2017/05/29 What's On
A visit to the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
By Ben Lindstrom-Ives
photo by http://www.kaiyukan.com/
A visit to the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, provides a sort of instantaneous glimpse into the wonders of the natural world and nature itself. In an increasingly urbanized and globalized world, many people these days are getting further and further removed from an appreciation and a sufficient understanding of nature itself. Massive innovations in technology and science are increasingly making humans forget that ‘we’ ourselves are a species of animal, and that we live in a complex web of ecosystems which make life possible for us, and all other living organisms on the planet. When I visited the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, I strongly felt that that this sort of institution does potentially provide a good education and exposure to the various life-forms which live beneath our global seas.
The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is located in the port area of Osaka, where many of the commercial ships and boats which arrive from China, Taiwan, among other neighboring East Asian countries come to embark. It was a rather hot and misty day, boasted by many crowds which stretched outside of the Aquarium entrance. Yes getting in was slightly trying because of these factors. Nonetheless, having some patience in these very long lines aided by a highly humid sky, proved ultimately worth it.
The Aquarium is quite large in size. The tanks where the various species of animals were kept in the aquarium, proved to be quite spacious indeed. Once could appreciate nice panoramic views of the various worlds in which these different creatures of the sea inhabit. The aquarium staff intelligently divided each of the different sections of the aquarium by a specific geographical region. e.g. The Amazon river in South America, the Antarctic, Nature in Japan, etc. The sheer organization of geographical region by geographical region, helped provide a clear understanding of the types of ecosystems and habitats which these various species of animals inhabit. One of the highlights of the Nature in Japan area was being able to see a Japanese Giant Salamander. Growing to a length of nearly 5 feet long, the Japanese Giant Salamander is truly prehistoric and dinosaur like both in its appearance and physical features. By nature truly harmless and not dangerous to humans, I soon embarked on a very interesting story of a Japanese Giant Salamander which was found in Kyoto a few years ago. Evidently a local Kyoto resident found a ‘large creature’ crossing through the famous Shirakawa Canal. Terrified out of her wits, she called the police in Kyoto to ‘remove’ the creature declaring it to be a city emergency. The salamander was soon placed in a safe wetland area near Kyoto. This very story I think is a good example, about how many misunderstanding we truly have about the natural world.
It was very interesting to see this exhibit, as one realizes that in areas such as Lake Biwa and the wetlands of southwestern Japan, nature is quite abundant and alive as we speak. In this sense, it reinforced the concept that often we truly do forget about what amazing nature and wildlife exists right near where we live. Following the Nature in Japan exhibit, I would push over to the Antarctic exhibit. Sadly now the site of much of the visible impacts of global warming and climate change in this day and age, Antarctica nonetheless is home to some of the most unusual and interesting wildlife in the world. In a large glass tank one could see several species of Penguin including the King, Gentoo, and Adelie Penguins. Having the ability to observe them up close was remarkable, in the sense that their evolution is quite fascinating. How did these birds evolve to become excellent swimmers, yet lose their ability to fly over time? These and others simple observations of nature at the Aquarium made me want to know more.
Perhaps the highlight of the Aquarium was having had the chance to see the colossal and largely enigmatic Whale Shark. Growing up to lengths as long as 50 feet, the Whale Shark is truly a marvel of nature and evolution. Unlike the infamous ‘Great White Shark’ of Jaws fame, the Whale Shark is non threatening to humans. It survives on a diet of primarily plankton and small deep sea creatures such as krill, and crab larvae. Similarly to whales it is a ‘filter feeder’ as it has no regular teeth. A filter feeder works rather the same way as a vacuum cleaner. It is also by definition, the world’s largest species of fish. I would sit near the tank for nearly a half an hour, gazing with absolute amazement at this wonderful creature. With fins as long as sailboats, and a tail as long as a living room, one could not be anything but in awe of this creature’s magnetic appearance. With very little doubt, the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan has become very well known as a truly unique place in holding a Whale Shark in its possession. Historically it has always been challenging to keep them successfully in captivity.
If I took anything positive from the Aquarium visit, I would say it was a couple of factors. It was just wonderful to be able to see some of the most amazing marine creatures which exist in our world’s oceans today. The other feeling and concept which came to mind was that, I was reminded of truly how important it is to be ‘conscious’ of the importance of biological diversity in the world. It is my belief that humanity ‘itself’ cannot thrive without learning to peacefully coexist with other species of animals, and in terms of making efforts to preserve the environment. The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan I think provides an excellent level of ‘education’ and awareness for those, who wish to better understand and comprehend the natural world. It is places such as these I hope, which will help improve our understanding towards nature and wildlife in the near future. Please come here, it is an important place.
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