The city of Nagoya is home to one of Japan’s best aquariums12 April, 2013 by Chad
The Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium is one of Japan’s largest aquariums. It is both more expansive and holds a larger wider variety of sea creatures than even Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan which is popularly regarded as the second best aquarium in Japan, after Okinawa’s Churaumi Aquarium. We found Nagoya Aquarium to be competitive with Osaka Aquarium, if not better, but take a look inside and decide for yourself.
Getting to Nagoya Aquarium
As it’s name suggests Nagoya’s Aquarium is located at Nagoya Port. Unlike Osaka, Nagoya Port is pretty devoid of attractions apart from the aquarium and its related museums. Thankfully it’s pretty convenient getting to and out of Nagoya Port. It’s just 260 yen and 15-20 minutes from the city center to Nagoyako, the nearest subway station. From there, Nagoya Aquarium is just a short distance away on foot.
Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium
Minato Ward, Nagoya City
Visiting Nagoya Aquarium
Entry to Nagoya Aquarium is surprisingly affordable at 2,000 yen (SGD$25). Cheaper than Osaka Aquarium and much less than what you would expect to pay for an aquarium of this size. There’s also a combination pass for 2,400 yen which bundles the aquarium with the other related attractions at the port. For just 5,000 yen, one can get unlimited access to the aquarium for a year.
At Osaka Aquarium
Osaka and Nagoya Aquariums are two very different experiences. While Osaka Aquarium employs a more modern design that simulates an undersea environment by surrounding visitors all round with tanks, Nagoya Aquarium contains many large, widely spaced out tanks, great for accommodating a throng of visitors. That’s not to say that Nagoya Aquarium isn’t any less beautiful that Osaka’s, but the ambiance here is more typical of a marine park.
The highlight of Nagoya Aquarium is definitely the the many bigger tanks, each holding a number of large sea creatures. Nagoya Aquarium is home to a family of orca, beluga whales and many more dolphins. Comparatively, there’s a much higher concentration of bigger inhabitants here than in Osaka.
The orca and dolphins were extremely intelligent and very active. There are a number of interconnected viewing tanks and hidden pools at the back which the creatures could pass through freely. The majestic creatures came up to greet visitors and in the case of the dolphins, even spun around playfully in front of visitors in much the same way puppies would greet their owners.
Overall, Nagoya Aquarium feels more traditional in terms of concept, like one expansive underwater zoo. It feels more family-centric, as compared to Osaka’s, which feels more like somewhere you’d go for dates. A good amount of space is given to educational exhibits and a couple of learning centers where younger visitors can discover more about marine ecology. The exhibits are pretty impressive though, even for older visitors.
Nagoya Aquarium is split into two buildings. The first houses most of the aquariums larger animals. There’s an especially spacious central tank which is connected to the other viewing tanks which serves as a dolphinarium where the dolphins and orca can move between. Directly above this is the stadium where you can view the aquarium’s dolphin and orca shows.
Measuring 60 x 30 x 12 meters, the aquarium’s outdoor tank is the largest of its kind in the world. Unfortunately, at time of writing Nagoya’s orca shows had been temporarily put on hold but they should now be back in session. There are 3 dolphin shows (4 or 5 on weekends and public holidays) and 2 orca shows at the outdoor tank each day. The stadium built around the tank sits up to 2,500 people so getting seats shouldn’t be a problem, except in the most busy of seasons.
Each dolphin show spans 30 minutes and is very enjoyable. The whole thing is framed like a musical concert and after the stars of the show are introduced in turn, they go on to perform a continuous span of tricks. As with such shows, those sitting in front should be prepared to get wet. Prior to each show, the staff advises though sitting in the marked danger zones to store away any electronic devices.
All of the performing animals are very well trained. After the show they are lead back to their respective tanks where they continue to be rewarded by their trainers. For the rest time outside of shows, you can observe the dolphins and orca in their viewing tanks from above here as well. You may also chance upon some of the “dolphin challenge” training sessions throughout the day. One of the strengths of Nagoya Aquarium is its fairly open concept that allows you to view these and many of the other main tanks from alternate views.
For example, in the man made cover beside the dolphinarium there’s a large enclosure dedicated to just a beluga whale. The aquarium’s mascot, there are daily shows for the beluga whale observable from the top floor too. Here the beluga whale and its recent offspring were introduced in detail during one of the interactive training sessions.
Back downstairs, you’ll find the accessway to the aquarium’s other building. The link leads to this pitch dark “deep sea” area where you’ll find most of the aquariums smaller creatures as well as the impressive “Sardine Tornado” display. The aquarium’s next largest tank, the sardine tornado consists of hundreds of tiny sardines spiraling around the tank in unison. It’s a fantastical sight that can’t be witnessed otherwise. The large tank also houses a number of sharks and an elusive ocean sunfish to complete the illusion of an under sea experience.
The rest of the Deep Sea Gallery is slightly less impressive. While there is an admirable collection of small creatures, Nagoya’s display of jellyfish pales by far in comparison to Osaka’s. There are only 5 varieties of small jellyfish on display. To make up for this, the aquarium offers preserved specimens of various deep sea fishes, 3D holographic shows and a free in-house IMAX Theater to further enrich their offerings. It is worth noting that after factoring in all the other sea creatures, the overall number of actual different species of marine inhabitants still tips in favor of Nagoya Aquarium.
The end of the deep sea area breaks out into the main section of the south building. Entering the section, visitors past through a colorful coral reef tunnel with giant groupers and other tropical fishes. Here, the aquarium’s tropical and freshwater lifeforms are spread over the building’s three floors.
Of interest here is a tank containing loggerhead sea turtles. There are also other species of smaller sea turtles in the surrounding tanks, but with some of the loggerheads being as large as a kindergartener this particular tank looked kind of crowded. You can witness all of the sea creatures at the aquarium being fed at particular times of the day, and at least in the case of the turtles even take part in the feeding too from upstairs.
Apart from the turtle feeding area and an adjacent restaurant where you can feed yourself, the top floor of the south wing marks the last of the aquarium’s exhibits, with its freshwater and Antarctic sections. Coming from this side of the world, the freshwater exhibit wasn’t too notable since it contained many fishes that we should already be all too familiar with but the Antarctic section is worth your time.
The penguin enclosure is pretty big. It’s a little narrow but spans across a wide area. It’s built in such a way to resemble their natural habitat. Various species of penguin share the same enclosure together. Again, these were some of the most active penguins I’ve seen. A flock of them swam quickly from end to end of the pool.
It’s no surprise why Nagoya Aquarium had come so highly recommended to us. True to its claim, it’s one of the largest and best aquariums you’d find in Japan. If you like marine animals, especially the larger ones, a visit to Nagoya Aquarium is quite the treat. Regardless of age, it’s nice meeting the aquarium’s healthy, active and surprisingly intelligent inhabitants.
The affordable entry fee means you’ll be more tempted to spend at either of the aquarium’s two souvenir shops. There’s an assortment of original goods featuring the marine park’s mascot and popular residents.
The Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium is a must visit attraction for anyone headed to the city. You won’t regret it. For those who have already been there, do share with us your experiences.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.