Get the lowdown on Kyoto's waterways.
Although it’s perhaps not the cultural highlight you had in mind to visit in Japan’s ancient capital, Kyoto Aquarium can teach you a thing or two about water life in Kyoto’s rivers, ocean and rice paddies. It’s also a good place to chill out if you’re tired of temples, get rained out or have kids in tow.
The admission fee includes a dolphin show and the amusing penguin-feeding session, both of which are held at least twice a day. Four bottle-nosed dolphins lead an upbeat 25-minute performance that shares some of the noises they can make, including the sound of their heartbeat. During feeding time you can see the personalities of some of the little Cape Penguins who – as the staff take care to feed each one its due number of fish – try to steal some from their friends.
All feeding sessions last about 20 minutes, including the one in the big tank, which holds 500 tons of water and replicates the coastal waters of Kyoto. Let your stress slide off as you watch about 50 types of sea creatures and 11,000 fish swim past you drenched in a beautiful otherworldly blue light. Along with a school of about 10,000 sardines, a shark and some stingrays, included here are two species key to Kyoto cuisine, the horse-head fish and the conger eel. Keep an ear out for the quintessential Japanese fish-viewing phrase “oishii-sou” – looks delicious!
Keep an ear out for the quintessential Japanese fish-viewing phrase “oishii-sou” – looks delicious!
Another good place to take it easy is the outdoor area that depicts the Kyoto countryside with terraced fields of rice and other crops of local produce, like Kujo leek. Watch some beautiful black carp swim around the resthouse here.
Bliss out further on the hypnotic moves of jellyfish of various shapes and colors, catch some crustaceans, or watch fur seal shoot past you in their glass-walled pen. For an extra ¥500, you can get your photo taken one-on-one with a dolphin, fur seal or penguin.
You can also get a hit of popular culture at the aquarium’s event space. The exhibits here change regularly but have included photo opportunities with cardboard cutouts of Sanrio’s Cinnamoroll cartoon character. Just what you need to round out your Kyoto experience!
There is a snack stall on the first floor, but the better option for lunch here is the café on the second floor. You can also bring food in from outside or get a pass-out.