May 30, 2018

Osaka Trip | Our Honest Opinion of Nifrel Zoo, Kaiyukan Aquarium, USJ and Harukas 300

Hi guys!
Hope you're all doing great!

We just got home from our trip to Japan—Osaka to be specific, and we visited some new places that you might be interested in if you're looking for experiences other than culinary and shopping. The first two highlights would be our joyous visits to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) and Harukas 300 Observatory.

And the next two places we will discuss in depth are Nifrel Zoo and Kaiyukan Aquarium, where things would get a bit, well, maybe A LOT darker, despite all the fun and beautiful sides of it. If you're not up for a disturbing topic of animals in captivity, then we suggest that you skip reading our review about these places.

Universal Studios Japan

First stop! Universal Studios Japan is a fun, family-friendly theme park where you can enjoy thrilling rides like The Flying Dinosaur (highly recommended), immerse yourself in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, unleash your inner sailor scout at the Sailor Moon anime attraction, get entertained by the 4D shows, stage shows, and even street shows — all that while taking beautiful pictures around the park!

Stunning castle at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter area.

Finally tried the famous Butter Beer!

It tasted like Root beer in case you're wondering...

Just two muggles trying to study and practice magic. This is one of the attractions at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter area: Wand Magic. So, when you cast the spells while waving your wand in a certain way, it can perform magic from water fountains to light up lanterns! It was pretty fun! :D
Looking for my owl~

Moving on to Universal Wonderland area:
This area is the cutest of all, so you might want to spend some time here to take instagrammable pictures! ♥(ˆ⌣ˆԅ)
You can also meet up with the whole gang of Sesame Street and watch their rhythmic performance here.

Next: Sailor Moon area!
 The main attraction at this area is a 4D show where they play a Sailor Moon short movie. We hope they will add English subtitles when we go back though. We are very curious to know what happened to Mamoru!
Many of you asked us about these Sailor Moon bags when we posted it on our Instagram, so they are actually POPCORN BAGS! Correction, they are the CUTEST popcorn bags! You can buy them (along with the popcorn) at this stall in front of the cinema.

*Moon prism power, make up!*

There's also a Sailor Moon shop adjoining the cinema where you can buy a lot of merchandises like sailor wands (not only Sailor Moon's), hair accessories, makeup, clothes, etc.

Who wants some Sailor Moon themed desserts? (♥ω♥ ) ~♪

If you're tired of the attractions, you can simply stroll through the park and enjoy the beautiful scenery, decorations, and unique costumes!

554-0031 Osaka Prefecture, Konohana-ku, Sakurajima 2 Chome-1-33, Japan
Tel: +81 570-200-606
Regular Operating Hours: Tue-Fri 9:30am-7pm, Sat-Mon 9:30am-8pm
Suggested duration: more than 5 hours

¥7,900 for adults aged 12 and over
¥5,400 for children aged 4-11
¥7,100 for seniors aged 65 and over

You can buy the Express Pass to skip the horrendous lines at:

Harukas 300 Observatory

Our next day in Osaka, first thing in the morning we went to Harukas 300 Observatory, which happens to be THE TALLEST BUILDING IN JAPAN!! 
Feelin like sexay astronauts in this suit, with this pose :b

Standing 300 meters above the ground, the observatory building has this new attraction, Edge The Harukas. What is it, exactly? So first, we went up to the 60th floor (the highest floor that is) with this elevator, which was quite a view itself:

After that, we jumped to those rocking red suits, and climbed up the ⚡️ stairs, heading toward the edge of the building. The guides -the ones in the blue suits- explained to us about the building and the attraction, while making sure that all the safety procedures are done (making sure our harnesses are attached to the safety rail, etc.).

After that, she asked us to look at the beautiful city view, lean forward and scream "HARUKAS!!". Not thrilling enough, she then asked us bend over the edge of the skyscraper, and raise our hands. Well, that's when we started to get the kick. But not only that, she got us to do THIS:

What a way to 'feel' the amazing height! Seriously, even with the harness, the thrill was REAL!! And of course, there’s a bonus of enjoying the gorgeous Osaka city view from high up in the sky! 😻 Very recommended when you visit Osaka, especially if you're also a thrill seeker like us lol. But even if you do not fancy doing this kind of thing, you can also opt to go to this other side of the building:

..which is basically a wide rooftop space where you can enjoy the view and take giggly photos like this. 

The cute souvenir photo that you can take home! That zen blue cloudy bear is named Abenobea, by the way, and he is the cute icon of Harukas 300.

545-0052 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Abeno Ward, Abenosuji, 1 Chome−1−43, Japan

Tel: +81 6-6621-0300
Regular Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday 9am-10pm

KKday sells a bundling of Abeno Harukas Observatory Tickets with Universal Studios Japan VIP Wristband for IDR 386,126. You can buy it here: 

Nifrel | The Living Museum

Now this one- how to say this? Both of us love animals, we're a fan of them. We grew up with a lot of pets: fishes, turtles, chickens, dogs, rabbits, and now cats. When we were smaller and our parents didn't let us keep a pet yet, we'd even beg them to take us to pet shops, where we can at least get up-close and personal with the animals, with a chance to even pet them if we're lucky. Our infatuation with animals doesn't diminish as we get older, it just grows. So naturally, whenever we travel and there is this zoo or that aquarium, we'd try our best to visit them!

