Exploring Kyoto Aquarium: Highlights, Nearby Attractions, and Dining Gems

Kyoto Aquarium, located in Umekoji Park in Kyoto, is an inland-type aquarium established in 2012. It showcases creatures with connections to Kyoto, featuring one of Japan’s largest tanks for giant salamanders. Alongside penguins and garden eels, daily dolphin shows entertain visitors. Despite its modest size, the aquarium offers original programs filled with the love of its caretakers, making it a popular destination for many repeat visitors.

In this blog post, we’ll introduce highlights of Kyoto Aquarium and recommend nearby gourmet and sightseeing spots you won’t want to miss. Be sure to check it out!

Exploring Kyoto Aquarium

Kyoto Aquarium, born in 2012 under the concept of “Life Connected with Water”. Given Kyoto’s status as a city of rivers, the aquarium puts a strong focus on creatures inhabiting these waters, aiming to educate Kyoto’s children about aquatic life while providing enjoyment. It’s also renowned as Japan’s first inland aquarium to use 100% artificial seawater.

Home to around 250 species and approximately 15,000 marine animals, including the famous Japanese giant salamander found in the iconic Kamogawa River, as well as garden eels and penguins. In addition to its permanent exhibitions, Kyoto Aquarium hosts unique and enthusiast-driven programs filled with the caretakers’ love, making it a delightful experience for families and couples alike.

Access to Kyoto Aquarium

Using the Train

  • Approximately a 15-minute walk from the Central Exit of Kyoto Station.
  • A 7-minute walk from JR San’in Main Line’s “Umekoji Kyoto Nishi” Station.

Using the Bus

By Kyoto City Bus>

  • Get off at “Shichijo Omiya/Kyoto Aquarium-mae” bus stop.
  • From Kyoto Station: Take buses 205, 208, 103, 104, 110, 86, or 88 from Bus Stop B3 (86 and 88 operate only on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays).
  • From Kyoto Station Hachijo-guchi (Hachijo Exit): Take the “Toji-Umekoji Express” from Bus Stop F1 on Hachijo-dori eastbound (operates only on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays).
  • From Shichijo Keihan-mae Station: Take buses 206, 208, 110, 86, or 88 from the westbound bus stop on Shichijo-dori (86 and 88 operate only on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays).
  • From Shijo Omiya Station: Take buses 18, Special 18, 58, 71, 206, or 207 from Bus Stop 3 on Omiya-dori southbound (58 operates only on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays).
  • From Katsura Station: Take buses 33 or Special 33 from Bus Stop 1 at the east exit.

<By Keihan Kyoto Transportation

From Kyoto Station: Take buses 2, 14, 15, 26, 26B, or 28A from Bus Stop C2 or Bus Stop 1 at the east exit. Get off at “Nanajo Omiya/Kyoto Aquarium-mae”.

Access to Kyoto Station from Various Locations:

  • From Kansai International Airport: Take the JR Airport Express “Haruka” for approximately 75 minutes.
  • From JR Osaka Station: Take the Rapid Service for approximately 29 minutes.
  • From JR Nara Station: Take the Miyakoji Rapid Service for approximately 47 minutes.
  • From JR Matsuiyamate Station: Take a direct bus for approximately 30 minutes.
  • From Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport): Take the Osaka Airport Limousine Bus for approximately 55 minutes.
  • From JR Sannomiya Station: Take the Limited Express for approximately 51 minutes.
  • From JR Wakayama Station: Take the Super Kuroshio Limited Express for approximately 92 minutes.

