The Osaka Aquarium, or Osaka Kaiyukan, was one of the few aquariums in the world with a whale shark, so I was eager to visit it on my last day in Osaka to see it up close. A ticket is normally 2300 yen, but I bought the OSAKA Kaiyu Ticket at an Osaka Metro station for 2550 yen, which provides both entry to the aquarium and unlimited rides on the Osaka Metro lines and buses for the day. Getting the entry ticket this way or online also allows you to skip the long queues at the ticket booths at the aquarium.
The aquarium opens at 10am. Although it would be good to maximise your time there by going early, there are few places open for breakfast before 11am. However, Cafe Fujiya just outside Osakako station (the nearest train station to the aquarium) opens at 7am, presumably to take advantage of the early morning crowd at the aquarium. The meals start from 400 yen, with overly pricey long black coffee that you can get free with a set. With an English menu, it’s easy to decide what to eat. It is a pleasant cafe with delightful music and warm decor, where you can grab a quick bite before heading to the aquarium.
At the entrance, an escalator brings you all the way to the top floor 7F, and you slowly make your way down linearly through the enclosures. It was a Saturday, and because the aquarium is generally a very crowded and popular attraction for families, it is often difficult to get right in front of the glass unless you are patient and wait for the front row of children to clear. Then again they are mostly children, so it’s usually easy enough for to look over their heads.
Although it’s called an aquarium, the Osaka Kaiyukan also has plenty of terrestrial animals, such as capybaras and otters.
There were also sea-adjacent animals such as penguins and sea lions.
A particularly haunting exhibit was the jellyfish section, which was in the dark to simulate the depths of the sea, save for a small amount of illumination. Any bioluminescence becomes more vivid, and the simple anatomy of translucent jellyfish was easily visible.
The main attraction, of course, is the large central tank on 6F containing the rays, all kinds of fish, and the famous whale sharks. I attempted to take a selfie with a whale shark a few times, but it was difficult to get a good one.
I had a bit more success with the mola mola, who had a derpy smile and was inclined to curiously stare back at the humans gawking at him.
Another deep sea denizen to marvel at are the spider crabs, long-legged crustaceans that move with slow deliberation.
The moment the aquarium opens, there is already a public feeding of the sea lions. While it may be impossible to catch all of the feedings in one session, with careful planning and a bit of running around, you might be able to see the feedings of most of your favourite animals from 10am-3pm.
At the end is the gift shop, where you can buy all sorts of cute memorabilia such a whale shark plushie. At this point, you can exit, or go up the escalator and see the whole thing again. Of course, you can reverse direction any time you like, e.g. if you want to catch a feeding, or see your favourite exhibits again.
Osaka Kaiyukan is certainly a good visit for anyone who loves to see wildlife. While it does have a somewhat expensive entry fee for the budget traveller, the experience of seeing the well-curated and managed exhibits is thoroughly worth the price.