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The harbor of Nagoya is home to an aquarium! I’d say the very short version of this review is: If you’ve seen the documentary “Black Fish,” maybe this isn’t an attraction for you. For everyone else, it’s worth checking out.
The Mister and I trekked out on a Friday, which I recommend over a weekend trip out because even on a weekday the place got a bit crowded in spots. For 2000¥ each we were granted access to both the north and south buildings of the Aquarium grounds.
Because the harbor is also home to a maritime museum and a permanent exhibit of an arctic expedition vessel, you can pay an extra 400¥ per person to get access to those AND the aquarium. It’s a lot to see in one day, but a good deal if you’re ready to do a lot of walking.
The North building houses the marine mammals: The Beluga Whales (I dare you to try and keep Raffi’s song out of your head), seals, dolphins, and orca. There is a large underground observation space where you are invited to sit and watch the numerous specie of dolphin at the facility swim underwater through plexiglass. It was very calming, and I noted it seemed like a common place for parents to have an impromptu “toddler nap.” Because of that I also learned that when dolphins swim upside down it’s because it helps their depth perception when hunting prey (aka little overtired kids wobbling around in front of the glass).
If you visit, be sure to be in the north building around noon - they will announce that it is time to feed the animals and invite everyone up to the observation deck on the roof for you to watch a show! I was absolutely awestruck at the precision training the dolphins have gone through. They are amazing. A. Maze. Ing. I believe there is also a second show with the Orca and Belugas, but I wasn’t privy to that.
The South building is home to the “regular fish.” Which I honestly thought would be sort of lack-luster after seeing dolphins jump through hoops, but I was dead wrong. The collection is massive and the way the enclosures are fully immersive (like the glass ceiling tunnel where you look up and see the bellies and smilie faces of rays. Or the small table-tank with floating magnifiers so you can really zoom in on that puffer fish. Plus, the South building houses the sea turtles, an array of live corral, a very interesting exhibit on creatures of the deep (interesting to look at even if you don’t read Japanese), and of course, the Penguins.
I enjoyed my time at the aquarium. I’m glad I went. I guiltily admit that I do struggle with keeping such beautiful and intelligent large animals as whales and dolphins in such small spaces, and if you look closely, you can see the scarring on the animals giving evidence to their boredom and lashing out at each other for the close quarters. But I can’t deny that I wasn’t impressed with the facility and how much I learned and took in even without much in the way of Japanese language skills.