Saturday, May 04, 2013

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium - Japan 2013 trip report part 10

I was pretty depressed given the weather situation in Okinawa, but on day 2 the skies calmed down just enough for us to make the long drive to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu - probably about 30-40 miles from our hotel. There's also a beach right nearby and my wife was determined to "go in the water" at least once while we were in Okinawa, even if that just meant dipping her toes in so she could say she did.

424 Ishikawa, Motobu-cho, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa 905-0206, Japan
Hours: 8:30AM - 5:30/10PM (depending on season and day)

It was worth the drive. It's an amazing aquarium. First, does it kind of remind you of the Overlook Hotel? It's a really interesting building. Inside, it looks brand new even though it's 10 years old. It's spacious and modern, and when we went, at least (actually pretty late in the day), it was not crowded at all. The last aquarium I went to was the New York aquarium, which is none of those things. I'm glad we have an aquarium in New York, but the Churaumi aquarium was just a much different experience.

Of course they have a lot of different exhibits and many fish I'd never seen before, because they specialize in this part of the world. Like this happy little guy:

But the centerpiece is obviously the main tank, which is unbelievably huge and includes whale sharks and manta rays in addition to regular fish:

They even have theater style seating so you can just sit there like this and watch, as if you're in an IMAX movie theater. Hey, down in front!

Another view:

There's a restaurant on the right side where you can sit and eat and watch the fish.

One thing I have never personally seen in an aquarium is the ability to go up top and see the tank from above, where all the magic happens:

This is not a guided tour or anything, you just take the elevator up and there you are. It's completely marked so it's definitely open to the public, and there was a staff member standing near the exit (you can see her in the top right) to guide people around if they needed it.

Whale shark from above.

Outside the aquarium they have separate buildings with tanks for manatees, turtles and dolphins.

I highly recommend this place, especially if the weather turns bad on your trip to Okinawa. There aren't a lot of other real indoor tourist attractions, and this has to be one of the best aquariums in the world.

As for the beach, we actually did visit before going into the aquarium, and my wife did get to dip her toes in the water (and I did too).

This is Emerald Beach, right next to the aquarium (you can walk). It was still cloudy and rainy and the beach was therefore "lightly attended".

One thing I found kind of annoying is that wherever you were actually allowed to swim, they had these rubber booms out. My wife thinks it's because Okinawa actually has killer jellyfish and these booms protect swimmers from them. (Note that my link flatly and ominously states that "You have virtually no chance of surviving the venomous sting, unless treated immediately.")

I probably would not go swimming in that water, though, with that algae buildup caused by the booms. The booms ensure there is basically no wave action and no natural circulation of water - it turns this little circle of the ocean into a static pool.

In general there seemed to be a lot of rules about where you could go and what you could do. Lots of signs saying not to climb on rocks, not to swim in various areas, etc. It didn't give me that feeling of natural freedom that I normally get when I go to the beach.

Next up: Okinawa food!

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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