Tourist Information

  • Address: 35-1 Kankijicho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 600-8835, Japan (Located within Umekoji Park)
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Phone Number: +81 75-354-3130
  • Opening Hours:10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Closed: None (However, there may be temporary closures due to facility maintenance or weather conditions.)
  • Regular Admission Fees:
    • Adults: ¥2,050
    • University/High School Students: ¥1,550
    • Elementary/Middle School Students: ¥1,000
    • Preschool Children (3 years and older): ¥600
  • Annual Passport Fees:
    • Adults: ¥4,100
    • University/High School Students: ¥3,100
    • Elementary/Middle School Students: ¥2,000
    • Preschool Children (3 years and older): ¥1,200
  • Special Ticket Packages:
    • Combined entry ticket with Kyoto Tower Combined entry ticket with Kyoto Railway Museum and reciprocal discount services with entry tickets
    • (Subject to change depending on the season) Ticket sales and processing for entry and annual passports are accepted until 1 hour before closing.

Exploring the Highlights of Kyoto Aquarium

Kyoto Aquarium is known for its unique exhibits focusing on creatures native to Kyoto and displays brimming with the caretakers’ love for animals. Let’s explore some of the distinctive highlights you can only experience at Kyoto Aquarium.

“Kyoto River Zone” Exhibiting Japanese Giant Salamanders

Upon entering, you’ll immediately encounter the “Kyoto River Zone,” home to the world’s largest amphibian, the Japanese giant salamander. Often referred to as a “living fossil,” it’s designated as a Special Natural Monument by the country.

The tank in the “Kyoto River Zone” where the Japanese giant salamanders are displayed replicates the upstream area of Kyoto’s Kamogawa River and boasts one of the largest exhibits of its kind in the country. In addition to observing the Japanese giant salamanders, visitors can learn about their ecology and interesting facts, which will surely pique the curiosity of children.

The tank, designed to resemble the habitat of the Japanese giant salamander, features remarkably clear water, allowing you to observe them walking leisurely up close. With their round eyes, large mouths, and stone-like appearance, they exude a mysterious charm. While they are usually inactive, they swiftly snap at their food during feeding times. Encountering a feeding session would be a stroke of luck.

Get Up Close with Seals in the “Marine Life Zone”!

“Marine Life Zone” Offers Close-Up Views of Seals! In the “Marine Life Zone,” you can observe harbor seals and spotted seals. The exhibits are designed to showcase marine creatures dynamically, featuring a C-shaped tank where you can observe seals swimming from directly below and a cylindrical tube tank where you can get up close to the seals, as shown in the images.

One highlight worth mentioning is the cylindrical tank where the seals appear. Occasionally, seals will float into view in the connected tank, offering a clear view of their expressions up close. It’s an exciting spot for both children and adults. Seals can be unpredictable, so they may not always come up, but it’s worth patiently waiting as long as time allows.

“Kyoto’s Sea Zone”: A Large Aquarium Tank at Kyoto Aquarium

“The Sea of Kyoto Zone” at Kyoto Aquarium boasts a massive tank, towering 6 meters high and spanning the first and second floors, utilizing a whopping 500 tons of artificial seawater. Here, you’ll find a dynamic representation of the Sea of Japan, featuring creatures such as sardines, rays, sharks, and horse mackerel commonly found in these waters.

Particularly noteworthy are the sardines, which are renowned as a delicious ingredient caught in the Sea of Japan. Additionally, you can observe the Amadai, also known as “kuji,” a prized ingredient in Kyoto cuisine. It’s an opportunity to witness marine life inspired by Kyoto’s culinary culture.

The sight of fish gracefully swimming under the blue lights creates a mesmerizing and almost surreal ambiance. Take your time to relax and enjoy the soothing presence of the fish as you gaze into the vast tank.

“Breathtaking Views at the Penguin Zone!”

“The Penguin Zone” houses Cape Penguins from southern Africa. Each of the 50-plus penguins here is given a name inspired by Kyoto streets like “Muro” (Muromachi Street) or “Pon” (Pontocho Street).

On the first floor, you can watch the penguins gracefully swimming in the tank, while on the second floor, you’ll see them waddling around charmingly on land. The second-floor exhibit area is designed to simulate a more natural environment for the penguins. By making the land area uneven, it’s more challenging for the penguins to climb out of the water, mimicking their natural habitat where they often slide onto land using the momentum of waves.

