On the last day of our Okinawa trip, we decided to commune with sea life at the Churaumi Aquarium.
Taking its name from the Okinawan word for beautiful (chura) and the Japanese word for ocean (umi), the aquarium lives up to its name. On show are some of the most stunning sea creatures to be found in the nearby waters. The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium was the largest aquarium in the world until 2005; it is now anywhere between third to eleventh biggest, depending on the method of measuring. However, it is still a massive complex in its own right. It’s also the premier destination to catch a sight of the Okinawan marine life. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist sites on the island and is easily accessible by bus from much of the mainland.
I’ve always been a been a big fan of aquariums. It’s not simply the brightly colored marine animals either. There’s something meditative about the quiet of the large blue-tinted halls. Even with a space as well-populated as the Churaumi Aquariuam, my visit was a peaceful one. I didn’t seem to be the only one either. As I walked by display after display, I noticed that everybody seemed a little calmer as they looked at cuttlefish, crabs, and clown-fish.
Upon entering the building, there was an open enclosure where you could touch sea cucumbers and starfish. Though the slimy appearance of the sea cucumber was enough for me to abstain, my fiancée tentatively reached in and gave both a gentle pet. We followed the path through a series of enclosures that eventually led into a gigantic tank filled with hundreds of aquatic animals. Manta rays and brightly colored fish all vied for attention, but the giant whale sharks were the clear stars. As we arrived a staff member plunged into the waters and began to feed the animals. The keeper was swarmed by the aquatic animals within the tank and by the mass of tourists armed with cameras outside the tank. We spent close to an hour exploring the rest of the aquarium and an additional thirty minutes exploring some of the outdoor exhibits.
Back to Naha
Both express and local buses leave for Naha from Churaumi. We opted to take the more leisurely route and spent an hour and half making the rounds before we arrived back in the Okinawan capital. We found our hostel a little way from the central terminal and headed out to grab dinner.
At a nearby izakaya we ordered several popular Okinawan dishes, not just champloo and Okinawan soba, but also some fresh Okinawan fish caught that day. One of the specialties of that particular izakaya was large prawns. Sitting at the counter, we had a good view of the chef, who took one of the wriggling creatures out of the water. Looking back at me, he winked and then beheaded and deveined the prawn in a single movement. Though I felt some guilt in eating the same creatures I had been viewing just earlier that same day, I did my best to shake it off. Our bellies full, we made one last small tour of Naha’s downtown core. The next day we would be back in Tokyo, and a little while after that, back in Canada. After over three weeks of travel, we were ready to head back.
Name: Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Address: 24 Azaishikawa, Motobu, Kunigami District, Okinawa 905-0206 Hours: 8:30am-7:00pm
Post by Japan Journeys.