“CHURAUMI AQUARIUM” Family Vacation Report


Publication date: 2016/02/29


churaumi aquarium imagephotoThe ”Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium” is a regular sightseeing spot for visitors to Okinawa.

As the mother of two children, I planned this trip because I wanted to show my children one of the largest-scale aquariums in the world!

This article includes my impressions, the amount of time required inside the aquarium, the exhibits that my children found particularly interesting, and a compilation of must-see attractions.

I’ll also introduce resting and eating locations for those with small children, and talk about the degree of congestion in the facility.

Churaumi Aquarium related articles…

1.Before Arriving at Churaumi Aquarium

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThe Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is inside the “Ocean Expo Park.”
There are a variety of facilities in this large park next to the ocean, and the aquarium is one of them.
The main gates are the South Gate, the Central Gate, the North Gate, and the Bise Gate. To enter the aquarium, use the Central Gate or the North Gate.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThis time we used the parking lot at the North Gate. I recommend this gate if your destination is the aquarium.

churaumi aquarium imagephoto The parking lot is extremely large, so I’d recommend making a memo or taking a picture of where you parked to make it easier to find your car when you return.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoWhen you exit the North Gate parking lot there’s a mister for cooling off. The children were excited!


churaumi aquarium imagephotoThe path is shaded on either side by Okinawan trees such as Kobateishi and Deigo.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThere are easy-to-understand signs in front of the mister. First we’ll go down a gentle slope.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoRight off the bat we found a place for children to play and we were drawn right to it.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoWe went down the hill and discovered a sign!

churaumi aquarium imagephotoWe went down an escalator and arrived at the entrance! We’re finally entering the world of the ocean!

2.We enjoyed the aquarium like this!

churaumi aquarium imagephotoIf you’re paying the normal entrance fee then you can use the ticket machine.

However, there are ways to get discounts as well.

You can find a free paper on the counters of many rental car agencies and hotels in Okinawa that contain discount tickets, and discount tickets can also be purchased at the front counter of many hotels.

If you have acquired a coupon, then you should go to a manned counter to purchase a ticket.


Once you have your ticket in hand, it’s time to enter the world of Churaumi!

churaumi aquarium imagephoto

Normally one enters the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium on the 3rd floor and then works one’s way down through the 2nd and 1st floors.

The first thing that you run into is a small pool with sea cucumbers and starfish that can be picked up and touched.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoIn the ocean it’s difficult to get a chance to touch sea cucumbers and starfish! The children were so excited!

There’s a keeper on hand to make sure that the starfish stay close to the visitors.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThere are many different types of starfish, and this corner is a great way to learn about the little creatures that are indispensable organisms for our oceans.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoAhead of the starfish pool is a “Coral Sea” exhibit. The reef aquarium offers one a chance to view carol close-up, and includes a variety of types such as soft coral and table coral.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoIf possible you should stop here long enough to listen to the keeper talk about coral. I think it’s too good an opportunity to just pass by and say, “Oh that’s pretty!”

Please stop and listen to the talk about the ecology of coral. A special feature of this tropical area is the white beaches, and these are thanks to the finely crushed bleached coral that washes up on shore.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoBy all means, please take advantage of this opportunity to feel bleached coral for yourself!

churaumi aquarium imagephotoIn this corner we can watch hump-headed wrasse, the largest of the wrasse, swimming joyfully. *Also known as Napolean fish

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThe children were fascinated at seeing these fish and coral for the first time in their lives. It was hard to get them to move on to the next exhibit.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoIt’s important to check the types of fish that are in each aquarium. That makes them even more enjoyable to spot!

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThere are many dangerous creatures in the sea. The “Coral Reef World” makes that clear.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoMore than just looking, there are experiences provided to show what the dangers are.
There are several buttons like this. Press one and….

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThe dorsal fin lights up! This part contains a deadly poison. It makes it very easy to understand.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThey put a lot of thought into the display. Next to the model demonstration you can see the real thing swimming.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThese are jellyfish. Different from the jellyfish that you normally see in the water, these jellyfish contain deadly poison. You understand that the tentacles that glow contain the poison.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThis is a sea urchin. The left side is a model and the right side is the real thing.

This urchin is not unique to Okinawa. It can be found around the world. However, in shallow water it is often confused with the purple sea urchin. This can be distinguished by the length of the needles and the shining white and purple round marks that look like eyes.

With the slightest touch the needle will pierce you and break, and you’ll experience numbness or paralysis!! (I have experience)

churaumi aquarium imagephotoI really want you to see this tank as you make your way to the 2nd floor.

Many types of crustaceans are relaxing here. On the top is a spiny lobster, and on the bottom is a Japanese mitten lobster (Parribacus japonicas).

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThe ones lined up in front are a type of Japanese spiny lobster: ornate spiny lobsters.
The ornate spiny lobster is the largest of the spiny lobsters, weighing up to 5 kg. The children were entranced and looked at them for a long time.



churaumi aquarium imagephotoFinally we’re at the main exhibit! Let’s go to the Kuroshio Sea!

churaumi aquarium imagephotoIn the dimly-lit interior is a dazzling, gigantic aquarium known as the Kuroshio Sea, which is one of the highlights of the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.

As you descend a gentle hill there are viewing areas that jut out and let you get a closer look at the aquarium.

churaumi aquarium imagephoto

When you descend to the bottom you see the aquarium as it often appears in magazines.
Also, there are chairs lined up like in a movie theater, so you can relax as you enjoy the beautiful aquarium.

The scale of the aquarium is 10 meters tall, 35 meters wide, and 27 meters from back to front!
You are treated to a close-up view of a powerful seascape.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThis aquarium features a lineup of the most popular characters at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium!

