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Visiting Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan: Whale Shark Feeding, Guided Tour & More!

Visiting Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan: Whale Shark Feeding, Guided Tour & More!

Date published: 16 August 2019
Last updated: 27 October 2020

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, located in the Osaka Bay area, is a world-class aquarium with around 620 species and 30,000 living creatures. It is a popular tourist location that represents Osaka in a big way.

To enjoy Kaiyukan to the fullest we recommend the Premium Tour! This tour has many repeating visitors and allows you to enter the back area which is usually off-limits.

Table of Contents
  1. Osaka Aquarium Access and Prices
  2. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan Highlights
  3. The Popular Premium Tour with Many Repeating Visitors!
  4. A Head Start before the General Admission!
  5. Very Cute and Very Cool Creatures of Kaiyukan!
  6. To the Secret Back Area! Watch Kai and Yu Eat!
  7. Face-to-Face with 10,000 Sardines—This is the Perfect View for the Pacific Ocean Tank!
  8. Return to the Entrance! Other Ways to Enjoy Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
  9. Spend More Time with the Creatures You Like

Osaka Aquarium Access and Prices

Enjoyed by all ages, Kaiyukan, which opened in 1990, is located in a convenient location that can be accessed from Osaka Metro Osakako Station in about 5 minutes by foot.

Entrance fees are as follows:
・2,300 yen for adults (high school students and 16 years old and up)
・1,200 yen for children (elementary and junior high school students)
・600 yen for young children (4 years old and up)
・2,000 yen for senior citizens (60 years old and up; requires certificate), and all prices include tax.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan Highlights

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan Highlights
▲The main 8-story building and entrance building. The entrance also has an entertainment venue and a gift shop with original goods

At Kaiyukan they accurately recreate the Ring of Fire in the pacific and Pacific Rim region with various living creatures. In the aquarium there is a 9 meter deep Pacific Ocean tank that spans from the 4th floor to the 6th floor, and surrounding that are tanks with creatures from Japan, North Pole, South Pole and other overseas areas.

▲The paths are a gentle slope and easy to navigate through in the dark

The charm of the aquarium is the path that is made into a gentle slope spirals clockwise. While looking at the 2 whale sharks to the right in the large Pacific Ocean tank, there are various other creatures to your left, which makes you feel like you are in the ocean surrounded by many sea creatures.

The Popular Premium Tour with Many Repeating Visitors!

The popular attraction at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is the 90-minute Premium Tour. Not only do they take you to the popular spots, but if you let them know your favorite creatures in advance, the knowledgeable tour guides called Marine Mates will give detailed explanations.

For this reason, the tour details change each time and has many repeating visitors. Also, the tour will take you to the back area, and the major highlight here is the whale shark feeding. Let’s go and see what the tour is all about.

▲The rally point is in front of the information center next to the ticket counter. Make sure to be here 15 minutes prior to the tour and finish your payment at the counter

The Premium Tour usually starts at 9:45 AM on Saturday and Sunday (there are some months without tours). The limit is 20 people so make sure to make a reservation early, if there is space on that day, it is possible to join (1,000 yen per person, tax included.

For elementary students and up, if a child is 4 they may join with a guardian. (*Prices do not include the entrance fee for the aquarium.)

A Head Start before the General Admission!

Tour attendees get to enter the aquarium 15 minutes before the general admission. Tour members get the privilege to take their time look at the cute animals like otters and seals.

▲People attending the tour enter the aquarium from the rear entrance and take the elevator that is used to transport materials, equipment and animal feed, to the 8th floor

Before starting the tour, each person will receive a wireless guide. With this you will be able to hear the explanation by the Marine Mates.

Our Premium Tour guide was Marine Mate Ms. Arai. She cheerfully said, “I am surrounded by fish every day, but since they have a different facial expression it doesn’t get boring. You won’t see the same moment twice, I believe this is the charm of the aquarium.”

▲Her hobby is sea fishing. Ms. Arai knows many things about the ocean

The first area to arrive on the tour is Japan Forest. In the area with sunlight coming in, a forest waterside and mountain stream is replicated. In this area Japanese giant salamanders and Asian small-clawed otters are kept.

▲Japan Forest is like a greenhouse
▲The otters spinning around are very popular in Kaiyukan (photo provided by Kaiyukan)

The trees planted in this area are all real, however the very large tree in the center is artificial. Also everyone was surprised that there is an air-conditioner inside the artificial tree.

▲The end of the branches are the air-conditioning vents

Very Cute and Very Cool Creatures of Kaiyukan!

Waiting for us at the Monterey Bay tank were spotted seals and California sea lions. When we arrived, the handlers just started feeding them.

At this time the only people in this area are tour guests. Entering before the general admission, we were able to get a close look at the feeding without a crowd.

