Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is located on the grounds of the Ocean Expo Park in Motobo, Okinawa.
Japan and the sea
Japan, being an island nation, has naturally always had a strong relationship with the sea and the life that dwells within. As such, Japan boasts some of the world's best aquariums, including the spectacularly designed Aquamarine Fukushima and the popular Osaka Aquarium with its multiple-floor-spanning tanks. Of these aquariums, however, Okinawa Churaumi is the largest and is unequivocally considered the best. It was originally opened as part of the Ocean Expo Park for the 1975 World Expo but was re-designed re-named and re-opened in 2001 as the then largest aquarium in the world. The new name, chosen from thousands, combines the Okinawan dialectical word for "beauty", "chura", with the Japanese word for "sea", "umi", and is intended to represent the unique beauty of the marine life in the seas of this southern archipelago.
The unique beauty of Okinawan marine life
Three main factors contribute to the particular character of marine life in Okinawa: the presence of the large, warm Kuroshio "Black Tide" current, the abundance of living coral and the two deep sea knolls that flank the islands. Each of these characteristics are faithfully represented at Churaumi Aquarium. The huge Kuroshio Tank, with a main viewing window measuring 22.5 metres (73'10") wide, 8.2 metres (73'11") tall and 60 centimetres (2 feet) thick, displays the variety of marine life that swim in this current. The tank can also be viewed from below in the spectacular "Aqua Room". Churaumi Aquarium was the first in the world to successfully breed manta rays in captivity and is one of the only in the world to breed the Whale Shark, the largest fish in the world. These creatures can be seen swimming with the others in the Kuroshio Tank. Churaumi's coral tank is the first large-scale coral tank in the world with over 800 colonies of coral. The coral is maintained naturally by a constant influx and outflux of seawater and sunlight – fish are free to swim in and out assisting coral growth. Finally, the deep sea tanks contain the rare Ruby Snapper, Blacksail Snake Mackerel, luminous shrimp and other creatures that dwell 200-700 metres (660-2300 feet) below the surface.
The descent – from sunlight-dazzled coral to the luminously glittering darkness of the deep
The large aquarium is arranged so that visitors start with the beach on the fourth floor and work their way down to the deep sea on the first floor, as if taking an actual dive into the ocean. Along the way, in addition to being able to view the three main exhibits, starting with coral and moving through the Kuroshio tank towards the deep sea area, visitors can also see a variety of other incredible exhibits. These include the traditional-style Uminchu entrance gate, dolphin shows, touching tanks and freshwater tanks. Staff conduct explanations, demonstrations and feedings throughout the day.
Access/ How to get to Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium can be accessed by Yanbaru expressway bus (approximately two hours and twenty minutes from Naha Airport), general route bus (approximately three hours from Naha airport) or car (approximately two hours from Naha airport).
■Hours 8:30am~6:30pm (Oct~Feb)/8:30am~8:00pm (Mar~Sep)/Last admission: one hour before closing time/Closing time extended by one hour on "Special Days" (see website for details)/Closed: First Wednesday and Thursday of December■Access 424, Ishikawa, Motobu-cho, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa■Tell 0980-48-3748■URL http://oki-churaumi.jp/en/index.html