The whale shark is the most popular resident, and it’s said that the experimental breeding program is the first of its kind in the world.
You can also see a rare herd of manta rays.


churaumi aquarium imagephotoWhale sharks and manta rays, also bonito and yellowfin…
If you stand directly in front of the aquarium you’ll really feel surrounded, but if you want to take a picture I’d recommend stepping back a bit to take it all in.
Placing a person in the frame will add a sense of scale to the picture and show off the enormity of the aquarium!


churaumi aquarium imagephotoIn front on the large aquarium there’s a section for learning in detail about the ecology of the whale sharks and manta rays.

Recommended viewing order….
View the aquarium with the whale sharks and manta rays -> learn about their ecology-> view the large aquarium again.
Your impressions will be different after learning a bit about them.



churaumi aquarium imagephotoNext we’ll head into the depths of the sea in the Deep Sea exhibit.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoOn the way to the Deep Sea exhibit you’ll pass through an aqua-room where whale sharks and manta rays will swim over your head.
The scenery here is similar to what one would experience when diving.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThe picture above is a keeper that we happened to see when he was cleaning the tank.
A whale shark passed behind him.
You can really tell how large the whale shark is!
(We waved at the keeper and he waved back!)


churaumi aquarium imagephotoNext we come to the final section, the Deep Sea exhibit.

Here they have fish that live in the deep sea, so one normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to observe them.
The picture is of a stuffed giant squid.
The display contains fish and crustaceans that live approximately 200 meters below the sea near Okinawa, and gives us a rare glimpse into deep sea life.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoNear the exit there’s an “aqua-lab.”
Here one can listen to explanations of marine ecology given by the keepers.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoOne can hear detailed lectures on the fish and coral of Okinawa, and you’re welcome to ask questions.

By the way, the dolphins show can be enjoyed at the “OKI-CHAN Theater” which is about a 4-5 minute walk from the exit.
For those who would like to continue to enjoy themselves after the aquarium visit, I’d recommend exiting the aquarium about 15-20 minutes (or 30 minutes during summer vacation) before the start of the show!

Facilities outside of the Churaumi Aquarium, such as the “OKI-CHAN Theater, the dolphin lagoon and such, can be enjoyed for free whether or not one visits the aquarium.
For details and the schedule of the dolphin show, please download them from this website.

3.Rest areas and restaurants

churaumi aquarium imagephoto<Aquarium 3rd floor, before the coral sea ‘Free Space’>
There is a round space in front of the tank with chairs prepared, so it is perfect for a short break. If you sit on the side by the tank you’ll be able to enjoy the view slowly!



churaumi aquarium imagephoto<Aquarium 1st floor, free space before the Kuroshio Sea>
I touched on this subject previously, but there are chairs lined up as in a movie theater in front of the Kuroshio Sea exhibit. You can take a break here while watching the exhibit as if you were in a theater.



churaumi aquarium imagephoto<Aquarium 1st floor Aqua-Room free space>
Take a break with a view of fish from a variety of angles.
It’s breathtaking to be so close!


churaumi aquarium imagephoto<Café Ocean Blue [paid space]>
This restaurant offers a view of the Kuroshio Sea.
It serves hot dogs, pasta, muffins, tacos, and other light snacks.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoYou can dine here while viewing the fish in the aquarium.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoIt was a rare opportunity, so we waited for a seat to open up in front of the aquarium.
The children were thrilled every time a whale shark or manta ray swam in the direction of our seats.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoChildren holding out muffins as if they’re about to feed the fish. Adults understand that it’s not possible to feed the fish, but witnessing the purity of these children was moving.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThe shark seems tired and is taking a break from swimming. We got to see an interesting new perspective while slowly enjoying our meal beside the aquarium.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThe children were very excited by the most popular resident, the whale shark!

churaumi aquarium imagephotoBefore our children were born we went diving often. We used to love looking up at the sea from below, and this allowed us to experience that once again.

churaumi aquarium imagephotoThe interior of the aquarium is quite large, and one never feels crowded. Having the opportunity to eat while surrounded by large fish was a wonderful experience, so I highly recommend it!

4.Places to purchase souvenirs

churaumi aquarium imagephoto<Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium 1st floor, Blue Manta>
By the exit of the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium you’ll find a host of souvenir stands! They sell stuffed animals that will delight the children and candies that adults will be happy to receive.
If you want to return to the aquarium after you purchase souvenirs, be sure to get a fluorescent hand stamp for re-entry.
If you don’t have one then you’ll be unable to re-enter, so please be cautious!

~~Even more stores!~~

churaumi aquarium imagephoto<Tropical Dream Center / Museum Shop Nangoku>
At the shops located in the tropical and subtropical gardens you’ll find a collection of tropical flowers available as wreaths for your head and cut flowers for purchase. Flower lovers will find this irresistible.



churaumi aquarium imagephoto<The OKI-CHAN Shop in the OKI-CHAN Theater>
In the OKI-CHAN Theater you can watch dolphins swim in the tank and perform. You’ll find an array of souvenirs based on the cute and clever dolphins!



churaumi aquarium imagephoto<Near the general information center: Shop Yanbaru no Mori>
Here you can purchase souvenirs from Okinawa.
There are many local specialties and famous goods lined up, so I’d recommend this shop if you want to find something special from Okinawa.



churaumi aquarium imagephoto

Let’s use the shop map near the exit to find a wonderful souvenir!


churaumi aquarium imagephotoNear the exit of the aquarium there’s a tour car that looks like the one in the photograph, so please make use of it! It’s very convenient if you’re going to one of the on-site (within the Okinawa Ocean Expo Park) facilities, such as the tropical botanical garden or emerald beach.


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