.
Though its a chain bakery, the pastries we bought from Vie De France turned out to be some of the best bread we had. The level of fluff in the bread was like no other. Japan has a really good standard of bakeries, in part due to their excellence in service, but probably more due to just having access to better ingredients and yeast. Japan doesn’t have the most Michelin stars of any country for no reason.
From Hakkeijima Station, its a short walk and across a bridge to the island. As the name suggests, Hakkeijima Sea Paradise is located on its own offshore island, roughly half the size of Disneyland or just slightly larger than Universal Studios Singapore. It’s not the biggest of parks, but there is still great value in its choice of attractions.
Weather was wonderful for once today, with the sky being a clear, deep blue. We could even see the snow capped Mount Fuji in the distance.
Hakkeijima’s most iconic ride would be the Blue Fall. We could see it even on the way here on the train. Only upon getting closer do you realize the full extent of its height. At 107 meters high or 32 floors high, its the 3rd tallest vertical drop tower in the world. If I remember correctly, it was featured in Shukan many years ago with Oota Aika and Sashihara Rino.
Gage was interested in trying out the Blue Fall. While the rest of us cringed in fear. Have had a deathly fear of such rides ever since tried out the Tower of Terror years ago, and that was only 56 meters high.
We didn’t know anything about Hakkeijima, it being the first time here, and there is also non-existent information about it online. Checking out the signage, it seemed that individual rides on the Blue Fall cost 1,000 yen. So anything more than a couple of rides at the park, and it is more economical to purchase a pass for unlimited rides.
So off it was over to the aquarium, where the ticketing booth was located. Gage purchased a combined aquarium and ride pass for 4,900 yen. While Randy and I purchased the aquarium only pass for 2,900 yen which allowed us access to Hakkeijima’s 4 sea life attractions. If you wish to skip the aquariums, the one day pass for just unlimited rides also costs 2,900 yen. Not a bad deal.
Note though that the ticket prices may increase slightly seasonally during the busy Japanese summer holiday. However, you can print out a free discount coupon from their website to reduce the price to 4,700 yen regardless of season. Unfortunately, while I had prepared the coupons ahead of time, had forgotten to bring them to the park today.
After getting the tickets, we’d backtrack to the Blue Fall so that Gage could get a go at it before continuing on to the aquarium. You can see it in action in the view below. According to Gage, you could see more of Mount Fuji from the top of the ride, which is why they had everyone sit on the seats facing in the particular direction in this non-busy season.
Next, we visited Aqua Museum, the main and largest aquarium building at Hakkeijima. This was a conventional aquarium that was slightly larger in size to Fukuoka’s but had the draw of having a few larger and rarer specimens such as a couple of whale sharks. Hakkeijima is 1 of the 5 aquariums in Japan where you can see whale sharks, with only 3 other aquariums in the rest of the world housing the elusive species.
There are 3 floors of the Aqua Museum, the first of which contained many wide panoramic tanks surrounding a circular area which were home to the aquarium’s sea mammals and penguins. The animals here were all active and seemed healthy, if not rather large compared to similar ones we’ve seen at other aquariums. Thankfully the tanks were also quite spacious. There was one particular penguin that caught lots of people’s attention since it would eye people, especially children and stare and follow them around. I’d learn later that the cast of GirlsTV! were also here at around the same time that we had visited, and you can see it and some of the other creatures on the show.
Past the wide tanks was an even larger 2 storey tank. It also served as an undersea viewing tunnel with an escalator that passed through the side of the tank.
Didn’t stay around long since it was rather crowded, instead we pressed on to the 2nd floor where all of the aquarium’s smaller tanks were. There was a pretty wide range of fishes and sea creatures here, some of which we had not seen elsewhere before. The deep sea creatures were also located on the second floor. Hakkeijima had some of the largest spider crabs ever.
The wide tanks from the first floor also extended upwards to the second floor so that you could view them from a gallery above. Which was great for us since it was feeding time. With their trainers side by side, you could see how large the walruses really were. They were also rather intelligent or well trained, performing various tricks in response to the trainers commands.
Past the viewing area for the wide tanks and the main tank was an outdoor area where various tropical species were held in smaller pools. The area also linked to a large outdoor theater where the aquarium’s sea life shows were held. Unfortunately we had missed the last show, so had to wait an hour before the next. Looking closer, this area also served as a holding area for the aquarium’s whales which we had somehow missed earlier.
We decided to exit the Aqua Museum to take a look around the rest of the park while waiting for the next show. At the exit, you could get a stamp for re-entry later. But first, we returned to the first floor of the aquarium to check out the whale sharks that we had missed. Given their rarity, they were likely the main attraction at the aquarium. When compared to some other aquariums, the creatures at Hakkeijima had larger enclosures to themselves.
Passed by Aqua Museum’s souvenir store on the way out. There was a great selection of items, all quite well made and affordable too, with plushes and pillows going for 1,000 yen to 1,500 yen a pop. Many of the aquarium’s items featured were a collaboration with a popular mascot character called Sirotan as I would learn later. Was quite tempting to get everything, but decided to return later before we left the island.
Not far from Aqua Museum was “Dolphin Fantasy”, the second aquarium building at Hakkeijima which was included in our pass. This aquarium consisted mainly of a long walk through tunnel where a number of active dolphins were swimming around quickly.
The tunnel ended in a small round section with a single rare ocean sunfish in the center. This particular specimen was either quite old, or just rather ugly when compared to the ones at Osaka or Nagoya.
