Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

One of the largest aquariums in the world, right in the city

24 September, 2011 by

It is only appropriate that Japan, a country made up of 6,852 islands to be home to some of the largest and most amazing aquaria in the world. Kaiyukan (better known overseas simply as the Osaka Aquarium) is one of the best examples. The iconic building houses a large variety of aquatic life from the pacific region, including rare specimens that exist in in few other aquariums worldwide.

Getting to Osaka Aquarium

Osaka Aquarium is located at Osaka Bay (the Kansai equivalent of say the City Hall area). One can only envy how fortunate the local kids are to have grown up with such an enriching establishment right smack in their city. The nearest stop to Kaiyukan is the Osakako Station on the Osaka Chuo line. It’s a 20 minute ride from the central Namba area to Osakako and another 5 minute walk from the station to the aquarium.

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It’s good to know that Kaiyukan is located right alongside another popular attraction in Osaka, the Tempozan Ferris Wheel. A port themed shopping complex called Market Place connects the two.

The Osaka Bay area no doubt makes for a popular date spot among local couples. You’ll find many cafes and eateries along the route from Osakako Station up to Osaka Aquarium, with more restaurants within the Market Place mall itself. The entire area is collectively known as the Tempozan Harbor Village.

Just beside the Tempozan Ferris Wheel.

Visiting Osaka Aquarium

The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is opened from 10 AM to 8 PM daily. A good time to go is early in the morning (before 11) to make it for the feeding sessions but you’ll have to contend with the crowds then. The place is known to be ridiculously packed on weekends so avoid it then. Alternatively, you’d want to go in the evening when ticket prices are discounted and the aquarium is much more peaceful.

Normal ticket prices for the Osaka Aquarium is 2,000 yen. Children age 7-15 enter for 900 yen while tickets for those between 4-6 costs 400 yen. There are also various discount schemes available from time to time but below is a list of the permanent ones.

The tickets.

Those holding the Osaka Unlimited Pass can get a 100 yen discount off their tickets (but is not additive to other promotions). There is an after 4 PM special which allows you to get 300 yen off each ticket when purchased in a pair.

If you don’t already have any transport pass of sorts, a better deal would be to get an Osaka Kaiyu Ticket which is sold at the local subway stations.For 2,400 yen you get an entry ticket to the aquarium as well as unlimited rides on the local trains and buses for one day.

On their own such tickets would cost you 2,000 yen and 800 respectively so this would effectively nett you the highest discount among all the options above, provided you take at least 4 train rides in a day (which isn’t difficult as long you’re making a couple of stops elsewhere from a hotel).

At Osaka Aquarium

The journey through Osaka Aquarium begins with a series of elevator rides up to the top of the building. As a gauge, the Kaiyukan is about 8 floors high by normal building standards. The top entrance floor houses fuzzy animals like the capybara, sea lions, otters and penguins.

The top floor entrance.

Is where you'll find the capybara, sea lions and penguins.

Climate controlled environments.

Also at the top.

Large variety of aquatic life.

But below the entire central space is taken up mostly by the giant tank that accommodates the aquarium’s largest inhabitants. You’ll find the chief attraction, a female whale shark called Yu-chan. Kaiyukan is one of only 7 aquariums in the world large enough to house such a creature (with 3 of them being located in Japan).

The main highlight. Kaiyukan is one of the few aquariums in the world to house a whale shark.

Largest tank in the aquarium.

The path through the aquarium spirals downward around the central tanks. Apart from the obvious supporting columns, all of the water bodies here are almost completely see through. While the central area houses the larger animals, the circumference is home to the other tanks that support the other amazing creatures like the octopuses, sea turtles, plethora of different fishes and the two breeds of dolphins here.

While trips to other oceanariums often involve degrading outdoor feats performed by the animals, a visit to Osaka Aquarium is like entering another world.

The name Kaiyukan literally translates to “Playing in the Sea Pavilion”. The aquarium aims to respect the dignity of the creatures living here by recreating as natural an environment for them to live in. There is certainly something amazing and surreal about being surrounded all round by a man made ocean of these rarely seen lifeforms.

Complete viewing area.

The Osaka Aquarium makes for a really educational trip. Detailed statistics of each of the animals that call Kaiyukan home are prominently displayed. Interestingly, this is not limited to just scientific data.

Each specimen has been lovingly named and a breakdown of the individual creature’s personality is also provided. Local children can watch the aquarium’s inhabitants grow up alongside them, while it’s convenient enough for enthusiasts could come to meet the creatures from time to time.

Giant manta.

Ocean sunfish.

There are simply too many specimens featured here to list down individually but notable is the rarely seen ocean sunfish. The Osaka Aquarium is one of a handful of places where you can see this deep sea fish, on account of how difficult it is to provide suitable living conditions.

Kaiyukan is also the only aquarium in the world to house a spinetail mobula. The giant manta spans over 2 meters long and seeing it glide through the water without any effort is a rather astonishing sight.

Beautiful reef fishes swimming in a continuous loop.

Giant Japanese spider crabs.

The lowest section of the aquarium is home to rare deep sea denizens, such as the Japanese spider crab. There’s also an amazing collection of jellyfish on display, from tiny ones up to some as large as half a meter. A returning exhibit is the display of huge edible jellyfish, a type with large bells. They weren’t around during out last trip but could be seen back in 2008 and have returned again right now.

Big collection of sea jellies.

From tiny ones like these.

To larger varieties.

No attraction is complete without a visit to the souvenir shop. Osaka Aquarium’s souvenir shop is located at the base of the aquarium and can be accessed without entering the actual aquarium.

The large store carries an assortment of ocean themed goods, many of which are branded exclusively for the Kaiyukan name. The Kaiyukan logo is a simple but effective (and cute!) interpretation of the symbolic building with the whale shark.

Souvenir shop at the base of the aquarium.

Cute plushies.

Ocean themed souvenir snacks.

Official Kaiyukan Gachas.

For more information, check out the Kaiyukan’s official English site.

Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.

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Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.