I was really looking forward to meeting the sea otter! (Photo: Toba Aquarium)

A Day at Toba Aquarium

Largest collection of species of any aquarium in Japan

I was really looking forward to meeting the sea otter! (Photo: Toba Aquarium)
By Cathy Cawood    - 4 min read

With over 60 million visitors since its opening in 1955, Toba Aquarium is one of the most visited places in Japan. It has the largest number of different species of any aquarium in Japan. It also has the extra prestige of being officially a museum, and it serves as an adult education institution by hosting scholarly investigation. Toba Aquarium is also involved in the protection and breeding of endangered marine creatures.

That might sound intimidating, but don’t worry! Toba Aquarium is a beautiful, well designed place with a welcoming, friendly atmosphere. You won’t be herded along by arrows or security guards here! You can wander freely wherever you wish, and everywhere you turn there is something interesting. You should aim to spend at least half a day here if possible, because there’s such a lot to see!

<p>A scale model of a whale is suspended over the entrance area</p>
A scale model of a whale is suspended over the entrance area

The aquarium has twelve different areas. There is the Performance Stadium where the sea lions jump through hoops, play catch, and even play the piano in an entertaining show. The Marine Mammal Kingdom replicates a natural rocky shoreline, and you can see seals and sea lions swimming here. The Ancient Sea has ‘living fossils’ like the nautilus. The Coral Reef area will make you feel like you are diving at a reef. You will see a finless porpoise in the Sea of Ise-Shima and Japan area, which particularly focuses on creatures from Ise Bay and the Kumano-Nada Sea. The Jungle World area has capybara, giant African manatee, and fish from tropical rainforest rivers, including piranha which looked as if they were sprinkled with fragments of gold leaf!

<p>The piranha have scales of gold... who knew!</p>
The piranha have scales of gold... who knew!

Miracle Woods seemed to be a new area. Just before I went to Toba Aquarium I saw their new fishing cats on TV, and you can find them in this area. They officially debuted on March 21st. They look a bit like small leopards, and I really wanted to see them catching fish, but I missed their feeding time. This area also had turtles, frogs, snakes and an impressive iguana.

<p>Toba Aquarium is the only place in Japan you can see a dugong</p>
Toba Aquarium is the only place in Japan you can see a dugong

The Mermaid Sea is so beautiful! A pale gray dugong (the creature credited with causing the legends about mermaids) was swimming with small yellow fish in a large pale green tank. There was a sea turtle in another tank as well. In the Polar Sea area you can see a sea otter and black and white Commerson’s dolphins. The remaining areas are the Japanese River area, complete with rapids and waterfalls, the Aqua Promenade area with creatures like penguins, otters and walruses, and the Curious Creatures Laboratory.

<p>Creepy crabs!</p>
Creepy crabs!

As well as the above mentioned animals, you can see crabs and spiny lobsters, which I thought a bit creepy looking, jelly fish and sea horses, alligators, the fascinating biolumescent clione which looked like tiny angels.

<p>Tiny bioluminescent clione look like angels!</p>
Tiny bioluminescent clione look like angels!

There are four sea lion shows, two walrus shows, and a penguin walk every day. When you arrive at the Toba Aquarium, you should check the times for performances and feeding so you can plan to catch these exciting events. There is written information available in English, as well as several guidebook in foreign languages (English, Chinese, Korean and Thai). If you get hungry, there are two restaurants in the aquarium. There is free Wi-Fi available around the "Information" booth, so you can check your email if you want. Three stores offer a range of original Toba Aquarium goods, souvenirs from the Toba, Ise and Shima area, and ocean-related literature.

The aquarium is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day. It is located on the shore about 10 minutes walk from Kintetsu/JR Toba Station. The best way to get to Toba is by Kintetsu Limited Express (there is a special Kintetsu Rail Pass available that you can use all over Kansai area). If you want to drive, there is parking available.

I had a great time at Toba Aquarium. I’m sure you will too!

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Find out more about Toba Aquarium.

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Cathy Cawood

Cathy Cawood @cathy.cawood

 I came to Japan in 2003 to teach English. I lived in Shiga prefecture for 1 year, and it still holds a special place in my heart. I lived in Kyoto for 9 years, then moved to Machida, Tokyo in 2014 after meeting my Japanese partner. I love to take photos, and my Japan in Pictures Facebook page has some 40,000 followers. I have been the Regional Partner for Yamanashi Prefecture since 2014.I am enjoying exploring the prefectures around Tokyo (I like to get off the beaten track), and I hope the photos and stories I share will encourage more people to discover this wonderful country.

Join the discussion

Jihad Mahmoud 5 years ago
I have been to Toba and sadly I missed this place. Maybe next time
B Schmidt 5 years ago
This park buys from Taiji. PLEASE don't buy a ticket. No market - no slaughter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hw_JhFNdFGk

For 5 days beginning Jan 19th we watched a pod of 300 dolphins herded into the cove.. they were netted in without food or water. Children taken from the pod for captivity. 100 were taken from this family to be put in pens to be starved until they learn to eat dead frozen fish full of drugs, until they learn the tricks. Then to be put into a coffin like container and shipped to a park just like this one. They have "orders" for 150 dolphins to be stolen from the ocean to be put in these parks.
They were run over by the boats, abused till their blood covered the side of the boats, because they were fighting not to be put into a sling taken from the family. 4 died, one in a sling as they were taking it to the pens. The rest of the family were herded back to sea with injuries, starving and tired. How many will make it? They don't care, I hope you do.

Read what happened what we watched in horror for 5 days.

All these parks buy from the #Taiji dolphin hunts... this family was lucky they let some go back to the sea..not always the case, slaughter happens here when they are not pretty enough to be put in a park.

This is where these dolphins come from for these aquariums. I hope you will let people know this. And not how cute they are here, it was not so cute how they got here.
Thank you
Preethu 6 years ago
Thanks for sharing
Jeradyne Cheong 7 years ago
The sea otter is ADORABLE. This place looks amazing <3