During breeding season, the aquarium provides nests for the penguins. Males gather pebbles to build nests in attempts to impress potential mates.

Moreover, Kyoto Aquarium hosts unique events such as the “LOVE Favorite Penguin Election” to select idol penguins and creates a “Penguin Relationship Chart” depicting the dramas of penguin interactions, offering unconventional and entertaining experiences that make visitors want to return again and again.

Exciting Encounters with Garden Eels in the “Coral Reef Creatures Zone”

In the “Coral Reef Creatures Zone,” which replicates a coral reef environment, you can see colorful fish such as clownfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, garden eels, and moray eels. The tanks are set at a low height, allowing children to observe the fish closely without needing to stretch.

The highlight of this zone is undoubtedly the clownfish. Six different species of clownfish found in coastal waters of Japan are kept here, showcasing a variety of patterns.

Furthermore, this area also features the popular garden eels. Watching them peek out from the sand and gracefully float in the water is both mysterious and adorable. On rare occasions, you may even catch a glimpse of them swimming out of the sand.

“Enjoy Dolphin Shows with Beautiful Seasonal Views at the Dolphin Stadium”

The “Dolphin Stadium” offers dynamic dolphin shows set against the backdrop of the beautiful nature of Umekoji Park. Featuring bottlenose dolphins, the shows present breathtaking performances in perfect harmony.

Produced by Avex Entertainment Co., Ltd., the “La・La・Fin CIRCUS” incorporates theatrical elements into traditional dolphin shows, offering exclusive acts you can only experience here. With dolphins, trainers, and performers dressed as circus characters, they weave a captivating story, captivating audiences of all ages.

Dolphin shows are held twice on weekdays and three times on weekends, with additional performances during extended holidays like Golden Week. Be sure to check the schedule upon arrival, as this is an unmissable highlight of the park experience.

Captivating Souvenirs at the “Museum Shop”

After enjoying the creatures, head to the Museum Shop for souvenirs. Here, you’ll find a wide range of items for sale, from plush toys of the creatures housed in the Kyoto Aquarium to food products collaborated with renowned Kyoto brands.

One must-see item recommended by the author is the oversized plush toy of the Kyoto Aquarium’s symbol, the Giant Salamander (tax included at 25,720 yen). This plush, measuring approximately 170 cm, is so large that even adult men can use it as a body pillow, and it’s known for its soft and fluffy texture. Giant Salamander fans should definitely check it out.

Additionally, you can find sweets shaped like the creatures housed in the Kyoto Aquarium, such as daifuku and nerikiri, as well as confectionery collaborated with Kyoto’s traditional brands like “Izutsu Yatsuhashi Honpo” and “Shogoin Yatsuhashi Sohonpo.” With such a lineup, these souvenirs are sure to bring smiles to those who receive them.

Recommended Sightseeing Spots Around Kyoto Aquarium

Since you can explore Kyoto Aquarium in about 2 hours, it’s a good idea to also visit nearby sightseeing spots while you’re there. Here are some recommended attractions that are easily accessible from Kyoto Aquarium.

Umekoji Park

Umekoji Park, where Kyoto Aquarium is located, is a spacious urban park boasting a total area of 13.7 hectares. It offers various attractions such as the expansive “Lawn Square,” perfect for chilling out, the “Riverside Play Area” where kids can enjoy water play in summer, and the “Suzaku Garden,” a recreation of a Japanese garden.

The charm of Umekoji Park lies mainly in its leisurely “Lawn Square.” In urban settings, it’s rare to interact with nature, so this park, surrounded by flowers and trees that change with the seasons, offers a precious opportunity to relax and unwind.

