Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan 海遊館
Japan is an island nation and fish has always played a vital part in the economy and everyday diet. Not suprisingly the many Japanese know a lot about fish species and marine life. There are many great aquariums in Japan and the Kaiyukan in Osaka is one of the best. Its popularity and international renown is apparent just from its website, translated in no less than 11 languages. It is one of the largest public aquariums in the world, and one of few that keeps enormous whale sharks. It opened in 1990 at the staggering cost of $133 million. In February 2008 the aquarium reached its 50 millionth visitor since the opening, with 60% of repeat visitors.
There are 30,000 specimens to observe, belonging 580 different species spread over 16 tanks. The largest tank holds 5,400 cubic metres of water. The largest single pane measures 6 metres by 5 metres, is 30 cm thick, and weighs roughly 10,000 kg. Despite its stupefying thickness the glass quality is good enough to preserve a clear transparency.
The Kaiyukan is located on an island in Osaka harbour and can be easily accessed using the metro/subway Chūō line to Osakakō station (look for the Giant Ferris Wheel). Please refer to the aquarium's official website for opening hours and admission rates.
At the southern side of the Kaiyukan stands the quirky Suntory Museum, launched in 1994 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Japanese beer and whisky producer. Described as a cultural complex, it is an ideal place to relax or have a drink while visiting the Bay Area, which comprises the Osaka Aquarium, a replica of Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria caravel, a Giant Ferris Wheel and the Tempozan Park. The Suntory Museum itself has a modern art gallery and an IMAX® Theater.
The well-known entertainment company opened its Japanese branch in Osaka's Sakurajima district on 31 March 2001. Universal Studios Japan is the most obvious rival of Tokyo's Disneyland. 11 million people cmae to the park during its first year of operation. Like its competitor in Tokyo it has attracted a lot of visitors from Korea and China as well. English speakers won't feel disoriented as the shows are mostly perfomed by English-speaking Americans and most attractions have signs or recorded comments in English.
Access to the park is through Universal City station on the Sakurajima Line (JR Yumesaki Line). It is opposite bank of the Aji River from the Kaiyukan Aquarium. The Hanshin Expressway No. 5 Bayshore Route is the only bridge linking the two, so you cannot cross on foot from one to the other.
=> See also : list of Amusement parks in Japan.
Osaka Maritime Museum
Housed in a futuristic spherical dome designed by the renowned French architect Paul Andreu, the Osaka Maritime Museum (なにわの海の時空館) was inaugurated in May 2000. The building won a Structural Special Award in 2002 from the Institution of Structural Engineers in the United Kingdom.
The museum aims at explaining Osaka's long-standing and indispensable relation with the sea, as well as the local maritime history. Its pièce de résistance is the Naniwa Maru, a replica ship of a typical Japanese trader from the Edo period known as a higaki kaisen (which translates roughly as "rhomboid-shaped coastal vessel").
The museum is set on a island of reclaimed land south-west of the Osaka Aquarium. It is the next stop from the aquarium on the Chūō line (Cosmo Square station). It can also be reached with the Nankō Port Town Line (a.k.a. "New Tram"), which goes around the harbour area from Suminoekōen.
Modern Transportation Museum
Train afficionados will find their contentment at the Modern Transportation Museum (交通科学博物館). As its name indicates the museum is not just about trains, but all modern transportation, including aircrafts, cars and ships. Being sponsored by the West Japan Railway Company though, the majority of the collection is dedicated to rail transport. Japan was the first country to develop and commercialize a high-speed train, the shinkansen, which has contributed in granting a special sentimental value to trains in the heart of the Japanese. The museum unfolds on 7 main rooms, all but one committing to trains. You can see the whole evolution of railway technology from early steam, electric, diesel locomotives to the prototype of a magnetic levitation (Maglev) train.
The museum sits right next to Bentenchō station on the JR Osaka Loop Line and metro/subway Chūō line. It is open from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm (last entry 5:00 pm) and is closed on Mondays (except school and national holidays). Admission is ￥400 (￥100 for children until highschool).
Map of attractions in Osaka