Cruising into the Tempozan Passenger Terminal in Osaka means you don’t even have to leave the pier to find things to do. Directly across from the cruise ship terminal sits Tempozan Marketplace Mall. This large plaza contains the expected shops and restaurants – plus a giant ferris wheel at one end and what their sign said was the largest aquarium in the world at the other. The ferris wheel is 100 meters in diameter. There’s also a Legoland at the plaza and you can take harbor tours from there. They even have a shuttle boat to Universal City Port for those interested in going to the Universal Studios theme park on the other side of the canal.
Our ship, the Holland America Westerdam, docked around 8am, but the wheel and aquarium didn’t open until 9:30 and Legoland opened even later. Still better than some of the Japanese ports where nothing opened before 10am. It’s easy to get there from the ship. You just walk past the terminal building and out onto the road and then the wheel is right there at one end of the plaza. The wheel takes about 15 minutes to complete one revolution, which is all you get on these giant wheels. A ride on them is for the view.
Unlike any other giant ferris wheels we’ve ridden, this one did not charge extra for the clear car, which has clear seats and floor as well as windows all around the top area above the seats, where the regular cars do not have see-through seats, floors, or tops. It’s a bit longer wait for the clear car, but the line wasn’t too long yet when we got there so we gave it a go. The floor wasn’t completely clear, but the seats and the bit between the seat and floor were so it did have more viewing area than ordinary cars, though not enough to be worth paying extra for if there had been a premium charge.
Several of the ports we went to in Japan had giant wheels so we made it a point to ride on them all. Not every port had one though. While it ran continuously most of the time, they did stop the wheel occasionally for elderly or disabled people to get on and off rather than having them get in and out of the car on the move like everyone else.
Views from giant ferris wheels are pretty awesome and this one was no exception. From up so high you can see far across the city, as well as having the opportunity to notice things nearby you might want to go see and otherwise never would have known were there, like a park we could see from this one. Of course when they are in the vicinity of the ship you also get great views of your ship from there. This one was so close we couldn’t get the entire ship in one shot with the cameras we had.
The aquarium – called Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan – had a sign at the cruise terminal saying it is the largest in the world. It’s quite a nice aquarium with tanks of fish from all around the world. It also had some sea otters, seals, dolphins, penguins, and a capybara and a few other land creatures.
The capybara had a dry pen rather than a water-filled tank since it is a very large rodent, not a creature of the sea. The other land creatures did too. The otters also had some land area as well as water.
You enter the aquarium area through a tunnel of fish on an upper level of the building and then wind your way down with different views into deeper and deeper areas of the same tanks as you go down. Signs on the wall as you enter a new area tell you where the things in that tank are from. Working your way down through the aquarium you pass signs for the same exhibit on different levels as you get deeper.
The Monteray Bay display for instance has seals and a dock at the top level where you watch them surface or if one happens to be on the dock you might even see it out of water. Later on you see the seals underwater and can look up to see the underside of the dock. The Japan Deep tank had lots of skeletal looking giant crabs. A couple of them had a fight while we were there.
The otters had a habitat in a room of their own with a viewing area over a rail so people could see them without looking through glass. There was quite a crowd in that room so we had to wait awhile to get to the rail. Once you finally get to see them the otters are very cute.
On the way out of the otter exhibit we saw a little crab crawling down a wall behind a railing, but not really within the exhibit. Perhaps it had escaped becoming otter food.
The biggest tank was called Pacific Ocean and was at the center of the hallway with the pathway winding around it. Most of the other tanks were on the other side so you pass them again at each level. The Pacific Ocean tank held all sorts of large rays and sharks and a gigantic whale shark.
Penguins had an exhibit within the main aquarium area where they were behind glass, but later at the end there was a small penguin exhibit behind a railing where they could be photographed without going through glass.
Below the lowest level of the main tanks there’s a room full of all sorts of tanks of assorted sizes with different types of jellyfish followed by an arctic display.
The first arctic thing was an icy room with arctic seals.
Beyond the seals there’s a very cold room with fake ice hanging from the ceiling and small tanks of various arctic creatures.
The room at the end of the displays has an open penguin habitat for photos not through glass, touch tanks with rays and sharks, and a few small aquariums. Of course as with pretty much all attractions everywhere, the exit runs by a gift shop. Well actually most run through the gift shop without the optional bypass.