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Aquarium offers fun for people of all ages

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2004-05-14

Churaumi is an Okinawa dialect word meaning “beautiful ocean”.

Churaumi also promises a day of funfilled excitement for children of all ages.

Churaumi is Okinawa’s acquarium.

It is the first in the world to raise the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, in captivity. It also raises manta rays and also grows live coral.

Churaumi is a part of the Ocean Expo Park complex near Nago, on the island’s northwest coast. It was totally renovated—and in many ways, reconstructed—in 2002.

It is open 363 days a year, closing only the first Wednesday and Thursday in December, operating from 9:30am – 5:30pm in spring and autumn, and 9:30am- 6:30pm July 20 to August 31. Winter times are 9:30am to 5pm December 1 to the end of February. Last admission is one hour before the park closes.

This four-story building houses countless treasures of the deep, and offers them up to adults and children alike, in a series of theaters, studios, tanks, nurseries and publications. You [and your family] will want to allocate a full day for this northern adventure; anything less and you’ll miss plenty of excitement.

The highlight of Churaumi’s offerings is the 7,500 ton Kuroshio Sea Tank, one of the world’s largest. A similar tank is at Sea World in Orlando. The 18” thick acrylic wall separates you from hundreds and hundreds of sea creatures ranging from the miniscule to the huge lumbering whale sharks.

A wonderful side feature is a café, Café Ocean Blue, near the base of the huge tank, where you can relax, sip a drink, take photographs and watch nature at its best. No smoking is permitted in the acquarium.

Kids from three to 90 will enjoy the opportunities to feel many of the sea creatures at the “Inoo” touch pool. There are dozens of marine animals you’ve never heard of, let alone seen.
Dozens of Directions

Each Churaumi visitor can tailor the time to his or her own interests. A big plus for the acquarium is that publications and tour guide maps are available in English as well as Japanese. Well constructed and full of information, the map leads to all the key points in the acquarium.

While the Kuroshio Tank is the focal point at Churaumi, there are many other areas to peak your interests. View the dozens of fresh water exhibits, journey to the coral reef, or visit to ChuraumiTheater and let hi-vision video take you underwater.

Fixate on the whale shark and manta ray exhibition, and experience the transformation from the ocean surface to the lurky depths hundreds of meters below. You’ll see the differences in lifestyles of fish as they adapt to the water pressures of the deep.

Outside, there are many more elements to Churaumi. The Oki-Chan Theater features dolphin shows four times daily, while a nearby dolphin studio has presentations three times a day about the biology of dolphins and how they understand human words and gestures.

There is a sea turtles tank, a manatees tank, and an ocean nursery where sharks and mantas are raised until large enough to enter the main Kuroshio Tank.
The Costs

Admission to Churaumi Acquarium is \1,800 for adults, \1,200 for high school students and \600 for children6-14. A group rate of \1,620 is available for 20 or more, and \1,080 for high school student groups of more than 20 members.

There is a one-year unrestricted pass costing \3,600 for adults, \2,400 for high school students, and \1,200 for children.

Admission is free for children under five.

Getting There

By taxi or car, from Naha take Route 329 to the Expressway. At the end of the expressway, take highway 58 through Nago to Route 449, and then take Route 114 to Ocean Expo Park. It is typically a 1 1/2 hour drive from Naha. If beginning your journey from Expressway entrance 3 [Camp Foster area], entrance 4 [Kadena Air Base] or entrance 5 [Camp Courtney], the driving time will be considerably less. Parking is free.

By bus, take the No. 20 ago-Nishi line bus on platform No. 7 at the Naha Bus Terminal, or the No. 120 Airport Resort West line at the Asahibashi bus stop at the Naha Bus Terminal, and then change to the Motobu Hanto Line or Bise line at the Nago Bus Terminal. Get off at the Expo Park South Gate or Central Gate.

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