The Best of Tokyo Edutainment: AQUARIUMS AND WATER PARKS

By on August 1, 2017


Aquariums are always a winner at this time of year. Japan has had a love affair with these aquatic worlds since 1892, when the first was constructed in Ueno Zoo. There are now over 100 around Japan varying in size from the traditional tanks in the lesser zoos and parks to the contemporary plexi-glass palaces. Walls of water 4 stories high, walk-through observation tunnels and marine interaction points bring aquariums firmly into the world of 21st century ‘Edutainment’.

Large or small aquariums have a serenity all of their own. They are wonderful places to inspire children to get a feeling of the relationship of all living things, and to learn to care for our planet. Progressive aquariums are typically split into zones that take you on a voyage through the world’s aquatic life, from rivers and ponds, to oceans and tropical rain forests. Around every corner monsters of the deep lurk beside tamer aquatic life.   Hands-on exhibits have tanks with lower sides and “touch pools” remove the divide between marine life and ourselves. Close up viewing has been embraced by Japanese aquariums, and now it’s hard to avoid the barrage of flippers, fins and spiny tentacles vying for our attention. Feed, cuddle, kiss, play, but try not to drop!

In Tokyo, we are spoilt for choice with aquatic lands in the very heart of the city. You only have to travel a little further for gargantuan tanks and enormous sharks and whales. The pleasure park at Yokohama’s Sea Paradise is a resort with aquarium and amusement park combined. There is even a small hotel within the park for the adventurous so you can fall asleep to the sound of dolphins chatting. To the south Kamogawa Sea World is famous for its killer whales, and there is more than a passing resemblance to Sea World in Orlando, but it is Okinawa that holds the ultimate thrill. Enormous whale sharks dwarfing everything in their path are a truly humbling experience and an unforgettable sight for all ages. So this rainy season set sail on your own voyage of discovery.


There’s nothing more thrilling to watch than a dolphin performance which uses state-of-the-art lighting and sound effects that change from day to night. The cylindrical water curtain offers spectators a 360-degree view of the best-loved show in town. Other must-see zones include Aqua Jungle, comprising the facility’s first display of reptiles and freshwater fish; Jellyfish Ramble, designed to provide a therapeutic effect; and the outdoor Friendly Square, where visitors get to play with sea lions, fur seals, and penguins.  The place may be smaller than what you imagine it to be but one thing we know – fun’s guaranteed!


photo by Kenzo

Wonderfully convenient, with a host of aquatic environments, and a dolphin show to delight everyone. Walk through the clear tunnel and watch the manta rays and sea turtles glide tantalizingly close. Get a front row seat at the arena and be prepared to get splashed.


Impressively located on the rooftop of a  building,  it is a great place for children and adults to take in an inner city seal show and see divers feeding fish.  It has just been renovated and opened to the public on July 12, 2017. Combination tickets are available for the planetarium and Namja Town theme park for a complete day indoors.


Make yourself dizzy as the school of tuna swirl around you in a postmodern architectural delight in Kasai Rinkai Park. Enjoy a picnic on the floating deck, gaze out to sea from the viewing station, and if there is a break in the weather you can get to the real beach and take a boat to Odaiba.


A huge pleasure island close to Yokahama with a wild rapid water ride guaranteed to get you wet if the dolphins don’t. Polar bears, white beluga whales, a huge dolphin arena and the Fureai (interaction) Lagoon make it an unforgettable day. The thrill of the dolphin petting beats Japan’s highest free fall ride hands down.


With views to Enoshima Island and Mount Fuji located right on the beach, it is as family-friendly as you can get. Seals, dolphins and a great value annual pass for the budding Jaques Cousteau in the family.


Located east of Tokyo in the southern part of Chiba is one of our favorites with shows of dolphins, white beluga whales, and smiling sea lions. Best of all is the superb animal interaction program allowing you to wade with a dolphin and kiss a killer whale for the braver marine biologists among us. A hotel is attached but you pay for the convenience.


Ranking right up there with Universal Studios as one of Osaka’s star attractions. It recreates 15 regions along the Ring of Fire (Pan Pacific Volcanic Zone). Big, brash and always busy, enter through the ‘Aqua gate’ tunnel and see hammerhead sharks and an amazing collection of creatures.


Gleaming in the sun, this  four- floored aquarium boasts the “Janome beach,” the world’s largest “touch” pool with an artificial rocky shore and sandy beach as well as  a botanical garden and science museum.


The mother of them all. You can see huge whale sharks, manta rays, and living corals in the largest acrylic water tank in the world, “Kuroshio Sea.” Just  look at  the face of your child when these monsters of the deep approach.

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