While Ling was planning for our itinerary, she lamented that there really isn’t a lot of things to see in Osaka. In fact, the only things visitors go to Osaka to do largely center on shopping and eating. The few places that warrant as popular tourist sights include the Umeda Sky Building (visited), the Namba district and shopping arcades (visited), Osaka Castle (closed for the period), and lastly, Oaska Aquarium, also known as Kaiyukan.
As with my visits to San Francisco and Boston last year, where there’s an aquarium, it’d be a place I’d definitely want to visit. The day we chose to go though was on New Year’s Eve on the 31 December, and as it turned out, hordes of Japanese locals also had the same grand idea. Long queues were already formed up early in the morning at 10:00 AM before opening hours, and keep in mind that the aquarium is located near Osaka Bay and enjoys the best i.e. coldest of sea breezes.
The admissions area was a bit of a mess with throngs of people buying tickets, no clear demarcations to move people from ticket purchasing to entrance, and lots and lots and lots of children about. Heck; I think the first 30 minutes of our visit to the aquarium was made almost impossible to enjoy because of kids shoving and pushing everyone else and themselves.
The aquarium itself boasts of being one of the largest in the world, with a 10 meter deep center piece tank titled “Pacific Ocean”, and houses a somersaulting Manta Ray and a pair of magnificent looking whale sharks. The other really special exhibit for me was titled Japan Deeps, and housing dozens of Giant spider crabs, several of whom were lunching. Lastly, the very cold weather made it possible also for an outdoor penguin parade, something we’re unlikely to ever see in Singapore (we only see penguins in carefully-temperature controlled exhibit areas).
Kaiyukan itself isn’t too bad given its two highlight tanks with the whale sharks and spider crabs. But all things considered and putting aside the fact that we perhaps chose the worse possible time to visit with all those screaming kids about, I’d expected more for the fairly high admission fee of 2,000円 per adult. It didn’t seem as though there were as many distinctive nor varied exhibits showing the full spectrum of aquatic life, as compared to say the New England Aquarium that I last visited in Boston this June.
So, worth a visit for the whale sharks and spider crabs if you can stomach the high admission fees. But the New England Aquarium has no fear; it remains still the best aquarium I’ve yet seen anywhere.