Miyajima Aquarium

With a focus on the marine life of the Seto Inland Sea, Miyajima Aquarium is the best place to see what is under the water surrounding the island. The aquarium is one of the oldest in Hiroshima Prefecture, but the building was completely remodeled in 2011, with a traditional facade to match its traditional surroundings. The entrance hall even has the same red-and-white color scheme as Itsukushima Shrine.

Across two floors, the aquarium faithfully re-creates the island's marine ecosystem, starting with a reproduction of the Miyajima coastline inside a glass tank. The artificial mudflats have their own high and low tide points, showing how the ecosystem changes over the course of a day. On the second floor is a traditional oyster farm, complete with a wooden raft just like the ones that float off the coast. A series of tanks depict the water cycle from the mountains to the sea, and feature different creatures at each stage.

Most of the marine creatures on display live in the Seto Inland Sea and were caught locally. The aquarium houses about 350 different species, from fish to crustaceans, but the finless porpoises are a highlight. The only mammals native to the Seto Inland Sea, the friendly creatures have their own tank, where visitors can see them being fed. There are also some popular nonnative animals, including sea lions, penguins, and otters, all of which have regular public feeding times.

Outside, the Live Show Pool hosts a trained sea lion show multiple times a day. Kids and parents can watch the sea lions wave, slide around the pool, catch rings, and even race each other.

Seto Inland Sea

Miyajima is one of nearly 700 islands in the Seto Inland Sea, located close to land in Hiroshima Bay. The island has been considered a sacred place since ancient times and has always been sparsely populated. As a result, Miyajima is relatively unspoiled, making it a good example of what Japan's environment looked like prior to industrialization.

At Miyajima Aquarium, visitors can see detailed re-creations of the island's immediate surroundings as well as the broader ecosystems of the Seto Inland Sea and its relationship with the mainland. Each tank shows a different part of the sea, from the shoreline and the surface to the depths and the seabed.

The Seto Inland Sea supports more than 430 marine species. Many of the sea creatures on display at the aquarium are visible around Miyajima as well. For example, watching for the native finless porpoises is a popular pastime on the ferry to and from the island. Meanwhile, horseshoe crabs and pufferfish can sometimes be seen closer to the coast. The aquarium's largest tank, which visitors can walk under, contains creatures that casual swimmers are less likely to encounter, including stingrays and even some small reef sharks.

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