The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is one of the oldest and largest aquariums in the western Pacific. Built for the Okinawa World’s Exposition, it was designed to showcase the island’s long maritime heritage. Its name means beautiful ocean. Although slowly losing out on popularity to newer and more conveniently located aquariums, it is still one of the most visited wildlife attractions in Japan.
In 1975 Okinawa hosted a World Exposition to celebrate its post-war return to Japan. The focus of the exposition was on the sea, and it featured, among other things, a floating city of the future nicknamed the Aquapolis. The most permanent exhibit was the aquarium, one of the first major aquariums to be built in the Far East. In 2002, a newer and much larger aquarium was constructed to replace the old one, but is considered to be a continuation of the same facility.
Churaumi has over 2.6 million gallons in environments, the largest, the Kuroshio Sea, being nearly 2.0 million gallons. The various environments host marine creatures from all over the world. The main residents, kept in the large tank, are the whale sharks, which can only be found in a handful of aquariums around the world.
The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is located on the northwestern tip of the main island of Okinawa, approximately thirty miles north of Naha. It is open year round from 8:30am-6:30pm (later hours in summer). The cost of admission is Y1,800.00. Web: http://oki-churaumi.jp (official website).