Suma Aqualife Park

Hello, readers! On a beautiful August day not too long ago I took the ten-minute train ride from my house to Suma, a breezy old-town area of western Kobe.

Suma is the home of Suma Aqualife Park, the aquarium to visit in the Hanshin area. (In northern Hyogo, go to Kinosaki Marine World.)

They call this aquarium a “park” for a reason. It has a total of eight different buildings and four outdoor exhibits to wander through, so you have to decide what you really want to see! The big attractions for most visitors are the dolphin show and the sea otter feeding.

The dolphin show is just as impressive as you would expect. The dolphins do synchronized jumps, wave their fins and tails, jump over obstacles, twirl hula hoops with their noses, etc. It always blows my mind how smart these guys are. They really seem to love the attention, too.

The sea otter feeding takes place inside the otter house. The way they play is too adorable for words, and they’re really excited about getting their lunch! I also learned on this visit that sea otters are apparently very picky about their food and each have their own eating habits. The aquarium staff have learned these habits and remove the heads or organs of fish specifically for particular otters. That sounds like special treatment to me.

Just lazing around…

Must get food!

After watching the otter feeding, our next destination was the penguin house. It’s hard to explain why penguins are so funny, but they are. There were a whole bunch of them waddling around, sunning themselves, swimming, or lining up in a row for seemingly no reason.

There’s also a selection of unusual marine fauna – more than 600 species.

Tropical fish…

Okay, these guys are terrifying.

This gigantic fish is part of a huge tube you can walk into for a fully immersive aquarium experience. Apparently it was the first one in Japan of its kind.

I love jellyfish! I think they’re beautiful.

Best times to visit the aquariums are weekdays or mornings, before the crowds hit. It is very popular with families and couples.


After my day at the aquarium, I decided to try out one of the local delicacies. Akashi-yaki (named for Akashi city just west of Kobe) is a variation on takoyaki, the famous Kansai-area treat. In comparison with takoyaki, Akashi-yaki is softer and more eggy. It is traditionally dipped in a thin broth rather than covered with sauce.

Not five minutes’ walk from the aquarium is Iroha, a locally-famous Akashi-yaki restaurant that has even appeared on TV!

Just a short walk north of the aquarium toward the train station, you’ll see the following octopusy sign:

Follow it right to the bright yellow exterior of the restaurant. Inside, you’ll find a narrow bar counter manned by an elderly gentleman who’s busy frying Akashi-yaki as fast as he can manage. When we visited, the counter was filled with customers, and more customers sat on chairs waiting for their takeout orders. The clientele seemed to be a mix of neighborhood residents and aquarium visitors.

There’s only one thing on the menu: Akashi-yaki, of course! Iroha’s Akashi-yaki is special: it’s best eaten with a sprinkling of salt rather than the typical sauce. A light dusting of salt made mine delicious. Only their heat prevented me from consuming them all in about five minutes.

An order of Akashi-yaki is a grand total of 500 yen, and for 700 yen you can get a side dish of bara-zushi, a mixed rice dish, to go with it.

Definitely recommended when you’re in the area! It’s a slice of old-town Kansai neighborhood culture.

Suma Aqualife Park
Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM. (Closed on Wednesdays in December, January, and February.)
Address: 1-3-5 Wakamiyacho, Suma-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo 654-0049
Telephone: 078-731-7301
Fax: 078-733-6333
E-mail: (Japanese)
Website: (Japanese)

Iroha Akashi-yaki Restaurant
Hours: 10 AM – 7 PM.
Address: 3-1-17 Kinugakecho, Suma-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo 654-0048
Telephone: 078-731-5602
Website: (Japanese)

How To Get There

Suma Aqualife Park
JR Line: From Sannomiya, take the train west for 15 minutes to Suma Kaihin Koen Station, and walk 5 minutes south.
Hanshin Line: From Sannomiya, take the train west for 20 minutes to Tsukimiyama Station, and walk 10 minutes south.
Iroha Akashi-yaki Restaurant
From the aquarium, walk north toward the JR Station and turn right at the octopus sign pictured above.

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