I have a long living fascination with aquariums. Since I was a child, I have been intrigued about what lives in the ocean, how they live, and above all, it was the closest I could get to a different world than the one I was living in. How amazing was that to a daydreaming child? If I knew people nowadays could be professional mermaids, then I would have practiced holding my breath better. Japan has introduced me to an immersive experience of how I believe mermaids would decorate their palaces. The art is not only influenced but integrated into the aquariums in a safe environment for the creatures within.

1. Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise

a rainbow-colored art exhibit hanging from the ceiling

My first experience with Japanese aquariums was at Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise just before Christmas. In their multiple aquariums, they have over 120,000 sea creatures and 700 species. Their website claims it is one of Japan’s biggest large-scale aquariums full of animal interactions! While this particular aquarium has not integrated the art into the creature’s exhibits, they have entirely influenced the art within after the sea creatures. This particular piece is in one of the main aquariums, and when we went around Christmastime, they had their own illumination show inside the main aquarium. Not only that, go to the Dolphin Fantasy aquarium and experience the underwater tunnel with dolphins spinning and swimming around you. Depending on the events going on, you may be able to have a couple of adult beverages as you watch the dolphins swim around. It was wonderful when I went; had a cold, was hosting a guest, and got a hot toddy to help the stress and pain go away.

Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise information

  • Address: Hakkeijima, Kanazawa, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture 236-0006
  • Hours: Vary. Check the website.
  • Entry: ¥3,000 for the aquariums. There are so many ticket options, so check the website.
  • Website: http://www.seaparadise.co.jp/english/

2. Enoshima Aquarium (Enosui)

jellyfish swimming in a sphere tank

The sea creature that amazed me the most as a child was the jellyfish. This interest has continued throughout my entire life to the point that I used to own a few moon jellyfish – Moon Moon, Squishy, and Apollo. The first section of this aquarium is the Jellyfish Fantasy Hall, wherein the very center is a globe of a flowing water sculpture with an entire moon jellyfish exhibit within. While the view of the jellyfish is distorted by the waterfall effect, do not worry because you can get a close up look of the moon jellies in a clear view within the rest of the Jellyfish Fantasy. Make sure to queue or wait in the room at least 15 minutes before the Jellyfish Fantasy show. It is a 360-degree projector show about jellyfish entirely in Japanese. If you do not understand Japanese, do not worry because the experience is not only beautiful but extremely relaxing.

Enoshima Aquarium information

  • Address: 2-19-1 Katase Kaigan, Fujisawa-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture 251-0035
  • Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Entry: ¥2,400
  • Website: http://www.enosui.com/en/

3. Art Aquarium

goldfish swimming in a hexagonal tank

The last aquarium on this list was a limited time aquarium, but I feel that it really shows the ingenuity Japan has on this topic. Before I start discussing the art, I want it to be known that while you cannot see the mechanisms to keep the fish healthy and safe, there were signs explaining they in fact were. Per the signage, each piece was designed to hide the hardware required. The fish seen in the exhibit are kingyo goldfish. At this aquarium, they are seen as living art and treated like performers. During the exhibition, they are handled carefully, and then returned to the homes where they came from.

a ceiling made of transparent block tiles with goldfish within

The first impression was an entryway full of mirrors. As you stare at the ceiling, you first think the fish are not real, but in fact, they are and far less in there than seems because of the mirrors. In the main piece, “Oiran,” there are over 1,000 kingyo goldfish swimming in the 2.4m high fish tank. The ceramic bowls utilizing Kutani ceramics have water that is eerily still as the fish swims around. There were multiple more exhibits, including a tank with a katana sword, encouraging the viewer to remember that the entire exhibit was inspired by the Edo period. For more information on the exhibits, check the website below, because one article cannot cover it.

goldfish swimming in a large porcelain bowl
“Kutani Kingyo Exhibition”

While this aquarium is no longer in Japan, it is important to always look through the local and foreign magazines for new exhibits. I would not have found this if I hadn’t picked up a random flyer. Explore and be adventurous. You never know, they may have a cute cafe at the end with treats and cafe art!

a goldfish-themed latte art and a leaflet of Art Aquarium 2018

Art Aquarium information

Mata ne!


My name is Sarah R. Peets: historian, adventurer, expat in Japan. Profile Photo Credit: Robin Randolph Photography - Facebook: @robinrandolphotography
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