Aqua Park Shinagawa
Your Wonderland For a Rainy Day
Conveniently located in central Tokyo at the back of the Shinagawa Prince Hotel (opposite JR Shinagawa Station) is the Aqua Park Shinagawa, which is a great place to spend a few hours with the children on a rainy day. The aquarium, although small, is very well laid out. A popular feature with kids and adults alike is the tunnel through the aquarium's largest tank, which houses tuna, large reef fish, black tip reef sharks, very large manta rays, and a rare sawfish. It is quite a treat to see all these beautiful creatures swimming around and above you.
The indoor facility also features an impressive penguin enclosure with four varieties of these adorable birds, including the large king penguin. On the visitors’ side, the penguin continent is bordered by a glass wall and the water is plenty deep, giving a wonderful view of the graceful underwater movements of these birds. Children love to run alongside the swimming penguins in front of the tank, and feeding times offer a bustle of activity, with the penguins feeding below the surface as well as on dry land.
The sea lion pool is another entertaining attraction. This smaller arena seats about 300 and fills up very fast, so be sure to check the times of the performances and plan to arrive 30 minutes early to get a seat (or just employ the convenient trick of leaving a personal items on your seats while you kill time before the show). The all-LED high-tech merry-go-round, known as “Magical Ground,” on the first floor and the “Jellyfish Ramble” — a good collection of colorful jellyfish, accompanied by sounds and lights, are also wonderful attractions for the kids.
The highlight of the aquarium, however, is the dolphin show.
The dolphin pool takes up the majority of the Aqua Park and can seat 1,350 people. The shows are held four times a day and twice in the evening (until June 30) and feature four Pacific white-sided dolphins, two Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, and a very large false killer whale, all performing harmoniously together. The show itself is very entertaining, with unbelievable dolphin acrobatics and flashes of speed (particularly from the smaller Pacific white-sided dolphin). The trainers themselves also perform some impressive moves, such as dolphin surfing and ridiculously high jumps, propelled by the dolphins below them.
A large part of the show is devoted to “splash time,” in which the dolphins (and sometimes the trainers) take large jumps next to the pool edge, sending walls of water over the first few rows of spectators. Of course, disposable rain jackets are available for purchase, and assistants are on hand with towels for splashed guests. The splash seats are clearly marked with red and yellow tape, but of course there are always a few unsuspecting first-timers who get a little more than they bargained for from the playful dolphins.
Particularly the families, I can’t recommend the interactive plans highly enough. These packages allow kids and parents to touch and feed the dolphins, as well as pose for photos with them. Make sure to book these plans at the reception desk as you enter the aquarium, as they are hugely popular and space is limited.
If you’re looking for an all-day outing, the venue also boasts other attractions in the same complex, such as a cinema, live music venue, bowling alley, amusement park, restaurants, and of course the hotel itself.
Address: 4-10-30 Takanawa, Minato-ku, Tokyo (Within Shinagawa Prince Hotel)
Admission: Adults and children aged 16 and up ¥2,200; children aged 7 to 15 ¥1,200; children aged 4 to 6 ¥200; children under 4 are free
Parking: The rooftop parking lot has plenty of space, but is expensive. A three-hour complimentary parking stamp is available if you spend over ¥5,000, but you need to present your receipts to the ticket counter for validation.