Continuing onward we’d reached the island’s marina area. This waterside area was home to some restaurants, shopping arcades, as well as a two more aquarium attractions. The smell from the seafood barbecue restaurant was really tempting, but the families eating there didn’t seem too joyful.
We had another half an hour before the next live show, so took the opportunity for Gage to try out the Surf Coaster, a huge waterfront roller coaster. The coaster’s drop weren’t steep, but it made up for it by its speeds and turns, and impressive 1.2 kilometer span. It is quite mild compared to other coasters so might want to possibly try it in the future.
There was a queue for the ride, with customers spanning from pre-teens to young adults, but it moved quickly due to the high capacity of the coaster.
It was time to head back for the show. Seemingly everyone was headed in the same direction too, so by the time we managed to get there all of the seats were taken. Thankfully there was still ample standing room at the back of the venue.
A bit of the show had already passed, but from what we could make out, apparently one of the audience members was invited to join the staff to feed the whale shark and take part in the rest of the show.
The sea show here felt slightly less impressive than the others we had been to already. Though this might had been in part due to the size of the place, meaning that the acts were more scattered, and also with us being so far away from the action. However, it lacked the elaborate choreography of Fukuoka’s show, opting for loosely tied tricks from a wider pool of inhabitants.
After the show it was back to the harbor to visit Umi Farm, a newly built attraction at Hakkeijima, and part of the aquarium quartet. The premise of Umi Farm was that for a fee (620 yen), visitors could fish in the farm here and have their catches cooked to their preference on the spot. Our aquarium tickets did not include the fishing experience, but just a walk through the farm. Before entering, we were ushered into a small waiting area to be briefed about the precautions to take when walking along the floating platforms.
From what we saw, Umi Farm seemed like quite a ripoff. There were few fishes in the pools, and they weren’t biting. It certainly didn’t help that the staff fed the fishes separately. Most of the families here looked bored, with some of the children growing impatient or even complaining. They might have had better luck earlier in the day?
Not all of the pools were in use, and visitors were only allowed to fish out of a select few pools. The rest of the pools were closed off, and were perhaps reserved for the busy season. If for some reason you wanted to just feed the fishes here or further sabotage others fishing efforts, capsules of fish pellets were sold for 100 yen each.
The sun was starting to set (though this only meant it was 4 pm) so we hurried on to the last section, Fureai Lagoon. Fureai Lagoon was a sort of sea life petting zoo, which boasted the possible opportunity to get up close with dolphins, beluga whales and other sea mammals. Unlike the other sections, there were fixed timings where you could enter so that the number of people at any one time inside could be controlled. We made it in time for the last entry but had unfortunately missed the early feeding session. While waiting, we were briefed with the precautions again.
Disappointingly, the animals weren’t being sociable today, so didn’t get to pet any dolphins and whales as advertised. The only animals that managed to get close with were at the continuous sea lion show inside. Like all of the other animals at Hakkeijima today, the sea lions were surprisingly large, like giant aquatic mastiffs.
There was also a small walk through tunnel where a family of seals were playing. One amusing kid made an exhibit out of himself. He sat on the viewing window outside and waved at the visitors that passed through inside, who laughed and motioned back.
For the most part both Umi Farm and Fureai Lagoon seemed rather gimmicky and disappointing. Still, just Aqua Museum alone was worth the 2,900 yen price tag, so these were just bonus attractions.
We had an appointment over at Meguro in the evening, so were a little concerned with time. Had mistakenly thought the meeting to be an hour earlier than, so we ended up rushing a little prematurely with more time to spare in the end.
To end the day, we visited the shopping arcade at Hakkeijima, which consisted of many shops selling aquarium, fish and other marine themed goods. Big fan of aquariums and sea life in general, so had a hard time figuring out what to buy since so they were all so tempting, while the rest waited outside.
There were Sirotans of all sorts and sizes, including some nice train themed ones. In the end picked up just a small whale shark Sirotan exclusive to Hakkeijima, though slightly regretted not getting the large ones as well since it was so cheap. My luggage space was already running low and had spent quite a bit this trip, not to mention the trouble of having to walk around with such a giant thing.
On the way out, we passed by some children rides and since we were still running early, Gage hoped on for a go for the heck of it. At the entrance to Hakkeijima is also a famous classic carousel. At night the carousel comes alive with a really beautiful illumination display boasting thousands of lights. If you’ve come across a Merry-Go-Round in any Japanese films this is likely it. Hakkeijima’s carousel is also a really popular photo shoot location too, especially with gravure and the like.
Our meeting ended up getting delayed, so we ended up arriving in Nakameguro early. Tonight we would visit a posh nabe hot pot restaurant with my Managing Director, his wife as well as our Indonesian manager and his fiancée for an early company New Year’s dinner.
Dinner was amazing and the conversations amusing. The boss’s wife would join us a little late, since she had a nomikai to attend to but she’s a nice lady that shared his same sense of humor. She and the boss teased how our manager’s much younger fiancée was way out of his league. When we explained that we would be visiting Nagano tomorrow, she asked what we were going to wear (what we were currently wearing), to which she bluntly remarked “you are going to die”. She also offered to help us should we come into any grave injury while skiing at Nagano, since she was a surgeon herself.
The night lasted for quite a while, before we headed back to our hotel to prepare for the trip to Nagano tomorrow. Unfortunately, would only realize later that had forgotten to take photos of the group, something the boss would had enjoyed. Was too lost in the amazing food and banter. Instead, here are some shots of the food we had to end it all.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.