On weekends and holidays, families, couples, and groups of friends gather here to enjoy basking in the sun and picnicking. After strolling around Kyoto Aquarium, why not take some time to relax and unwind in Umekoji Park?

Umekoji Park

  • Address: Umekoji Park, Kamihonnojimae-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 600-8835
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • 15 minutes walk west from JR Kyoto Station Central Exit along Shio-Koji Street
    • Directly accessible from JR Sagano Line “Umekoji-Kyoto Nishi” Station
  • Closed: Every Monday (If Monday is a holiday, closed the following day), New Year’s holiday (December 28 to January 4) *Suzaku Garden and Forest of Life only
  • Opening Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Last entry at 4:30 PM) *Suzaku Garden and Forest of Life only
  • Admission Fee: 200 yen *Suzaku Garden and Forest of Life only
  • Official Website: Umekoji Park

Kyoto Railway Museum

The “Kyoto Railway Museum” was born in April 2016 within the Umekoji Park. With the concept of “Walking with the Region’s Railway Culture,” the museum serves as a platform contributing to the community’s vitality and functions as a place for children to learn.

It houses 53 locomotives that have driven Japan’s railway history, from steam locomotives to Shinkansen. Additionally, there are immersive exhibits such as railway dioramas and interactive experiences like riding a steam locomotive.

Moreover, on holidays, there are “Railway Job Experience” events led by active JR West employees. Visitors can experience the roles of train drivers and station staff. As the experiences vary daily, it’s advisable to check the schedule on the official website before visiting.

Kyoto Railway Museum

  • Address: Kamitobakake-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • Approximately 2 minutes on foot from JR Sagano Line “Umekoji Kyoto Nishi” Station
    • Approximately 20 minutes on foot from JR “Kyoto” Station Central Exit
    • Approximately 15 minutes on foot from Kyoto Line “Nishi-Otani” Station
  • Closed on: Every Wednesday (Open on public holidays), New Year holidays
  • Opening hours: 10:00 – 17:30 (Last admission at 17:00)
  • Admission fees:
    • Adults: 1,200 yen
    • University and high school students: 1,000 yen
    • Elementary and junior high school students: 500 yen
    • Children (3 years old and above): 200 yen
  • Official URL: Kyoto Railway Museum

Kyoto Tower

The iconic “Kyoto Tower” stands proudly in front of JR Kyoto Station, serving as a landmark for the city. This tower features an observation deck, restaurants, and even a large bathhouse, offering a variety of experiences for families and couples alike.

The main highlight is the observation deck, offering a 360-degree panoramic view of the surroundings. From here, you can admire Kyoto’s treasures, including the To-ji Temple, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, and Nishi Hongan-ji Temple, all designated as national treasures or UNESCO World Heritage sites. Be sure to visit during sunset or at night to witness breathtaking views of Kyoto bathed in the warm glow of twilight or sparkling with city lights, making it a perfect spot for a romantic date.

Don’t miss out on the “Kyoto Tower Sand” area, where you can enjoy Kyoto’s culinary delights, explore a market filled with local souvenirs, and even participate in workshops on traditional Japanese confectionery and crafts. Located just a 16-minute walk from the Kyoto Aquarium, it’s a convenient destination to visit during your Kyoto exploration.

Kyoto Tower

  • Address: 721-1 Higashishiokoji-cho, Karasuma-dori Shichijo-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: A 2-minute walk from JR Kyoto Station
  • Closed: None
  • Opening Hours: 9:00 to 21:00 (Last admission at 20:40) *Applies to Kyoto Tower Observation Deck only
  • Fees:
    • Adults: 770 yen
    • High school students: 620 yen
    • Elementary and middle school students: 520 yen
    • Children (3 years and older): 150 yen Persons with disabilities (with ID): 350 yen
  • Official Website: Kyoto Tower

Recommended Dining Spots Around Kyoto Aquarium

The “Suizoku Pan” (330 yen tax included) sold at the “KAIJU CAFE” is a must-try treat at the Kyoto Aquarium. These bread rolls, shaped like giant salamanders, turtles, and garden eels, are crafted by the bakery “Furni Kyoto” located in Minami-ku, Kyoto City, and are delivered fresh to the aquarium daily. With seven different varieties, each with its own unique flavor, be sure to indulge in one when you visit the Kyoto Aquarium.

