If you are in town with children and want something interesting to see, then you should try the Sunpiazza Aquarium at Shin Sapporo. It is smaller than the more famous aquarium in Otaru, but if you don’t have the time to travel so far it is a great way of passing an hour or so.
You can get there very easily. The Tozai (orange) subway line terminates at Shin Sapporo and takes about twenty minutes from the center of the city. Once there, head for exit three and work your way through the Sun Plaza department store. The aquarium is signposted but unfortunately not in English. Look for this 水族館 which is Japanese for aquarium. It literally translates as water family building. You should basically head for the first floor and work your way into the back left corner. Go through the doors, across an open space and up some stairs and there you are.
It costs 900 yen for adults and 400 yen for children of three and over. If you are eager, you can buy a year pass for 2,000 yen for adults and 1,000 yen for children.
Once through the doors there is a sign board explaining feeding times. While we were there I was surprised to see a fully geared up SCUBA diver swim his way through one of the larger tanks passing out food. Now, there’s a job for you if you get stuck in Japan and don’t know how to earn a living.
The aquarium is divided over two floors. There are some extra large crab as you go through the doors. Scary if you suffer from arachnophobia. And possibly guilt inducing if you had crab for dinner the night before. All of the information about the fish is unfortunately in Japanese but if you have a smart phone you can probably find it out yourself.
Two of the highlights on the first floor are the Garra rufa and the touch tank. Garra rufa are commonly known as doctor fish. They are small, not even an inch long, and they eat dead skin off your hands. The tank here has two spaces where you can put your hand in and, within seconds, the fish are swarming all over you. The feeling is not painful, but it is odd. The fish slightly pull your hand and it is not unpleasant. If it’s not crowded you could spend a while having a manicure.
The touch tank has star fish and shell fish that you can handle, as long as you don’t take them out of the water. I couldn’t work up the courage to touch the starfish but my daughter had no problem.
On the second floor there are larger tanks and there are also penguins. One of them spent quite a while looking at me angrily. Don’t know what I’d done.
And there are also two seals swimming up and down a tank. The children love racing them.
A little way along the corridor there is an otter that you can touch. It puts its paw through a pipe for food and you can stroke its paw. The attendant then advised us to wash our hands, a command I didn’t recall until we were tucking into our lunch.
There are two tanks were you can feed the fish. In the gift shop there are small bags of dried shrimp for 20 yen a bag. You are supposed to sprinkle it sparingly into the water and the fish crowd to the surface for their meal. My daughter just threw the whole bag in and looked at me for more. Bless her.
There is an electric eel on the second floor that swims past a huge light bulb. Its charge can light the bulb and there is a meter that reads the voltage. This is not one of the fish you can touch.
Also, fascinating for me but not so much my daughter, there are a selection of fossils on the second floor. Some of them are 100 million years old. Maybe it’s just me but whenever I see something that was alive so long ago my heart skips a beat and I get an odd feeling in the pit of my stomach. Is that just me?
Then the path takes you through the gift shop and to the exit.
If you are feeling hungry there are restaurants back in the department store you came through. Or you can head for the subway and be back in town in twenty minutes.
The Sunpiazza Aquarium isn’t the biggest of aquariums but my daughter had a good time. And I love fossils.