Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, the Okichan Theater, and much more make up the sprawling collection of complexes dedicated to sea life know as the Okinawa Ocean Expo Park (designated as a National Park). The Aquarium itself hosts a wide variety of sea creatures in various tanks that is sure to thrill anyone who enjoys aquatic life. If you want a bit more entertainment, the nearby outdoor Okichan Theater has dolphin shows and additional areas to view sea turtles, manatees, and more. Best of all, these facilities are very accessible.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is more than a sea life exhibit, the staff and researchers have had several interesting accomplishments to be proud of:
- First in successfully raising, monitoring, and researching Whale sharks to maturity
- Breeding 26 different sea life species (including manta rays, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, black turtles, etc.)
- Received the Koga Award for having contributed to the advancement of breeding research in zoos and aquariums
- Rehabilitation and releasing various sea life back into the wild
- The creation of many scientific publications from research in the aquarium and nearby ocean studies
Their work has accomplished many “world-first” achievements in science and understanding, making them a valuable asset in researching undersea life.
Having one of the largest aquariums in the world (largest tank: “Kuroshio Sea” 7,500 cubic meter or 264,860 cubic feet), Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium has raised many Whale Sharks in captivity, some have even grown 8.8m (28ft 10in) in length.
In a separate tank from the whale sharks, the aquarium has an impressive large-scale coral reef on display. Cultivated for more than a decade, the reef is nurtured not only by the aquarium staff, but also by aquatic life that naturally keep pests in check that may destroy coral growth.
You can even find yet another tank filled with deep ocean life usually only seen at depths of 200m-700m (656ft-2296ft) below the surface.
Beyond the tanks you can enjoy a dolphin show at the Okichan Theater outside or take a break at Churaumi Plaza and see some educational exhibits on display.
If you’re feeling a bit hungry, there are a few dining options in and around the aquarium that include restaurants and cafes. Additionally, if you want to get a souvenir to commemorate your visit, the Blue Manta shop has both local Okinawa gifts as well as some items unique to the aquarium.
Admission cost is by age/grade: Adults 1,880-yen, High School student 1,250-yen, Elementary/Junior High School students 620-yen, Children under 6 are Free.
Hours of operation: 8:30-18:30 (October-February), 8:30-20:00 (March-September), Closed first Wednesday of December and the following day (Thursday).
Most of the aquarium is indoors; however, they may close due to bad weather.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is in Motobu, Okinawa Prefecture. There are no nearby train stations, so bus, taxi, or car ride will be required to visit this location. The bus stop “Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium (Kinenkoen Mae)” is conveniently located within Ocean Expo Park.
However, as not all buses are wheelchair accessible, contacting the Okinawa Barrier Free Desk is recommended. In addition to having the latest bus schedules, they can also arrange for accessible taxis or rental cars with ramps.
Those with physical disabilities and one accompanying caregiver may be eligible for a full discount (however proof of disability may be required).
The seating for the Okichan Theater also has a gentle sloping ramp allowing access to a wheelchair seating area near the front or the back.
Dolphin feeding activities are also accessible thanks to a raised area by the tank.
While there are places to rest, those who have difficulty with long distances will likely want to take advantage of the trollies that are available for getting around the park and at least one is accessible (with lift).
Manual and motorized wheelchairs can be borrowed from various locations in the park including by the accessible parking spaces and North Gate guard booth.
The aquarium is very accessible with both gently sloping ramps and elevator access. The aquarium provides an accessibility map with a suggested route and locations of accessible toilets.
A smart phone app (UDCast) is available for those with hearing disabilities which displays park announcements and the Churaumi Theater content in high contrast text or sign language on the user’s device. Service dogs (seeing-eye dogs, assistance dogs, and hearing dogs) are allowed in the building.
There are wheelchair accessible toilets available throughout the park, including near the aquarium entrance and at the Okichan Theater. Some of these restrooms feature many assistive fixtures including: ostomate facilities, accessible sink, multiple grab bars, changing table, and bidet.
Despite the challenges in getting to the ocean park, those who love aquatic life – and dolphins in particular – will enjoy the aquarium and park thoroughly. The facility has done an excellent job of making itself accessible to all visitors.
Featured Image: By Jordy Meow – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30881622
- Phone: +81-980-48-3748
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