Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium ~ Beautiful Sea indeed!

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium Review 01

If you have ever picked up a travel guide or searched anything about Okinawa, you are bound to have come across the picture of the above giant aquarium tank with the huge whale sharks.  Churaumi Aquarium is almost synonym with Okinawa! It welcomed 20 million visitors in less than 8 years after opening.  Imagine that!

‘Chura’ means beautiful and ‘Umi’ means sea in Japanese.  And the beautiful sea, it aims to showcase.

Journey to a Coral Reef

One of the first things we saw upon entering the aquarium was the touch pool.

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The kids got to touch star fishes and sea slugs! After that, there were sinks by the side for them to wash their hands.  And I loved how there were sinks low enough for the kids.

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We proceeded on to the coral sea tank.  The tank opened to the sky to allow the natural sunlight to shine into it.  It was almost felt like snorkeling, without the uncomfortable gear or getting wet!

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MF was super amazed by the monstrous fish!!

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Look how big it was!

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Here comes a super kawaii fish! Is that cute or what???

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And while the elder brother was jumping around teasing the monster fishes, the little one was chilling by the side making friends with the small fishes.

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The kids just couldn’t get enough of the beautiful fishes and corals here. And we were barely passed the entrance! Long way to go.. Let’s move along kids!

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Nope. Not budging.

Alright.. Let me go find some fishes to make friends with too.  Found one with oh-so-kissable lips.  *smooch*

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And lucky the kids hung around.  Because they saw a diver and waved enthusiastically to him!  And the busy diver actually bothered to greet them.  Japanese hospitality.

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We passed by a tank of giant lobsters.  And I mean GIANT.

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Just how giant was it? Well, in the photo below, the lobster in front are those that typically end up on dinner plates.  They were just a fraction of the size of the giant lobster, which made them look like crayfishes.

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And no decent aquarium these days can be without a Nemo tank.  I mean clown fishes. Heck, nobody knows these little things as clown fishes anymore.  They should just officially rename them ‘Nemo fishes’.  When I was at S.E.A. Aquarium in Singapore recently, EVERYBODY around me called them ‘Nemo’.  The Chinese, the Hong Kongers, the Japanese, the Koreans…. Everyone was going ‘Nemo Nemo’ in different slangs.

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Look, I even found Gill! This looked totally like a scene from ‘Finding Nemo’.  You know, with all the green algae on the tank?

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“Where is Dory?” I hear you asking? There she was, swimming with the lion fishes.

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Journey to the Kuroshio

After we completed the tour of the coral seas, we proceeded to the “Kuroshio”.  This is where we came face-to-face with sharks, manta rays, and migrant fish that live in the current of Kuroshio (Black Current) which nurtures all marine life in the Okinawan Seas.

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Starting off with the Shark Reseach Lab, we visited the large tank of sharks.

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Well, hello there baby Jaws.

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And this next shark looked more cute than dangerous.

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We didn’t hang around here too long, because we wanted to beat the crowd to meet the stars of the aquarium: The whale sharks!

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And WE DID IT! We beat the crowd to the big tank!!! We rushed like crazy to get here as soon as the aquarium opened, because a reader warned me that the aquarium is crazy crowded all year round (20 million visitors in 8 years? I bet it is.) and it’s best to be there early.  Considering our resort, Renaissance Okinawa Resort, was an hour’s drive away,  we really rushed like mad.  Poor planning, tsk tsk.  But this was SO worth the effort of waking up early and shoving down our breakfast!

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Front row seats, dudes! We took sooo many photos, sticking ourselves to the tank and with nobody else getting in our way!

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Words cannot describe how beautiful and mesmerizing this tank was! I could sit there all day looking at the rays and whale sharks!

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MF was super HIGH!! And I was so glad my boys weren’t getting in other people’s ways (they tend to do that when they are excited).

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Cannot resist posting a few more photos.

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If you think that was a lot of rays swimming around, check out the sea beds.  There were more rays just lazing around there!

