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Monday, August 27, 2018

Exploring Japan, Vol. 12 - Maxell Aqua Park

Japan’s attractions and theme parks definitely seem strange to western visitors, but what about an aquarium?  Surely, an aquarium in Tokyo isn’t much different than an aquarium in the U.S., right?

Well, you’d be kind of correct, except for the jellyfish, the bar and the dolphin show, it pretty much is like any other aquarium.

The Maxell Aqua Park is located in the Shinagawa Prince Hotel.  It’s not a place you can kill an entire day in, but you can easily spend 3 -  4 hours here and not be bored.  Like any other aquarium, the exhibits are split up by region so you have Amazonian fish in one section, a giant tank full of sharks and rays that has a glass tunnel going through it, and lots of smaller interactive displays that show you where these animals live, what they eat and their life spans.  They also have a pretty cool series of rooms that the otters can move in and out of.  You can follow them from place to place which is pretty fun.

Almost all of the signage is in Japanese and English, however the interactive displays are in Japanese only.  There are also a couple of rides inside that you have to buy special tickets for.

Still, even without being able to read the language, the displays are fantastic.  Especially when you enter the jellyfish room.  

It’s like The Flaming Lips designed an aquarium.  Tube after tube of different jellies are positioned throughout the place and each has color changing lights that are synchronized, creating an almost psychedelic feel. 

Just beyond the Jellyfish room is something I’ve never seen at an aquarium before:  A fully stocked bar.  What makes this so unusual is that the room isn’t some fly by night concession.  It’s got a sophisticated atmosphere and check out these tables.

Those are real sea creatures inside.  Pretty cool, huh? 

Still, the thing that would bring me back here again is their dolphin show.  It’s completely indoors and features lights, music and narration that bring to mind a Cirque de Soleil show instead of the run of the mill aquarium dolphin show.  

Images are projected onto the falling water that inhance the action.  Dolphins flip, whales do tail stands and all the while, music and images float through the air.  

It’s a spectacular show, so much so that we stayed an extra hour to see it again. 

While there are better aquariums around, Maxell Aqua Park is truly unique.  It's one of the more expensive aqua parks though, so make sure you allow yourself enough time to check everything out and get your money's worth. You’ll be happy you did.

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