Editor’s Note: The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium was originally reviewed on Okinawa Hai on March 11, 2007, and May 2, 2008; you can read a PDF copy of that original review HERE. The post below is an updated take on this attraction, published on July 14, 2016.

CONTRIBUTED BY MARISSA MATSUZAKI

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We may speak different languages, but the name’Nemo’ is universal. I found this to be true when I first visited Ocean Expo Park’s Churuami Aquarium. We returned to this oceanic wonderland several times during our three-year tour and it is no less true today than it was three years ago.

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There is a grand stairway leading to the aquarium that overlooks the East China Sea and most of Ocean Expo Park. On a sunny day, you’ll see the ocean reflect at least three different shades of blue while the park’s flowers fill the horizon with warm vibrant colors. After crossing several flights of stairs and escalators you’ll enter one of the greatest aquariums in the world. Before you pass the admission stand, get in line for a souvenir photograph. A miniature photo is free and a larger print a little more than 1,000 yen (which I think is fine for a cute family photo).
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Next, you must get your hands wet because there is a petting area where you can touch sea cucumbers and starfish. It is nice to know which creatures are harmless when you are out playing in the ocean. The little ones will delight in this activity and there are plenty of sinks to wash up afterward.

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Then you will enter one of the most photo-friendly spots in the aquarium as you admire sea life that thrives closer to the ocean’s surface (so naturally the lighting in these tanks is much brighter). Expect a crowd in this area with lots of selfies in session! You are also sure to see some of the deep blue’s most colorful fish.

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As you meander through the halls to new tanks you’ll discover differing ocean habitats with differing levels of light. You are now going to see the kinds of sea life that thrive in deeper darker waters. We also enjoyed seeing what swims among the mangroves. You’ll then see smaller tanks with various sea creatures including clown fish hiding in the anemone. I always delighted to hear American and Japanese children exclaim, “Nemo!”

Whale Sharks

Finish this gorgeous tour on a high note with the Whale Shark Exhibit—floor to ceiling for an expanse of two stories the whale sharks, manta rays, and their companions delight guests in an observation area as well as a dine-in restaurant. When it is all said and done, you’ll exit through the gift shop where you can pick up your souvenir photo as well as any other treasures you may want to purchase.

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So remember, when you go to the aquarium, plan on:

  1. Getting wet
  2. Taking lots of pictures
  3. Buying fun souvenirs
  4. Learning something new
  5. Finding Nemo

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I hope you’ll visit the aquarium while on Okinawa. My family and I returned several times in three years and we always enjoyed it. I’m confident you will too!


For a sneak peek of the aquarium, check out this video by Wandering Waffle Heads:

 

And check out this video by Wandering Waffle Heads about how to enjoy some of Expo Park’s features for FREE!

 

Don’t forget to read our post about Ocean Expo Park, which is in the same location and shouldn’t be ignored as part of an excursion to the aquarium!

 


Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Hours: (as of June 2016)

aquarium hours

Admission: (as of June 2016)

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Websites:
Churaumi Aquarium Guide
Churaumi Aquarium Official Site

Address: Japan, Okinawa Prefecture Kunigami District Motobu石川424

GPS Coordinates: 26.69090522, 127.875529898

Directions:

Address: 424 Ishikawa, Motobu, Kunigami District, Okinawa Prefecture 905-0206, Japan

GPS Coordinates: 26.6944554, 127.87809870000001

Directions: Take the Expressway north to the end; follow 58 north to 84. Look for signs for Ocean Park Expo/Churaumi Aquarium and follow to 449. Take a left on 449, then another left onto 114 a few kilometers up the road. Signs are located frequently on the route; it’s well-marked and easy to find even without GPS!

 

 

21 COMMENTS

  1. After researching what some of the commenters have said about the dolphin slaughters, and reading an article about one of the dolphins jumping out of its tank in an attempt to kill itself (some animals are smart enough to realize some humans are very messed up), I will not be giving money to the aquarium by attending and neither will my husband. I don’t care about the entertainment aspect, it’s wrong and you shouldn’t be supporting it.

  2. Please stop paying for the enslavement of tropical mammals. The money you spend at the aquarium funds the dolphin slaughters in Taiji Japan. This is glorified animal slavery.

  3. I was wondering if anybody know how to get there from camp courtney??? PLEASE!!!! I really would like to take my kids there for the first time! And do we need to bring our own food/snacks or will there’ll be somewhere to eat there? Thank you much!

  4. The dolphin shows are ON!! We just went their this weekend and saw the dolphin show, which was awesome!!!Loved it! I could spend the entire day.

  5. They do not run year round. Went there three weeks ago and I think they end it in October and resume again in May. They still had the dolphins in their tanks, though.

  6. This was fun, but I was not aware at all the walking outside we had to do. Good thing I was prepared and brought sunscreen for our daughter.

  7. We LOVE the aquarium, and we’re pretty sensitive about captivity. Honestly, we don’t visit the manatees or the sea turtles.

    We saw the dolphin show recently and it was really fun. We got annual membership cards and have gone four times so far (in 10 months), but my daughter would like to go daily (she’s a senior in high school). The annual membership provides a 5% discount at the gift shops and restaurants the first year and the discount increases when you renew (to 10%).

    We take day trips – it’s under an hour to get there from where we are (near Courtney), even if there’s traffic or we can’t take the Expressway for some reason.

    • Thanks for the information. After Obon, we’ll probably do a day trip. I watched The Cove last year and it stuck with me. Reading on here about the zoo and reflecting on The Cove, I am left feeling conflicted about supporting these places with my admission fee.

  8. I am surprised this doesn’t have more replies. My family wants to go even though I have mixed feelings about sea life in captivity. Do people just go up for the day? Has anyone ever combined this with an overnight stay in the area?

  9. My family & I spent the better part of our day at the Aquarium today and had an AWESOME time! They had to drag me away from the sea turtle tanks. Then I had to drag all 3 of my boys (husband included) away from the climbing nets at the park. I have about 50 pictures of just that alone. Great post. Thanks!

  10. Just a note on the “Big House” restaurant, if you don’t eat pork it is not a good place to go because the only thing to order that’s not mostly pork is some tofu which has a few sides (one of them is also pork) but everything is really small and you will still be hungry when you’re done, even if you don’t normally eat a lot.

  11. I brought my kids up there about a month ago, and let me tell you… “the nets” as we call them are a child’s dream come true! They go on and on and ON forever! Seriously, there had to be 200 kids playing on the nets, but they were so spacious and covered such a large area that it didn’t affect us in the slightest. It was all I could do to not jump up in the nets and play with my kids!

  12. I never thought how this place would be a good substitute for those of us scared of scuba diving. Good angle. I need to get back up there. The grounds there are pretty extensive, aren’t they? I’ve only been when it was raining so I didn’t get to explore too much.

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