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Once again, we caught sight of the divers at work.

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These divers’ jobs looked awfully dangerous to me.  Don’t you think?

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If you continue walking along to the side of the tank, you will come to the Aqua Room.  With windows above you, you can get a feel of what it’s like underwater amid the rays and whale sharks.  Complete with seats, so you can really bum here all day!

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We sat around the Aqua Room for quite a bit, waiting for the Kuroshio Adventure to open at 10am.

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The entrance to the Kuroshio Adventure was pretty inconspicuous and easy to miss.

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Enter through the above doors and look for the lift to go up to Level 4.  Once we got out of the lift, we were first awe-struck by the beautiful sea around us!

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Couldn’t resist sticking my face into the scenery.

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Alright, that was NOT the Kuroshio adventure.  Come along, let me show you what the Kuroshio adventure is!

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Yup, the Kuroshio Adventure allows you to walk ON TOP of the big tank! Isn’t that cool?

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We had a thrill checking out the whale shark from above!

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And at one point, there was even see-through glass below our feet!

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At 10.30am, 11.30am, 12noon, 12.30pm, 1.30pm, 2pm, 6pm and 6.30pm, there were explanations by staff.  We didn’t hang around to wait for the staff explanation because we were kind of rushing for time. (We wanted to go back to the resort for lunch.  Bad planning, as I explained in my itinerary.)   The staff spoke Japanese, but they had iPad translation service if you have any questions for them.

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We also missed the feeding sessions. Like TOTAL BUMMER.  The feeding sessions were at 3pm and 5pm.   But remember I said earlier that you had to reach the aquarium super early to beat the crowd? That means you should plan to spend the whole day here.  And don’t worry, there are LOTS to see to occupy yourselves for the whole day, as you will find out at the end of the post.

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Moving along, we came to the Churaumi Theatre.  There were 3 different shows being screened at various timings here:

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As I mentioned, we were rushing for time so we didn’t stay for any of the shows.  SIGHS.

Journey into the Deep Blue Sea

We continue deeper into the deep dark ocean and checked out species of fishes and corals that lived in the depths of the mysterious ocean.  Most of the exhibits here were collected from depths of 200 meters below sea level off the shores of Okinawa!

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In caves, you can find glow worms.  In the deep blue sea, there are corals and fishes that glow like fireflies too! At the ocean planetarium, with the help of reflected infra-red light and dimmed lights, we got to see some glowing sea creatures!

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Collecting Souvenir Stamps

Just before exiting the aquarium, we spotted a table for collecting our favourite souvenir stamps! The kids were so well-trained from all their Japan trips that they made a beeline for the stamps and started chopping away.

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This is common practice in Japan.  You can find souvenir stamps like these at many attractions, train stations, hotels and even restaurants throughout Japan.  Before I had kids, one item I would pack in my luggage for my Japan trips was a notebook with blank pages.  Just for collecting these stamps!  But now with kids and my desire to travel light, I just collect them using brochures where available.

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Collect your souvenir photo!

At the entrance of the aquarium, the staff would take a photo for you.  After going through the whole aquarium and getting all excited over whale sharks and manta rays, chances are you would have forgotten about it.  Well, at least I totally forgot about it.  Until I was looking around randomly while the kids busied themselves with the souvenir stamps, that I spotted the booth for collecting souvenir photos!

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Let me stress that this photo service was absolutely FREE!  I know, many of us Asians are very skeptical when ‘free’ services are offered, thinking there must be a catch somewhere.  But in Japan, this is again very common.  They will take your photo and give you a pocket-sized print for FREE.  Then, if you like the photo, you can purchase for a bigger print.  The Japanese are generally not pushy about it and it’s totally okay to say NO to purchasing the bigger prints.  Just that very often, the Japanese are so nice about it that I can’t resist rejecting them. *faint*

Okinawa Ocean Expo Park

So we have reached the end of the Churaumi Aquarium.  But guess what? Churaumi Aquarium is just a teeny part of the Ocean Expo Park!!

