How to Enjoy Okinawa’s New DMM Kariyushi Aquarium & iias Okinawa Toyosaki
Opened on May 25, 2020, the DMM Kariyushi Aquarium utilizes the latest visual expression and spatial representation and is garnering attention as a new type of aquarium. Even if you prefer to peruse the aquarium at a leisurely pace, around 90 to 120 minutes should be enough time. It is located in Toyosaki, Tomigusuku City, right next to iias Okinawa Toyosaki, a newly opened, large-scale shopping mall.
The aquarium is 15 minutes from Naha Airport by car. For those using the Okinawa Expressway, it takes about 10 minutes from the Tomigusuku/Nakachi Interchange to the aquarium. Located nearby are sightseeing spots popular among both locals and visitors – Outlet Mall Ashibinaa and Chura SUN Beach, which is renowned for its beautiful sunset.
What is the DMM Kariyushi Aquarium?
DMM Kariyushi Aquarium is DMM.com group’s first aquarium. It is an entertainment-based aquarium that makes use of the latest visual expression technology for a futuristic experience that fuses ‘real & virtual’.
With 190 species of plants and animals and about 5,000 living creatures on display, you can observe a great variety of marine organisms, plants, and animals. Furthermore, there is plenty of entertainment for visitors, with spatial representations utilizing state-of-the-art visual expression and music, depicting Okinawa’s crystal clear sea, lush forests, and sub-tropical nature.
It is a new type of immersive aquarium that combines all 5 senses. Experience the excitement of a theme park as you explore an area with jellyfish swimming in column-like cylindrical tanks and a theater showing life-like virtual tanks, then be healed in a space that recreates water and forests.
The aquarium is located in a 3-story building with the entrance on the 2nd floor and exit on the 1st floor. An admission ticket is not required to shop at the gift shop on the 1st floor.
First, observe the living creatures in the ‘Emerald Forest’
First things first, purchase an admission ticket at the entrance on the 2nd floor. If you are carrying a lot of luggage with you, leave it in a coin locker in front of the entrance. But be sure not to forget your phone, as you will have lots of opportunities to use it in the aquarium!
After passing through the entrance gate, you will be guided to the theater room. A 3-minute long video about Okinawa’s water and life will be projected on a large 180-degree multi-sided screen as wind is blown to match the video, making for a very real experience. This will surely heighten your anticipation of what the rest of the aquarium has in store.
After exiting the theater room, you will enter a space based on an ‘emerald forest’.
You may want to continue on to the next exhibit, but wait – there is 1 task for you to do first. Download the official DMM Kariyushi Aquarium app. It would be even better if you downloaded the app ahead of time and bring a fully-charged phone.
If you open the app and tap your phone on panels located throughout the aquarium, information about the fish and creatures in the tank in front of you will appear on the app.
There are no descriptions about the creatures in the aquarium itself, so refer to the app for information. By using the app, you can collect the creatures in the aquarium in the app and make your experience even more exciting and enjoyable.
Continue on to a space based on a ‘Sub-tropical Forest’.
Hear recordings of the sounds of creatures that inhabit the Yanbaru Forest, in Okinawa Island’s northern area. To make the experiences as authentic as possible, the recordings were taken over the course of a 24-hour period. This shows the meticulousness of this aquarium, where you can enjoy not only observing, but have an experience using all 5 senses.
If you look into the tank you will see colorful freshwater fish hiding in the swaying aquatic plants. There are even tanks you can observe from above.
Frogs, crocodiles and other reptiles await you in an area with a towering banyan tree. There are even tiny creatures that can’t be seen unless you look really closely. You will feel as though you were going on an expedition through a forest.
After that, an open tank that recreates the many expressions of Okinawa’s sea and sky awaits you.
The sky is expressed through videos depicting everything from fair weather and thunderstorms to scenery and airplanes, so you will never get bored. You will want to take your time enjoying this area, as you can enjoy the view of the tank from various angles – from below, above, and the side.
You can also see 2 Asian small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinerea)!
The adorable otters move freely between the land and water. If you’re lucky, you may get to see the caretakers feed the otters. Once the caretakers appear, the otters scramble towards them, vying to be first in line for food. Sometimes the caretakers pretend to throw the food, tricking the otters into searching for it in the water. It is an adorable sight that is sure to bring you joy.