▲The feeding of sea lions at the Monterey Bay tank.
▲Sea lion saluting the crowd

The Monterey Bay tank is log and spans from the 7th to 5th floor, and the animals can go up and down freely.

▲Monterey Bay tank from the 6th floor. The spotted seal came over to us when we waved at them!

The king penguins at the Antarctica tank on the 7th floor are the second largest species of penguin in the world. According to Ms. Arai you are able to see penguins warming eggs on their feet from July to September.

▲King Penguin. The penguins that have bands on their wings were born in Kaiyukan

Next we head to the Great Barrier Reef tank on the same floor. This are replicated the world’s largest coral reef located in the northeastern shore of Australia and has colorful blue tang and black-backed butterflyfish.

▲Fish swimming in a coral sea that was replicated with attention to detail (photo provided by Kaiyukan)

A quiz from Ms. Arai: “What do these fish eat?”

▲If you want to know the answer, make sure to join the Premium Tour

With pop quizzes and other small activities throughout the course, children and guests stay entertained as the tour continues.

To the Secret Back Area! Watch Kai and Yu Eat!

Once you get close to the Pacific Ocean tank on the 6th floor the tour guests will leave the general route and enter the staff only area to enter the back area.

▲Before entering the area everyone has to clean their shoes with disinfectant

In the back area you can watch the staff feed the whale sharks swimming in the Pacific Ocean tanks. The viewing area is at the deck above the tank and to prevent items from falling in the tank, check all your belongings with the staff. After disinfecting your shoes, you can proceed to the whale shark area.

▲The large back area only accessible during the premium tour

You can see that the Pacific Ocean tank is shaped in a cross. The staff will start feeding form the paths by the surface and tour guests can watch that from a level above.

▲The whale shark approaching at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

In Kaiyukan there are two whale sharks, Kai and Yu. As they come up to the surface in the middle tank, the feeding begins. Each staff members start to beat the surface of the water with their large ladles. This signals the feeding time.

▲The Osaka Aquarium whale sharks pop their faces above the surface, aiming toward the ladles
▲Whale sharks eagerly opening their mouths waiting for food
▲Putting the food in the mouth directly

A type of small plankton, krill, is used for feeding the whale sharks. The whale sharks are fed twice a day and 3kg per meal. Also the amount of water sucked in per gulp is around 100 liters. This about 2 full bathtubs in an average household in Japan!

▲Whale sharks have teeth, each of which is about 1-2mm long. There are about 8,000 to 9,000 teeth in their mouthes

Kai and Yu both came from the coast of Kochi Prefecture. Kai is estimated to be 4 to 5 years old and Yu is 9 to 10 years old.

Whale sharks are known to grow to 12 meters long, but since the Pacific Ocean tanks are only 9 meters deep, Kai and Yu will be returned to the Pacific Ocean in a few years. There were times in Kaiyukan with no whale sharks, and having two swim side by side is rare.

▲Whale Shark swimming vertically, this is what they look like from below (photo provided by Kaiyukan)

There are many mysteries around these majestic creatures, such as how they lay their eggs or how long they live. Watching the dynamic feeding of whale sharks is a must!

Face-to-Face with 10,000 Sardines—This is the Perfect View for the Pacific Ocean Tank!

After watching the dynamic feeding of the whale sharks, we will enter the general route. At the Coast of Chile tank on the 5th floor there are about 10,000 Japanese pilchard and Japanese anchovy swimming in schools.

▲School of sardines with shiny scales swimming

If you look back while facing the sardines, you will see the Pacific Ocean tank up close.

▲The whale shark swam right past us, we weren’t sure if it was Kai or Yu

The Pacific Ocean tank area doesn’t have many pillars and the glass is large, also it isn’t that crowded compared to other areas. From this best hidden location you can see many creatures such at rays and scalloped hammerhead sharks from the bottom of the tank.

▲It is so immersive with the clear glass, it feels like you can reach out and touch the creatures
▲Large ray swimming close by

The Pacific Ocean glass is 30cm thick and uses acrylic glass.

▲The glass is 30cm thick, but it is made in a special way to keep it clear

After taking a close look at the Pacific Ocean tank, we will head down the slope to the 4th floor. At the Japan Deep tank you can see the popular Japanese spider crabs. These crabs can get to 3 meter length from one end to the other.

▲Children mesmerized by the long legs. The Japanese spider crabs are fed smelts

Finally we reached the Jellyfish area. In this area there are 12 species and 600 jellyfishes from Japan. They even have the rare flame jellyfish and other jellyfish that emerge during certain seasons.

The brown jellyfish have delicate tendrils that are over 2 meters long, however Ms. Arai warned us that “they have very strong venom and if you see them in the wild make sure to stay away.”

After watching the jellyfish float around, the Premium Tour that took around 90 minutes is finished. After you exit the general route and return your wireless guide, the group will be disbanded. It is a tour with rich content. Around the time you enter the back area, the general admission crowd will start to catch up and get crowded, however thanks to the wireless guide, and we were able to hear Ms. Arai clearly.