Here is a map of the whole Ocean Expo Park:


And here is a zoomed in map of the above blue rectangle:


Yup, that small blue portion in the above map is the Churaumi Aquarium that I showed you in this post.  There was still so much more to see! I totally regretted only allocating half a day to be spent here.  I will share more on the rest of Okinawa Ocean Expo Park on next week’s Travel Tuesday!

How to spend a day at Churaumi Aquarium

Inspired by Life’s Tiny Miracles‘ “Maximising your day series” that they have been sharing on Travel Tuesday, I decided to do this itinerary on how best to spend your time at Churaumi Aquarium!

itinerary for a day at Churaumi Aquarium

Warning: All the above timings were based on show timings during my visit and only serves as a rough guide. The timings may vary by season, or the aquarium may change the timing as and when necessary.  Please check actual timings on the official website to plan your visit.

Information on Churaumi Aquarium:

Map: Show location on google map

Telephone number: +81 980-48-2741 (key in 0980482741 for GPS)

Map Code (what is this?): 553075797

Getting there:

  • By car from Naha Airport (2 hours)
  • By Yanbaru Express Bus from Naha Airport (3 hours)

Buses from other parts of Okinawa such as Nago are available.  But generally, public buses are not very frequent.  Self-driving is recommended in Okinawa.

Opening Hours:

Period Opening time Closing time(last admission)
Normal Oct-Feb 8:30 18:30(17:30)
Special day(details) 8:30 19:30(18:30)
Summer Mar-Sep 8:30 20:00(19:00)
Closed First Wednesday and the following day (Thursday) of December Please be reminded that all entrance gates at Ocean Expo Park will be closed.

Note: Aquarium may be closed due to unexpected weather conditions such as typhoons.

Admission Fee:

Admission Times Annual Passport
8:30 – 16:00 (Regular rate) 16:00 – Closed
“After 4 PM Tickets”
General Group
<Over 20 persons>
Adult 1,850 yen 1,480 yen 1,290 yen 3,700 yen
High school 1,230 yen 980 yen 860 yen 2,460 yen
Elementary/Junior high school 610 yen 490 yen 430 yen 1,220 yen
Under 6 years old Free

Official Websites: Homepage

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  • Lydia C. Lee says:

    That looks like a great aquarium, except the tank for the whale shark looks a little small. I’m still hoping we get to snorkel with them in WA at some point….(you’ve taken some lovely pics btw)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Recently I just read about someone snorkeling with whale sharks at Cebu.. On last week’s Travel Tuesday I think.. Or the week before. It does look like a totally bucket-list worthy thing to do. Can it be done as WA? I would rather go WA than Cebu anytime frankly. I’ve been wanting to go WA for the longest time ever to see the pinnacles and Wave Rock. Is there a season for snorkeling with whale sharks?

  • Natalie says:

    I love that you can walk along the top of one of the tanks- that must have been a very different experience!

  • Ai Sakura says:

    Haha we love to collect the stamps too! And wow such an impressive aquarium.. love the walk above the tank. I don’t think that’s available for S.E.A. Aquarium, right?

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

  • Angie.S says:

    The whale sharks are so graceful!! I was so impressed with the stamp collection activity when we visited the Aquarium in Osaka, makes the visit so much more purposeful and fun for the kids! At the end, we also exchanged it for a small souvenir – a little keychain! I’ve already book-marked Okinawa as our next Japan destination, will be following your “How to Spend Your Day” schedule if we visit the ChuraUmi Aquarium!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Haha.. tell me if my ‘how to spend a day’ works. Though I suspect if you go in December it may not work because many attractions in Japan have shortened opening hours in winter.

      Yeah, now you reminded me, some attractions do give you a free gift if you manage to collect all the stamps! The stamp thing is really fun. My friend and I were so addicted to it that, even when we were self-driving, we drove to the train stations just to collect stamps! And I was teasing my friend who brought a tiny notebook (while I brought a super thick one) for our 1.5-month long trip to Hokkaido and she had to buy a second notebook coz she filled hers up so quickly!

