Ocean Expo Park

Okinawa Guide: Ocean Expo Park

Ocean Expo Park 海洋博公園

Ocean Expo Park is a sprawling multi-attraction recreational complex on the tip of the Motobu Peninsula in the north-west of Okinawa main island.

Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa, Japan.
Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa

Okinawa Expo Park occupies most of the area of Okinawa Commemorative National Government Park, and is administered by Okinawa Prefecture.

Ocean Expo Park began life in 1976 on the site of the 1975 Okinawa International Ocean Exposition.

The Exposition had been held partly in commemoration of the return of Okinawa to Japan by the United States in 1972.

Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa, Japan.
Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa

Ocean Expo Park has had numerous features added since its beginnings as the site of the Expo, and remains a modern, impeccably maintained attraction catering to all tastes. Ocean Expo Park is huge, at over 70 hectares (170 acres) and stretches almost 4 km along the coast. However, minibus transport between attractions makes it possible to see them all in a day.

Ocean Expo Park has many attractions including the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, the Tropical and Subtropical Arboretum of the City Greenery Project, Tropical Dream Center, the Native Okinawan Village & Omoro Arboretum, Emerald Beach, Oceanic Culture Museum & Planetarium and the Okichan Theater.

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

Churaumi Aquarium

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 Churaumi 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.

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.

Tropical Dream Center, Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa, Japan.
Tropical Dream Center, Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa
Emerald Beach, Okinawa, Japan.
Emerald Beach, Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa

Emerald Beach

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.

Native Okinawan Village & Omoro Arboretum

The Native Okinawan Village features a variety of reconstructed buildings from different areas and time periods of Okinawa. The twenty buildings are all open and visitors can wander around inside. Occasionally there are performances of Okinawan music and dance. The Omoro Arboretum has plantings of fan palms, wild coffee, bamboo, rice, cedar, camphor, sea almond and Ryukyu pine.

Oceanic Culture Museum

The Oceanic Culture Museum displays replicas of trading vessels collected for Expo '75 that used to ply the seas throughout Asia and the South Pacific. There are over 70 boats in total on show including ships from the Ryukyu Kingdom and replica of a Lakatoi canoe from Papua New Guinea. The Oceanic Culture Museum also offers a large planetarium.

Tropical Dream Center

Tropical Dream Center is an impressive botanical garden full of tropical and sub-tropical plants and fruits including orchids, bougainvillea, hibiscus, African baobab trees, insectivores and Victorian lilies displayed in manicured gardens and inside greenhouses. Various fish ponds on the grounds hold koi carp, arowana and pirarucu. Tropical butterflies and crabs can also be seen.
A spiral, stone viewing tower, 36m tall, is said to resemble the "Tower of Babel" and offers lovely views of the large gardens and fish ponds from above.

Minibus transport at Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa, Japan.
Free transportation between attractions at Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa
Native Okinawan Village, Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa, Japan.
Native Okinawan Village, Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa

Tropical & Subtropical Arboretum

The southernmost section of the park is a Tropical & Subtropical Arboretum and botanical garden with plants native to Okinawa and nearby Pacific islands that are resistant to typhoons including tropical pines, pandanus, banyan, figs and breadfruit.

Okichan Theater

Okichan Theater is an outdoor marine show including dolphin performances, a manatee pool and a turtle tank including black, green, hawksbill, loggerhead and olive ridley turtles.

Ocean Expo Park also includes various rest areas, a Fountain Plaza, a Kids' Adventure Land, ocean-side boardwalks, restaurants and even two tennis courts.

Okichan Theater, Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa, Japan.
Okichan Theater, Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa

Ocean Expo Park 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
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 Ocean Expo Park & Churaumi Aquarium. Further north is the excellent Daisekirinzan Park at Cape Hedo at the tip of Okinawa Honto.

Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa, Japan.
Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa

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