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Exploring Expo Ocean Park

Date Posted: 2000-09-22

Having heard so much about Ocean Expo Park, I finally decided to explore it on my own. The Okinawa guidebooks that I had read had only snippets of information and they lacked detailed information about the Park.

At Okinawa City near Kadena Gate 2 Street, I entered the Okinawa Expressway in order save some traveling time. I drove towards Nago and exited onto Highway 58 and the cost was ¥700 yen. Following the signs, I turned left onto Route 84 and drove through Motobu Town. At times I thought that I was lost but I held onto my map and followed the large signs overhead. It took only one hour and ten minutes to arrive at Ocean Expo Park’s Central Gate entrance. It was approximately 66 km from Okinawa City to Ocean Expo Park. By the way, don’t park at the South Gate entrance unless you want to take a long and circuitous journey through the Park grounds.

When I walked past the Central Gate I saw a beautiful fountain surrounded by colorful flowers with the sparkling cerulean blue ocean in the distance. Inside Ocean Expo Park there are electric shuttles buses that take visitors from one exhibit to another for 100 yen person, children under five are free. I decided to walk from the Central Gate to the Aquarium so that I could take some photographs along the way. Since the road was downhill from the entrance, it was an easy fifteen-minute walk to the exhibits. There are also strategically placed restrooms, souvenir shops, and snack bars within the park. The snack bars offer items such as hot dogs to zaru soba. The strawberry ice cream for 180 yen was delicious. If you’re craving some coconut milk you might want to try some at the coconut stand near the Okichan (Dolphin) Theater.

The manatee aquarium, sea turtle pools, and dolphin shows at the Okichan Theater have free admission. The main aquarium charges ¥670 yen per adult and ¥340 yen per child. However, children under five years old have free admission. Visitors can purchase their tickets inside the aquarium. Having been to Sea World in San Diego, California, I considered myself a rather jaded person when it comes to aquariums but I was amazed at what I saw at the aquarium. First of all, the collection of well-preserved sea life in large tanks was quite interesting. The huge octopus was the largest I had ever seen and it reminded me of the monstrosity in the movie, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The next time I take a bite of tako (octopus sushi) I will certainly think of its relative lying well preserved at Ocean Expo’s aquarium.

The array of live sea life in the tanks was impressive. Manta rays of all sizes glided gracefully in the water while various fish and sharks also swam inside the tank. One magnificent “baby” whale shark approximately 25 feet long reminded me of the colossal sperm whale in Moby Dick. Even San Diego’s Sea World lacks such a beautiful whale shark. The exotic fish, coral, and other marine life in the smaller tanks was enchanting. While there, I also saw the largest crabs and lobsters I had ever seen in an aquarium. I am sure that one enormous crab could easily feed a family of ten with leftovers afterwards. As awful as it sounds, I am a seafood lover that can’t help looking at sea life without wondering how it might taste. Well, the old saying, “Like mother, like daughter” must be true since even my 3-year daughter looked at the monstrous crabs and declared, “Um-yummy”!

Well, after having spent two hours at Ocean Expo Park, I decided it was time for me to head to my favorite pit stop in Nago. Next time, I plan to visit the Tropical Dream Center and other exhibits at this 700,000 square meter Park. After driving for twenty minutes through Route 84 to Highway 58, I arrived at the San-A store. Because I enjoy eating a variety of value-priced good foods I always head to a San-A store for meals. In the grocery section, you can find ready-to-eat items such as sushi, tempura, noodle dishes, and bentos at approximately 1/3 of restaurant prices. Besides, I like being able to see what I am going to eat before I pay for it.

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