The Sumida Aquarium
The rain was showing no sign of stopping. We stared sullenly at the clouds from our habitual perch in the SkyTree’s sixth-floor Starbucks and tried to figure out what to do with the day. Suddenly, an inspiration: the Sumida Aquarium. A brilliant idea! So brilliant, in fact, it was shared by approximately 74% of Tokyo.
Before describing the aquarium, allow me to address my designation of Starbucks as our “habitual perch.” Jürgen and I are in no way Starbucks people, but for foreigners in Tokyo, it is by far the best option for reliable, free internet. Other cafes might have wifi, but you have to be a Japanese citizen to log on. Or you have to pay a truckload. Or you have to reconnect every fifteen minutes. But after registering with Starbucks, you can log on at any branch in the city. And they’re found on nearly every block. We spent weeks searching for alternatives, but came up empty. Starbucks it is.
Back to the Sumida Aquarium, which had a crowd bordering on the ridiculous and wasn’t at all a bargain, with tickets priced at ¥2000 ($20) per person. But this is Tokyo. If we balked at everything which was crowded or expensive, we wouldn’t be able to do much. So we forked over the yen and went inside.
Right away, we forgot about the money. Sumida’s isn’t the largest aquarium we’ve ever visited, but it’s perhaps the most modern, and is the kind of place in which you could easily spend hours. The tanks are beautiful, with crystal clear glass and excellent lighting, and most of the information is translated into English.
After entering, we were immediately drawn to the massive jellyfish wall, and from there moved to individual tanks filled with smaller species like seahorse, clownfish, crabs and blowfish. Eventually, we arrived at the largest tank in the aquarium, in which hundreds of fish, including tiger shark and manta rays, were swimming. There was even a scuba diver inside, cleaning the tanks and feeding the animals. We finished our tour by grabbing coffee and sitting at an open-air tank, where a squad of hyperactive penguins and honking sea lions provided entertainment.
The Sumida Aquarium is neither cheap nor relaxing, but is so nicely done that it’s well worth checking out. We can now add “aquariums” to our growing list of things which Japan does perfectly… I suppose I’m not surprised.