Be amazed by the over 1,200 species of marine life at Toba Aquarium.

Be amazed by the over 1,200 species of marine life at Toba Aquarium.

The Toba Aquarium in Ise-Shima is home to the largest collection of marine wildlife in Japan, with over 1,200 different species. Visitors can learn all about these beautiful creatures and get close enough to see their personalities on display. As the world deals with environmental challenges that threaten our natural spaces and the animals that live in them, Toba Aquarium is dedicated to the protection and breeding of rare marine species that are facing the possibility of going extinct. For all those who come to the beautiful Ise-Shima coast, a visit to the aquarium is an opportunity to connect with these precious sea creatures and see how humans can do their part to ensure that they don't disappear forever.

Written by Nathan Raymond
About the Author:
I live with my family in Gifu and it was a pleasure to come to Mie. This part of Japan intrigues me because life on the coast is so different from living inland. Mie is famous throughout Japan as a place bursting with natural beauty and being deeply connected to the ocean. It is worth the trip to visit this amazing part of the country and see how people live at the edge of the sea.

Caption: I was amazed by the size of some fish in the large tank.

When I arrived at the Toba Aquarium, I was surprised how big the facility was. I knew that it had the largest number of species of all the aquariums in Japan, but my anticipation grew quickly when I saw the size of the colorful building with tall palm trees out front.

Once inside, the first thing that I noticed was the diversity of fish in the large tanks. Many of the 1,200 different species live together in the tanks sharing their environment and co-existing peacefully. Many of the other animals have individual enclosures or are housed with their own species as required and all of the habitats were clean and well designed for the unique needs of each resident.

Caption: All of the animals looked happy and well cared for.

The Toba Aquarium belongs to an association of 152 Japanese zoos and aquariums that have agreed to collaborate on a commitment to “species preservation”. This collective approach to wildlife conservation has shown great progress towards their goal of ensuring that endangered species are protected now and into the future. 

All areas of the aquarium present visitors with information and resources to increase public awareness of the challenges faced by marine wildlife and the efforts being made to protect them. During my visit, I felt like I gained a better understanding of what is happening to the earth’s marine biodiversity and how dedicated people are making a difference for the better.

Caption: The animals were comfortable in their enclosures and they let their personalities show.

Caption: It wasn’t a live animal, but it was cuddly enough for a photo.

While I was exploring the aquarium, I came across a huge taxidermy sea lion that almost looked alive. I couldn’t resist posing for a photo with the huge creature and it was interesting to see it up close and touch the fur. As I continued my tour of the 12 main zones in the aquarium, I felt my connection to the animals of the sea growing with each encounter.

Caption: Many of the animals are very friendly and will interact with visitors.

My next stop was at the home of a giant tortoise and this was the first time I had ever been so close to one. The open-air enclosure made it possible to see him clearly and have a friendly encounter as he walked up and greeted me. Having limited barriers between visitors and some animals resulted in a memorable experience that I will never forget.

Caption: The Toba Aquarium is home to more than just underwater wildlife.

The biodiversity of the aquarium is truly amazing and there are even some land animals that are connected to the seas or rivers in some way. For example, I thought it was very interesting when I found a feline that was about twice the size of a house cat relaxing in one of the enclosures. I learned that it was a fishing cat and that this species is listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. It was another instance of the Toba Aquarium doing their part for animal conservation.

Caption: There were some fun ways to get closer to the animals.

There were also some beautiful bright green snakes in one area that I really wanted to see up close. Of course, visitors can’t touch the snakes, but the aquarium had added a viewing bubble in the floor of the enclosure to get a unique view. It was a lot of fun going under the space and popping my head into the bubble for a better look. These creative features really added to my enjoyment of the day.

Caption: This sea otter was a very entertaining performer.

One of the most popular shows at the Toba Aquarium is the sea otter demonstration where the star of the show entertains the crowd for treats of fresh fish. The sea otter was an incredible swimmer and the handler was kind and gentle in his actions. It seemed like the two of them had a special friendship built on love and respect. During the performance, the little performer showed us a wide-range of cute gestures and tricks that put big smiles on the faces of everyone watching. 

Caption: The sea otter was having fun entertaining the crowd and earning treats.

Caption: The audience at the sea otter showed loved every gesture and trick.

The sea otter demonstration was a great show and there was a really positive vibe flowing through the crowd as they watched. Many of the audience members were students on a class trip and they were cheering and laughing at all of the sea otter’s tricks. It was a great show and it was nice to see the animal enjoying the performance as much as we were.

Caption: My next stop was at the sea turtle’s tank. 

There is never a dull moment at the Toba Aquarium, whether you are watching a show or just walking around at your own pace and visiting the animals. The facility is spacious and there are multiple floors with various shops selling souvenirs. It is also a great place to take photos for sharing with friends and family members.

One of the most popular animals at the aquarium is a dugong named Serena. These medium-sized marine mammals have a body that inspired the imagined form of mermaids and a head that is similar in appearance to a beluga whale. The dugong is listed as vulnerable to extinction and, thanks to the loving care of her keepers, Serena has thrived for over 30 years at the aquarium.

The aquarium has spared no expense in recreating Serena’s native habitat and they grow the special kind of seaweed that dugongs eat up to 30 kg of every day. Since 1978, the Toba Aquarium has also continued to study the creature’s native habitats around the world to help better protect the species in the future. 

Caption: Watching the dugong feast on her seaweed was a special experience.

My visit to Toba Aquarium increased my appreciation for marine wildlife and for Mie Prefecture as a place to develop a deeper connection with the sea. I was amazed by the range of species living in the aquarium and all of the efforts required to provide a healthy and safe environment for the animals. It was also educational for me to learn more about the conservation work being undertaken by the team of professionals that dedicate themselves to protecting endangered animals. 

Eco-tourism options like the Toba Aquarium are a big part of informing the public about the challenges that face the natural world. My visit also gave me hope for the future knowing that zoos and aquariums all over Japan are working together to face their challenges through collaboration. If you ever travel to Ise-Shima in Mie, make sure to add the Toba Aquarium to your itinerary and be amazed by incredible diversity of marine wildlife within its walls.

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