With dolphins, penguins, sharks and a shoal of dancing sardines, Enoshima Aquarium, which opened in 1954, offers a fascinating insight into the ecosystem of nearby Sagami Bay and beyond. The history of the tiny island of Enoshima, which lies just across the water from the aquarium, is strongly connected to the ocean, the wonders of which come to life in a small and quaint aquarium near Tokyo.
Close to the open sea where warm and cold currents converge, Sagami Bay consists of a deep ocean (almost 2,000m), sand dunes, rocky stretches and a tidal flat that offer a diversity of ecosystems and an unmatched variety of marine life. A little over 1,500 fish species inhabit the bay, while nearly 900 species of shrimp and crab and just over 2,000 species of shellfish, octopus and squid also call the area home.
It’s no surprise that upon entering the aquarium, one of the first displays visitors come across is the Sagami Bay Zone. Having dived in Kanagawa prefecture and surrounding areas before, a lot of scenes in the tanks were extremely familiar. The main fish species exhibition is the big Sagami Bay Tank, which contains only marine life that lives in Sagami Bay. The tank is designed so that visitors can walk around and enjoy the display from all angles. Its highlight is the huge school of sardines that spiral in a dashing spray of silver. Another impressive sight is the Rocky Reef Tank featuring a jungle of seaweed swaying back and forth. Thanks to intense rays of light, the tank is as pretty as a picture. Small algae appear to have grown naturally, while tiny fish can be seen hidden and tucked away amongst the seaweed.
As an aquaculture student, I was also drawn to the Shirasu (whitebait) tanks. In 2013, Enoshima Aquarium successfully began cultivating anchovy, one of the breeders of whitebait,and is now aiming to be the world’s first aquarium to offer a permanent whitebait exhibition. Visitors are guided through the egg, larvae and fry stage although straining your eyes is a must to make everything out! The jellyfish collection is also impressive, and a recent 3D mapping projection system makes them appear even more wonderful, by allowing visitors to completely immerse themselves in the thousands of different species.
Walk in further and there are sections dedicated to penguins and bizarre deep sea creatures. The latter is by far the most interesting with its host of alien-looking creatures on display and Japan’s deep-sea research is also brought to life, although the penguins won’t disappoint visitors who are after the cute stuff. There is also a chance to see research carried out by Emperor Akihito, an established marine biologist, and his father, the late Emperor Hirohito, who was an authority on the species classification of marine life in Sagami Bay. Enoshima Aquarium is a scientific discovery through a mixture of fun and entertainment. It’s a cheap and educational way to spend half a day in the area, and great for children as well. Life definitely looks good under the sea!
Find out more at the aquarium’s website: http://www.enosui.com/en/exhibition.html