Churaumi Aquarium Okinawa

Okinawa Guide: Churaumi Aquarium

Churaumi Aquarium 沖縄美ら海水族館

Jake Davies

Churaumi Aquarium on Okinawa is generally considered to be the best aquarium in Japan and is also ranked in the top ten worldwide in most surveys.

Churaumi Aquarium is located at the site of the 1975 World Fair sometimes referred to as the World Ocean Expo.

Following the end of the fair most of the pavilions and structures were removed and the site turned into the Okinawa National Government Park, known as Ocean Expo Park. In response to reduced visitors to the park a new aquarium was conceived and opened in 2002.

Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa, Japan.
Kuroshio Tank, Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa

The Churaumi Aquarium is entered from the 4th floor via the impressive Uminchu Gate.

Pride of place for all the attractions in the aquarium must go to the Kuroshio Tank, named after the Kuroshio current which flows past the Okinawan Islands.

The biggest aquarium tank in the world when it was built, more than 2 million gallons of water, pumped in from 350 meters offshore, are held behind a massive acrylic window two feet thick. The stars of the tank must be the huge Whale Sharks, and the Manta Rays, several of which were born here.

The three floors of the main aquarium building have much more to see. One of the first exhibits is the Life in Inoh, inoh meaning coral reef lagoon. In the shallow pool are a variety of starfishes and sea cucumbers which visitors are encouraged to reach in and touch.

The Coral Sea Tank is the largest display in the world of live coral. Over 70 different species in 800 colonies are growing in the natural sunlight. There is also a room of exhibits and displays showing the growth cycle of coral.

Of course there are numerous tanks displaying tropical fish, and here many are local. At the lowest level are the deep sea exhibits. Outside the main building are several other enclosures and tanks, the almost obligatory dolphins, as well as sea turtles, and, unusually, manatee, a gift from Mexico, as well as a museum devoted to whales with numerous full skeletons.. Shows occur at these and other interior tanks throughout the day.

Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa, Japan.
Scorpion Fish, Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa
Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa, Japan.
Orca Skeleton, Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa

The Ocean Expo Park is quite large, being three kilometers long stretched out along the coast. There are footpaths connecting all the different sections, but there is also a shuttle bus that costs only 200 yen for an all day pass.

Right below the Churaumi Aquarium is Emerald Beach, one of the top 100 beaches in Japan with great views over to Iejima Island. The beach is divided into three sections, for relaxing, viewing, and swimming.

The central section of the park is the History & Culture Zone, right next to the parking areas and where the main information center for the park can be found. In this zone is the Oceanic Culture Museum with displays on the relationship between people and the sea and includes various Pacific island canoes and a planetarium.

The Native Okinawan Village features a variety of reconstructed building from different areas and time periods of Okinawa. The buildings are all open and visitors can wander around inside. Occasionally there are performances of Okinawan music and dance.

Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa, Japan.
Starfish, Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa
Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa, Japan.
Turtle, Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa

The final section is the Flowers & Greenery Zone. The Tropical Dream Center is based around an intriguing spiral, stone watchtower. There are numerous ponds and greenhouses displaying tropical fruits and flowers including more than 2,000 orchids.

There are twice daily free tours with explanations in Japanese, or a free audio guide in English. The Churaumi Aquarium has a shop and a cafe specializing in food and drink made from tropical fruits.

The southernmost section of the park is a Tropical & Subtropical Arboretum and botanical garden.

Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa, Japan.
Umichu Gate, Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa

Churaumi Aquarium Access

The Ocean Expo Park is open from 8am to 7.30pm (Until 6pm in the winter months.) Entry is free.

Ocean Expo Park (official site)
424 Ishikawa
Motobu
Kunigagami District
Okinawa 905 0206
Tel: 0980 48 3748

Churaumi Aquarium is open every day of the year except the first Wednesday and Thursday of December.
Hours: 8.30am-6.30pm (Oct - Feb) 8.30am-7.30pm (March - September)
Admission: 1,850 yen for adults, 980 yen High School students, 610 yen for younger children, and free for kids under 6 years of age.

Oceanic Culture Museum
Hours: 8.30am-6.30pm (Oct - Feb) 8.30am-7.30pm (March - September)
Admission: Adults 170 yen. Children 50 yen

Tropical Dream Center
Hours: 8.30am-6.30pm (Oct - Feb) 8.30am-7.30pm (March - September)
Admission: Adults 690 yen, Children 350 yen.

Ocean Expo Park & Churaumi Aquarium are located on the Motobu Peninsula in the northern part of Okinawa. It is possible to reach it by bus, with regular and frequent highway buses (bus #111) from the Naha Bus terminal and Naha Airport going to Nago.

From Nago there are a couple of bus routes which stop at the park though they are not so frequent. Like much of Okinawa, Nago is best explored by renting a car. Ocean Expo Park & Churaumi Aquarium are about 60 miles from Naha. Nakijin Castle is 7km from Churaumi Aquarium.

Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa, Japan.
Emerald Beach, Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa

Images by Jake Davies


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