The Sumida Aquarium: Explore an Underwater World below Tokyo Skytree

Japan is home to some of the world’s largest and most fascinating aquariums. Although nothing can compare to the extraordinary Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium and the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and their resident whale sharks, there are several aquariums throughout the greater Tokyo metropolitan area that aquatic animal lovers should consider.

If you are a Tokyo-bound traveler with plans to ascend the iconic Tokyo Skytree, consider extending your stay in the Sumida Ward’s Oshiage district and exploring the ocean depths via the Sumida Aquarium.


From the sky above to the ocean below


The Sumida Aquarium is easy to find and access. The facility is conveniently located at the base of Tokyo Skytree and is part of the giant Solamachi shopping and restaurant complex (which is the center of the Tokyo Skytree Town urban redevelopment project). A 2,050 yen ticket, which you can easily buy on site, grants you access to a well-curated educational experience on the aquatic life that can be found in and around Tokyo.
Fortunately, most of the exhibits are in Japanese and English which makes the experience more valuable for international visitors. Sadly, the large flowcharts depicting the private lives of the aquarium’s penguin population are in Japanese only. However, if you are dying to know more about penguin love triangles, you can easily get the latest penguin-related gossip with a translation app or a quick chat with a bilingual staff member.

Under the sea

Like most of the aquariums that I’ve explored in Japan, the Sumida Aquarium is divided into several zones. Your journey through the facility begins with a crash course on the aquatic circle of life in the Shimmering of Water zone.
Next up are the two breathtaking Cradle of Life zones where you can view an astounding variety of jellyfish up close, in luminescent displays. I’ve never seen anything quite like this, and it’s a real treat for those who love taking unique photos.

As you proceed beyond the Cradle of Life, the aquarium opens up and the zones begin to merge. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself eye-to-eye with a large tiger shark as you peer into the main water tank in the Chain of Life zone. This mesmerizing deep-blue habitat simulates the oceans surrounding the Ogasawara Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site 1,000 kilometers out to sea from Tokyo proper.

The great indoors

Garden eels emerging from the sand at feeding time

By this point, you won’t be able to ignore the sights and sounds of the most entertaining part of the Sumida Aquarium: the indoor penguin and seal pen. The design of this exhibit is truly amazing. From the upper-floor balcony, you can survey the aquarium’s entire penguin population as they swim, frolic, or sleep, depending on the time of day.

Continue along the catwalk that takes you to the lower floor, and you’ll eventually reach the seal pen. You’re bound to lose track of time as you become enthralled with watching these extremely playful animals up close from all angles—even from beneath their habitat!

The seal pen is designed so that visitors can view the animals up close from every possible angle—even from below the surface of the water.

The seal pen is designed so that visitors can view the animals up close from every possible angle—even from below the surface of the water.
At this point, you might be wondering if it’s healthy to keep seals and penguins indoors. Thankfully, the official website addresses this concern:
“The exhibit employs environmentally friendly LED lights, which reflect diurnal changes between night and day. At midday, illumination close to natural sunlight is employed to show the lively behavior of marine animals during the day. At night, the lights are dimmed to show visitors how penguins and fur seals sleep.”

An interactive escape

Although the Sumida Aquarium might be smaller than what you may be used to, it makes up for that in convenience and the up close and unique ways you can view the animals within (especially the seals). Additionally, the facility is designed so that staff can easily interact with guests (don’t miss feeding times!). You can even observe researchers working in the lab—the perfect inspiration if you are traveling with young ones who aspire to be the future biologists of the world.

So if you love marine animals but can’t make it out to the “big two” aquariums, do yourself a favor and spend some time at the Sumida Aquarium. The entire experience is indoors, and you can hang out as long as you like, which makes it the perfect respite from Tokyo’s hot and humid summers.

The Sumida Aquarium also has space for limited-time exhibitions such as this one which chronicles the history of goldfish in Japan.

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AUTHOR

Anthony

Anthony

Writer / Translator

Originally from Riverside, California, I've been living, working, and writing in Japan since 2009. Japan has become my second home, and I'm especially fond of Shinjuku, Tokyo. That being said, I also love getting out into the countryside and exploring the entire country. Through Tadaima Japan, I hope to share the wonders of Japan with a wider, international audience. Check out my articles if you enjoy exploring on foot, convenient cafes, and affordable dining.

Information

Address 5-6F, TOKYO SKYTREE TOWN Solamachi
1-2, Oshiage 1-chome, Sumida Ward, Tokyo 131-0045
Hours 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Price 2,050 yen (see website for details)
Close None
Access Direct access from Tokyo Skytree Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Direct access from Oshiage Station (Tobu Skytree Line, Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line,
the Keisei Oshiage Line, and the Toei Asakusa Line).
Phone +81-3-5619-1821
Language Japanese
English
Website https://www.sumida-aquarium.com/en/index.html