Giant Aquarium at the End of the World

Considering the ridiculous heat in Kanazawa, which increased every day, I was looking for something to do without too much heat exposure and came upon the idea to go to Notojima (Shima, or jima means island) it’s an island off the shore at the tip of Ishikawa prefecture but close enough to the shore to be connected by bridges to the mainland. It’s about 70 km from Kanazawa. Across from the island, on the mainland is a famous hot spring spa place called Wakura Onsen.
On the island are two main things to see, a glass manufacturing place and a glass museum and an aquarium. Originally I wanted to check out both, but discussing with the lady at the information desk in Wakura Onsen, it turned out to be logistically impractical because the bus going there is only operating once every two hours. The three kilometers between the two sites seemed impossible to walk considering 35 degrees Celsius humid heat. The lady then recommended to concentrate on the aquarium. I am not big about informing myself in advance of my exploration targets. It’s like, there’s an aquarium, fine, let’s go there. I had no idea how huge the aquarium was and that I would need all three hours I had there. How come there is such a huge aquarium at the end of the world? It’s 16km from the train station and the public bus goes only once every two hours. It’s first of all of course a car destination. Also the hot spa town is getting a regular flow of visitors (in normal, non covid times) and they are probably organizing visits to the aquarium. Nevertheless, the thing’s size baffled me. It was constructed in the late seventies, early eighties during Japan’s bubble time, which also explains its size and it also means that it’s pretty old by now, but it’s also well maintained.
Right at the start you get to see the giant tank with two whale sharks and a multitude of other beasts. It’s cleverly made because you get to see the top of the basin and then spiral your way down alongside plenty of large and small windows. There was some interaction at the top of the basin with this giant dude who was fooling around at the edge of the basin glaring at you. It was a lovely moment of who is looking at whom, the fish inspecting the landlubbers or the other way round?


The two whale sharks are smaller in size, meaning younger than the whale sharks of the even bigger main tank at the Okinawa Churaumi aquarium. I hope the basin is not getting too small for them as they grow.


The whale shark tank seemed younger than the rest of the aquarium, the core part of the original aquarium has another large tank in the classic style, only one way to look at it, from the front. Inside that tank was a swarm of small fish that entertain with the patterns they make. There was feeding time for them too and the explanation lady said there were 10.000 of them. Then there were plenty of smaller tanks with loads of inhabitants and the usual seals, penguins, turtles, also dolphins and otters. The dolphins had two tanks, one for the performing ones, one for the perhaps retired ones, with a glass tunnel through the basin. They also had a giant sea otter and I was surprised by its huge size. In two areas they were working cleverly with mirrors, duplicating the fish and also the tanks with jelly fish. There were only four tanks, but it looked like many more thanks to the mirror reflections.

Last but not least they had a kind of cinema with a tank of swarm fish that was being lit in all colors of the rainbow. I hope the fish don’t mind the constant change in color.
As for visitors, there were quite a few around, but much less than usual I suppose, which became evident during the dolphin show. Four dolphins performed and one seal and the ranks in the outdoor theater were not very full. For me the amount of visitors was kind of just right, a few there so you didn’t feel odd about it, but few enough to be able to enjoy each tank at your own pace.
One way or the other, the aquarium was quite amazing, especially considering it’s remote location and it was well worth the visit.

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