“Kyoto Vegetable Restaurant” in Umekoji Park

Located within Umekoji Park where Kyoto Aquarium is situated, “Kyoyasai Restaurant Umekoji Park” offers a unique dining experience. With its glass-walled structure, diners can enjoy views of the natural surroundings of Umekoji Park from any seat. On sunny days, the terrace seating allows guests to dine in a picnic-like atmosphere.

This restaurant specializes in original dishes made with seasonal Kyoto vegetables. You can indulge in unique creations like the “Kyoyasai Goro Goro Pizza” topped with an abundance of Kyoto vegetables, or the “Kujyo Negi and Duck Smoked Salad” featuring Kyoto’s renowned Kujyo Negi (green onions) and duck meat. These dishes are exclusive to this restaurant, providing a taste of Kyoto’s culinary delights.

Many visitors opt for lunch at this restaurant, where popular choices include the “Chef’s Selection Plate with 3 items” (¥1,000 excluding tax) and the “Seasonal Umekoji Set Meal” (¥1,200 excluding tax, limited to 20 servings on weekdays and 30 servings on weekends). Moreover, banquet and course plans are available, accommodating groups of 2 to 100 people. Make sure to savor Kyoto vegetables at this versatile establishment.

Kyoyasai Restaurant Umekoji Park

  • Address: Kannonzaimoku-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto (Inside Umekoji Park’s “Midori no Kan”)
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • About 4 minutes on foot from JR San’in Main Line “Umekoji Kyoto Nishi” Station
    • About 11 minutes on foot south from JR San’in Main Line “Tanbaguchi” Station
  • Phone Number: 075-352-7111
  • Closed: New Year’s holidays
  • Business Hours:
    • 9:00 to 11:00: Morning
    • 11:00 to 17:00: Lunch
    • 14:00 to 17:00: Cafe
    • 17:00 to 22:00: Dinner

Kyomachiya Kamokamo

“Kyomachiya Kamokamo” is located approximately a 16-minute walk from the Kyoto Aquarium. It’s a renowned restaurant specializing in Kyoto-produced duck cuisine. With its convenient location just a 3-minute walk from Kyoto Station, it’s an ideal spot to visit for dinner after exploring the Kyoto Aquarium and other nearby attractions.

The signature dish at “Kyomachiya Kamokamo” is the “Kamo-suki,” where fresh duck meat is served hot pot-style with white leeks and homemade meatballs. The combination of duck meat and white leeks is superb, and the dish is known for its light and easy-to-eat flavor.

While the exterior exudes the traditional charm of a Kyoto machiya (townhouse), the interior is welcoming and unpretentious, making it suitable for families to dine without feeling intimidated. End your day by savoring duck meat and fully enjoying what Kyoto has to offer.

Kyomachiya Kamokamo

  • Address: 690-6 Higashi Shio-koji-cho, Shinmachi Higashi iru, Kizuyabashi-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 3 minutes on foot from Kyoto Station
  • Phone Number: 075-205-0618
  • Closed: Irregular holidays
  • Business Hours: 17:00 – 23:00 (Last Order: 22:30)

At the Kyoto Aquarium, you’ll find not only the permanent exhibits but also special programs filled with the keepers’ love for the animals, along with limited-edition sweets inspired by the creatures they care for. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder visitors keep coming back for more, making it a sure bet for repeat visits. Be sure to enjoy Kyoto to the fullest by exploring the surrounding attractions along with the aquarium.


メールアドレスが公開されることはありません。 が付いている欄は必須項目です