Most people on the JR Keiyo line from Tokyo Station get off at the Maihama stop for Tokyo Disneyland. But if you’re not up for another day of Mickey and the gang, join other Tokyo families at the Tokyo Sea Life Park just one stop sooner on the train line.
While not on the same level as the aquariums in Osaka or Okinawa, the Tokyo Sea Life Park will definitely captivate the younger crowd. Sitting right on the edge of Tokyo Bay, the exhibits are reached through an escalator that descends to the depths under a glass dome. On the first level are small, individual exhibits that highlight the aquatic life of oceans around the world, from tropical seas to the polar regions. A donut-shaped tank houses a school of blue fin tuna (yes, the fish that normally appears as a sushi topper) that endlessly circles the aquarium’s interior.
Outside, a large pool shows the tidal nature of Tokyo’s bay, but the real draw is the penguin exhibit. A variety of penguins, from Emperor to Humboldt to Rockhopper species, cavort on the rocks at the edge of the bay. It’s most fun to be there at feeding time but your little ones will still get a kick out of watching the birds glide through the water and pop up onshore.
Back inside, a sunlit, two-story section of the aquarium features creatures from the Tokyo Bay to the Ogasawara Islands, located nearly 1000 kilometers south of the capital. This was my favorite section, both for the amount of natural light that filtered into the building and for the variety of species in the viewing tanks. You can either stay on the ground floor to get a close-up look at each tank, or take the catwalk that runs above and get a bird’s eye view down into the water.
I’m usually not one for cafeteria food but the on-site restaurant provides a pretty ample lunch for adults and a cute kid’s bento with Japanese curry (the Japanese youngster’s equivalent of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich), rice, some veggies and a few sweet treats. And despite the seating area looking ridiculously crowded as we lined up to order, we had no trouble finding a table.
So if you’ve done the Disney thing or need a break from Mickey and Company, check out the Tokyo Sea Life Park and the rest of the Kasai Rinkai Park that it sits it. It’s a great family spot that won’t break the bank.