One of the highlights of the aquarium is an area with a glass floor!
You have to take off your shoes to walk in this area. Feel as though you are walking on the surface of the water as you look down at various marine creatures from Okinawa’s coastal waters. Kids are sure to get a thrill each time the giant rays swim beneath their feet. It is an incredible experience like no other.
The tanks on the 1st floor have a glass top with a one-way mirror so those on the 1st floor can’t see those on the 2nd floor. (So those wearing skirts have nothing to worry about!)
Next go to the 1st floor to see the long-awaited world of jellyfish.
See jellyfish and tropical fish in the ‘Ocean Beauty’ exhibit on the 1F
On the 1st floor is an area with individual tanks.
If you’re accustomed to seeing the large tanks in many other aquariums, you may be unimpressed when you first see these small tanks, but if you look carefully you can see the entertaining movements and expressions of the fish.
See the splendid garden eels (Gorgasia preclara) facing the same direction. Be amused as they slowly sway their bodies from left to right. Capture their movements in a video and take it home as a souvenir.
Porcupinefish are called “abasā” in Okinawa language. They have cute, innocent facial expressions and swim adorably like real-life cartoon characters.
Admire the beautiful pink coral and sea anemone.
If you take the time to appreciate each and every tank, the expressions and movements of the living creatures are sure to bring a smile to your face. You will never get tired of watching drifting razorfish (Aeoliscus strigatus) and common seahorses. In fact watching them can be very therapeutic!
Next, see the most popular area in the DMM Kariyushi Aquarium – the jellyfish area
This is a space where sound and light are interwoven. Each time the colors change, the columnar tanks light up magically, accentuating the graceful movements of the jellyfish. You can easily spend 30 minutes in this relaxing area, forgetting the time as you take photos.
Vivid multicolored tropical fish, sharks and rays swim in this large tank.
You can even see a green sea turtle here! There are many species of sharks, such as bowmouth guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma) and giant guitarfish (Rhynchobatus djiddensis) along with several rays. Search for a variety of marine creatures using the app.
Mystical videos are projected in this dark space to create a virtual aquarium. See giant squid (Architeuthis martensi) and giant oarfish (Regalecus glesne) – a species of deep sea fish that looks like it has hair growing on its head. Be prepared to be amazed by the life-size depictions of both of these creatures.
Be reawakened by the bright ceiling of the undersea tunnel, as the wavering, glimmering water leaves you feeling at ease. This tank was designed to make you feel as though you are under the sea and you will want to enjoy it tranquilly.
Have a meal, drinks, or sweets at the café in front of the exit. The author personally recommends the original bread modeled after the living creatures in the aquarium. You can have a look at the menu here.
As of July 2020, as a COVID-19 prevention measure, only tables (with no chairs) are set up in the café.
The gift shop on the 1st floor can be accessed without an admission ticket to the DMM Kariyushi Aquarium. There are many elaborately designed original products for sale.
From stuffed animals and keychains of marine creatures to otter and porcupinefish snacks and products, even the packaging designs are cute. You are sure to find gifts that can only be bought here.
There are many products based on the popular otters – from plush parent and child otters to otters riding swings to otter-themed snacks!
Stop by the aquarium before or after going to Chura SUN Beach in Toyosaki, dine at iias Okinawa Toyosaki after visiting the aquarium, or stop by for a break. If you’re not sure where to go on a rainy day, just go to the DMM Kariyushi Aquarium in Tomigusuku City!
Basic Info.: DMM Kariyushi Aquarium
Address: 3-35 Toyosaki, Tomigusuku-shi, Okinawa
Business Hours: 10:00〜21:00
Closed: n/a (open year-round)
Parking: Please use the iias Okinawa Toyosaki parking lot.
Admission Fees: Adults (18 years of age and up): JPY 2400; Children 13 to 17 years of age: JPY 2000; Children 4 to 12 years of age: JPY 1500; Children 3 years of age and under: free
（Original article & photos by: Noguchi Hiromasa, Tengan Teruhiko / Photo-taking assistance & revision: Miya Nee of OKINAWA GRIT）
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