Sunday, 22 April 2012

Brand new Kyoto Aquarium, most discussed building project in the Kansai region

On a rainy day like today I thought, what's better than to look for an even wetter activity, and visit the brand new Kyoto Aquarium? Just over one month old I found the aquarium has some really nice and innovative opportunities to observe the animals. The basin of the fur seals has a 'hide out' for kids, with a ceiling. This way they can watch the seals swim around them or even see them sitting on top of it. Better yet is the penguin basin, where the comical birds are swimming over your head, so you can see their bright white bellies and even their funny faces when the dip down. This is the coolest penguin pool I've ever seen.

However the main tank is also quite beautiful, the whole aquarium doesn't compete to the Kaiyukan in Osaka. If you've been to this world-class aquarium, you can't help but compare the two and Osaka wins on every point. Except maybe that the one in Osaka is closed 7 days in the year and Kyoto has not even one closing day!
It doesn't mean I would advise against visiting the Kyoto aquarium. The animals like jelly fish, sea stars, lobsters and other exotic sea creatures like Japans 'living fossil', the giant salamander, are riveting to watch. And I did like the 'jelly fish lab' and the way you could peer down in many basins, to see the fish from above and up close. Something that could never occur in the west, because people would always try to touch the animals. Japanese are more sensible than that and just leave the fish be. One of the reasons it's so utterly amazing to spend time in Japan!

Visiting the aquarium is, from another perspective, maybe not without reserve. It is at least one the most discussed building projects between Kyoto residents of the last years. Why the anti-aquarium network fought hard against the building of the new 'should be tourist attraction' are in short these reasons: Osaka has a world-class aquarium, which is just an hour away and is next to the ocean (which Kyoto is not). Also the loss of public green space, politics and environmental reasons are on the groups agenda. The last point because some of the fish held in the aquarium might experience stress. However hard they have fought, they did not win. Visiting the aquarium, for me, was not a political decision. And whether it was right or wrong to build this tourist attraction it is not for me to decide, as an outsider. But I feel for the anti-aquarium network and their arguments sound proper. I think everyone should decide for themselves.

For opening times and access, please visit the website (English).

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