  • Lyn Lee says:

    Very helpful itinerary! The huge tank reminds me of our SEA Aquarium – really mesmerising to watch sea creatures at length.

  • May says:

    Goodness gracious me! What an adventure! I cannot believe that an aquarium can take up a full day’s visit but now you’ve showed me otherwise! There’s so much to do here and these underwater animals are beautiful! I love the monster fish tank hehehe just cause they look like nothing I’ve seen before.

    Japanese. They are so detailed and I like it that they even got translation for English speaking visitors. Even the touch pool looked so clean and orderly.

    The tip to go early to beat the crowd is so very important.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I also never expected to be able to spend a whole day at the aquarium, that’s why we only planned to be here for half a day and rushed back to the resort for lunch (since our lunch was provided at the resort). Such a pity, considering we had to take 2 flights to get to Okinawa.

      Yes, beating the crowd is very important. How else can you go and stick your face to the tank without get “tsk” at by people.. heh.

  • Justine says:

    Oh man, #1 loves the SEA Aquarium in Sentosa. This aquarium will blow his mind! He is sitting next to me going through this post together. Hmm would be curious how this would compare to Disney Sea tho. Any ideas?

  • yAnn says:

    Such a huge and amazing aquarium! Shame that we missed out on this when we were in Osaka, shall make a mental note to check it out if we ever go back.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      This aquarium is at Okinawa, not Osaka. (Quite confusing, now that you mention it.) There is an aquarium at Osaka too, but I haven’t been to the aquarium at Osaka, not sure how it compares!

  • Ling Tan says:

    As usual, your post is filled with practical useful information on exactly what to expect! Amazing that you have even planned out exactly how to spend a full day at the aquarium now for those amongst us less inclined with planning out the details 🙂

  • Phoebe says:

    Love the big tank photo and walking on top of the big tank is really cool! Appreciate the detailed review and I could feel as if we have a walk through of the area already.

  • Waiwai says:

    I came across quite a number of blog posts on this aquarium by Taiwanese bloggers, it seems that it is a must-visit place in Okinawa!

  • Oh wow! It’s probably the most interactive aquarium I’ve ever seen! I love that you can walk over it through a bridge, I’d probably be scared the whole time (might fall into the aquarium) but it’s a different point of view from up there. The first photo of the sharks looks like they’re about to be a villain on someone. :p

  • Susan says:

    The humongous tank with the manta rays and sharks are mesmerising indeed and how smart of you to beat the crowd when you can just stand there in front of the tank in wonder at these sea giants. The stamps thing is also very popular in Taiwan and I bought a note book to collect the stamps at the attractions as well.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes yes! I spotted the stamps in Taiwan too! Actually I spotted a lot of similarities between Taiwan and Japan. Guess they are so close geographically that their practices rub off on each other. (Or since I am an avid Japanese traveller, I tend to think Taiwan copied Japan. Haha!)

  • Jessica says:

    What a fun aquarium! I love ones with HUGE glass displays like that. And your kids seem to be quite amusing, haha.


    • bumblebeemum says:

      My kids LOVE aquariums. Especially when they see huge fishes that are bigger than them. I guess to them, fishes are teeny things that go on the dinner table. So seeing big ones are quite a rare sight. But yeah, they are generally easily amused. Kids..

  • Cool photo of your son and the diver hahahha 😀

    Thank you so much for joining #MondayEscapes

  • Ruth says:

    I love aquariums and this one looks amazing. It is hard to believe how big the fish are in here. BTW, your son is so funny.

  • My girls love visiting aquariums. I love the fact that they have somewhere near the touchy bits to actually wash your hands, so many don’t have this. Thanks for linking up for #wednesdaywanderlust

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm… Now that you mention it, I cannot remember whether there is the hand-washing area near the touch pools in other aquariums I have visited. It seems kids love aquariums in general! Heck, I love aquariums too.

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