▲The Guide Tour: A Course, will explain the charm of sea animals in detail (photo provided by Kaiyukan)

Kaiyukan has other tours such as the back area tour and tours that focus on fishes or sea animals. Make sure to look up different types of tours on their official website.

Return to the Entrance! Other Ways to Enjoy Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Kaiyukan has a system that allows customers to enter the building without restriction for the day, if they receive an invisible stamp on their hand at the service counter on the 3rd floor. Customers who join the premium tour can get stamps on their hand, so if there was something that sparked you entrance you can go back and look at it.

▲The ocean tunnel Aqua Gate right by the entrance of Kaiyukan on the 3rd floor. The fish swimming around the tunnel will change from time to time.
▲The South American coati in Gulf of Panama tank. They are great tree climbers and found near the ceiling.
▲The Cook Strait tank on the 5th floor. Each loggerhead sea turtles have their own areas to rest at. The turtles repeat the process of surfacing every 20 to 30 minutes for a breath of fresh air, then swim back to the bottom to rest.

You can check the feeding times for marine animals at the Kaiyukan website. We recommend looking up the times so you can go watch the feeding of the animal you like.

▲A capybara in the Ecuador Rain Forest tank. The feeding time of the capybara is popular
▲At the Tasman Sea tank the Pacific white-sided dolphins eat out of the handler’s hand. You can sometimes see the dolphins playing with a ball in the water (photo by Kaiyukan)

Also after 5:00 PM the aquarium is filled with quiet music and moonlight like lighting is used to make the tanks blue. The aquarium as a whole becomes relaxed and it feels like a whole new place.

▲Fishes swimming in the Seto Inland Sea tank on the 6th floor. The blue light creates a mesmerizing sight (photo provided by Kaiyukan)
▲The night-time Kaiyukan that starts from 5:00 PM, is perfect for a date (photo provided by Kaiyukan)

Besides the permanent exhibition, they have plenty of special exhibitions. Until spring 2018 they are holding the exhibition “The Face,” which introduces various creatures with unique faces such as the megamouth shark and fringed blenny. The exhibition space is right before the exit of Kaiyukan and can be accessed for free to Kaiyukan guests.

▲Many unique creatures like the fringed blenny with odd brushes like objects on its face
▲At the petting pool before The Face exhibition you can touch a ray swimming. Make sure you don’t touch the tail

Spend More Time with the Creatures You Like

In the aquarium there are cafes to have a small break and a shop that sells original goods themed on nature and the ocean. The place you must visit is the Official Shop on the third floor accessible only to Kaiyukan guests. They have large bags, quality hand towels and Kaiyukan goods that can only be purchased here.

▲The Official Shop on the 3rd floor of Kaiyukan entrance building (photo provided by Kaiyukan)
▲Whale Shark Shoulder Bag (2,355 yen tax included). This bag can fit many things through the large mouth of the whale shark (photo provided by Kaiyukan)
▲Kaiyukan x Nijiyura Hand Towel [Penguin] (1,620 yen tax included). A hand towel with pictures of penguins and chicks from Kaiyukan (photo provided by Kaiyukan)

Café Mermaid in the back of Japan Deep on the 4th floor, is a rest area that is bright and spacious.

▲From the large windows of Café Mermaid you can see cruise ships and the sightseeing sail boat Santa Maria navigating through Osaka bay (photo provided by Kaiyukan)
▲Whale Shark latte (450 yen, tax included) with a cute cocoa powder latte art (photo provided by Kaiyukan)
▲Ramune and vanilla flavored whale shark soft-served ice cream (400 yen tax included). The blue and white color matches the color of whale sharks (photo provided by Kaiyukan)

Kaiyukan is a place where you can enjoy adorable and elegant creatures swimming. Also the tour is will most likely increase your interest towards these creatures. On your visit to Kaiyukan, make sure to check the various tours.

  • Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
    • Address 1-1-10 Kiagandori, Minato-ku, Osaka City
    • Phone Number 06-6576-5501
    • Hours: 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM (final entrance is one hour before closing)
      *Depending on the season the hours may change. Please check with the official website
      Entrance Fee: Adult 2,300 yen, elementary to junior high school students 1,200 yen, children (4 years old and up) 600 yen, senior citizens (60 years old and up) 2,000 yen (certified documents required) *you may enter as many times as want for the day
      Premium Tour: 1,000 yen, requires 90 minutes
      *For tour reservations call Kaiyukan Information. Reservations can be made from the day following the same day of the previous month to a day in advance by phone only.
      *All prices include tax
      Closed: Irregular holidays (Please check with the official website)
      Phone: 06-6576-5501 (Kaiyukan Information)

Text by:kurashisa

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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