Near the bay in southwestern Tokyo is the Shinagawa Aquarium, an underwater oasis that maintains a wonderful contrast from the surrounding city, where guests seem to check their hustled pace at the door. One of three full featured aquariums in Tokyo, I like to think that the aquarium in Shinagawa leads the pack in atmosphere. Shrouded and wrapped in large trees and winding gravel paths, the complex is effectively insulated from the city outside the gates.
The Dolphin Restaurant is a large bungalow built over the pond and serves a variety of food, although an emphasis lies on the aquatic. Prices and quality are on par with any other decent restaurant (Adult 800 - 1000 yen, children 400 - 600 yen).
A few paces inside the Shinagawa Aquarium’s top floor is a vast collection of fish native to Tokyo Bay, the full spectrum of which would be a surprise to most I’m sure. Waterfalls, streams, rocky shores and tidal flats have been recreated to such an extent that water birds have been adopted into the living diorama.
Three cylindrical tanks give large schools fish room to shimmer in a continuous loop and a large window opening up over the aquarium’s largest tank, holding as many as 1,500 inhabitants of 80 different species.
Further along, an outdoor stadium is accessible for the multiple dolphin and sea lion shows put on throughout the day and the upper floor of a spotted seal observatory is reachable via a catwalk from the main building. The dolphins play energetically with their trainers and repeatedly cool off some of the closer visitors with large splashes while the tunnels and portholes of the observatory bring guests into the middle of a large pack of extremely curious seals.
On the bottom floor of the aquarium is a starfish touching pool and an array of jellyfish species. A coral reef is recreated to accommodate the vibrantly colored butterfly and damsel fish while the dimly lit Large River room slows one to the pace of The Amazon. Octopi and seahorses lead way to the sea lion and Tunnel exhibit, by far the most popular attraction, where manta ray, sea turtles and countless others soar over and alongside the clear glass of an arched passage. A scuba diver is also present in the tank, waving to the crowd and feeding the swarms of fish.
The panoramic Dolphin Window makes up the bottom half of the dolphin and sea lion stadium. Beset by benches, one can relax and observe dolphins and sea lions as they are under the waves before approaching the large oval tank near the aquarium’s exit, where multiple tiger sharks circle, jagged toothed and menacing against the glass.
The Shinagawa Aquarium, an underwater adventure to say the least.