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Tokyo's New Aquarium Is a Hit With Adults (June 13, 2005)

A tunnel where visitors can walk underneath sharks and other creatures (Epson Aqua Stadium)
One of Tokyo's newest attractions is an amusement center on the grounds of an exclusive hotel, combining a public aquarium with a concert hall, a bowling alley, a movie theater, and restaurants. The Epson Aqua Stadium opened in April at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel on a prime piece of real estate located a mere two-minute walk from Shinagawa Station. As well as families, the complex is attracting couples and groups of adults keen to experience Tokyo's latest fun night out.

No Ordinary Aquarium
The aquarium tanks at the ¥9.2 billion facility ($87 million at ¥105 to the dollar) hold a total of 4,130 tons of water and are home to about 20,000 sea creatures of 300 different species. One of the central attractions is the circular dolphin pool, which has a diameter of 25 meters. Its 1,350 seats are laid out to encircle the pool completely, making the dolphin shows all the more exciting for the audience. At the sea lion pool, meanwhile, the charm of these animals can be appreciated during their performances from the 393 spectator seats. Epson Aqua Stadium projects that it will receive a whopping 2 million visitors in its first year.

Besides the aquarium, Aqua Stadium boasts a variety of other facilities. One is an indoor roller coaster based on Galaxy Express 999, a popular anime by Matsumoto Reiji. There are also a concert hall, restaurant, and cafe, some of which are themed on a port town.

Aquariums have long been popular with children, but Epson Aqua Stadium is also attracting large numbers of adult visitors. Admission is ¥1,800 ($17), and opening hours on weekdays are noon to 10 p.m. The late hours are part of a marketing strategy to stress the fact that the aquarium is an integral part of the luxury hotel. As a result of this strategy, many visitors are expected to be couples on dates and office workers having some fun before heading home after work.

The dolphin pool (Epson Aqua Stadium)

Heated Competition
The facility opened at a time when the number of visitors to zoos has been on the decline. Aquariums, however, are doing comparatively well, because they can charge nearly twice as much in admission as zoos. What is more, aquariums enjoy lower labor costs, as caring for sea creatures tends to be cheaper than looking after land-based animals. Figures show that the number of aquarium visits made in Japan in fiscal 2004 (April 2004 to March 2005) was much higher than in the previous fiscal year.

Japan's busiest aquarium is the Tokyo Sea Life Park Aquarium, in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, whose tanks hold a total of 3,160 tons of water. The facility, renowned for its tuna aquarium, where the huge fish can be seen darting around a giant donut-shaped tank, received 1.61 million visitors during fiscal 2004, up about 90,000 from the previous year.

Sunshine International Aquarium, in Tokyo's Toshima Ward, has also been enjoying robust business. Last year, 960,000 people came to view the facility's tanks, which hold a total of 750 tons of water. Many were drawn by several new attractions. The Zoo-Zoo Plaza, where otters and penguins can be viewed close-up, opened in July 2004. Another attraction that proved popular this year was an underwater manzai comedy show featuring young comedians provided by Yoshimoto Kogyo Co.

Competition to provide the most enthralling experience is heating up among Tokyo's various aquariums, especially with the Epson Aqua Stadium taking a new approach to the aquarium business by focusing on attracting a more adult clientele.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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