But, with increasing amount of informations we get about animals in captivity, our joyous little visits to these places feel more and more like a guilty pleasure, instead of being a pure pleasure like it once was. Simply put, we are absolutely happy to meet these animals, but are they happy to meet us humans?
And that was the exact dilemmatic feeling we went through during our visit to Nifrel, an "interactive aquazoo which houses 2,000 animals of 150 kinds, and is artistically designed to highlight the individuality of each creature, using a combination of construction, lighting, music and screen images." (quoted from

Seriously though, this place is EXTREMELY visually aesthetic. There are sections which are artistically designed based on our senses, like this 'Colors' and 'Shapes' sections, which shows us water creatures based on, well, their unique colors and shapes:
'Colors' - NIFREL

'Shapes' - NIFREL

There's also this 'Wonder Moments' room, which is "an interactive art experience delivered to you via a round light installation, which has been created by Artist Takahiro Matsuo. You will be taken to a mysterious world which could give you a sense of viewing the earth and other stars and planets from space. The spherical body portrays various scenes from nature, including water sculptures, flowers and trees, as well as the universe, with a shower of light being poured over you"
Really wish we had more time to spend in this magical installation (that day's schedule was pretty packed), but for now, let us just immerse ourselves in this Youtube video of it.

We were totally fascinated by the otherworldly charm of this place UNTIL we reached the 'Waterside' section, which showcases MUCH bigger animals such as a pig-nosed turtle, a white tiger, a pygmy hippopotamus, and a saltwater crocodile, which are definitely more intelligent and has more self-awareness than the fishes or the other small creatures in the 'Colors' or 'Shapes' section.

First of all, each of them are alone, meaning that they don't even have one friend of the same species like the other creatures in Nifrel, these four guys are just- well, alone. Second of all, each of these animals are given the largest spaces here in Nifrel (except for the turtle, whose tank is the same size with the other smaller critters in the 'Waterside' area), but even so, these spaces are just too small for these big guys. Take the pig-nosed turtle for example. Here, his tank is just about 1 meter deep, while in nature, this cutie usually inhabits rivers up to seven metres deep

Fly River Turtle [carettochelys insculpta] a.k.a. Pig-nosed Turtle in Nifrel

Now the saltwater crocodile. Averagely 5-7 meters long in the nature, they are known as excellent swimmers and have often been spotted far out at sea. Here in Nifrel, the enclosure isn't even big enough as human swimming pool, and yet it's as empty as human swimming pool, unlike their natural habitat at all.

Saltwater Crocodile [crocodylus porosus] in Nifrel

The white tiger enclosure has too many sharp corners here and there, and there's simply not enough room for him to run around. We were actually a bit confused as to why there's a white tiger in the 'Waterside' section, and after a simple (google) research, we found this short article describing that it's been known that "the entire captive white tiger population originated from one single white tiger and has been inbred ever since. In order to retain this recessive gene, zoos and breeders must continually inbreed father to daughter and father to granddaughter and so on. This inbreeding has caused many genetic problems. For years, breeders and exhibitors have been using the excuse that white tigers are an endangered species so they need to keep breeding them. This is completely false. Breeders of white tigers do not contribute to any species survival plan; they are breeding for money." T_T
White Tiger [panthera tigris] a.k.a. White Bengal Tiger in Nifrel

And finally, there's the 'Behaviour' section, where we can interact super duper closely with the animals there. We got so excited when we entered the room because there were these victoria crowned pigeons and ring-tailed lemurs which casually ran around us! There are also many other cute animals and most of them are uncaged except for the otters!!

BUT. Again, we were concerned with some of the penguins, whose behavior seems a bit funny, as shown in the video here:
In the video, there were only one penguin, but when we were there, there were about four to five penguins who kept swimming hard like that, banging their beaks against the glass wall, as if they're trying to get out of there. We asked three staffs there, who all answered similarly. They said, "Oh, they (the penguins) love to dive deep, but since their body is too light, they use their beak against the wall to help them reach deeper into the water".

Well, let's hope it's true, then.

Our conclusion: Nifrel is truly a 'living museum', a highly artistic one filled with living animals as part of its exhibition, as its commercial here probably intended us to perceive it so:

NIFREL | The Living Museum
565-0826 Osaka Prefecture, Suita-shi, Senribanpakukōen2−1EXPOCITY, Japan
Tel: +81 570-022-060
Regular Operating Hours: Mon-Sun, 10AM-8PM

¥1,900 for adults aged 16 and over
¥1,000 for Elementary / junior high school students
¥600 for Preschoolers (aged 3 or older)

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Our last visit of the day was to this magical place filled with marine life. Just like what we said up there, it's always a pleasure for us to meet animals up close.
Unlike Nifrel, the tanks here are much, MUCH bigger, that even though it was completed in 1990, today in 2018, it's still number 6 out of 10 largest aquariums in the world.

The size of the massive main tank really impressed us. We literally had to spiral our way down from the 8th floor entryway to get to the bottom of this 9 x 34 meters tank. Looking around, it made us feel like we're going underwater with these ocean friends!
There are a wide variety of marine creatures and all of them seemed well cared for, but still.. *sigh* just like what we said about Nifrel, now every time we see some bigger, more intelligent animals in captivity such as (and especially) the dolphins and whale shark, we can't help but feel sad for them. 😭

If you've watched the movie Blackfish, which we really recommend you to do so if you haven't already, you'd totally understand what we're talking about. It's always a fascinating and exciting experience for us to see and observe these beauties up close, but deep down we also know that they would live a happier, healthier and longer life in their own home, the sea. GUILTY PLEASURE MIXED FEELINGS TO THE MAX!!!

Whale Shark [rhincodon typus] in Kaiyukan

Pacific White-sided Dolphin (lagenorhynchus obliquidens) in Kaiyukan

King Penguin (aptenodytes patagonicus) in Kaiyukan
These guys remind me of Mumble, if you remember that awkward penguin in the movie Happy Feet, who accidentally got captured and put in a zoo? 😞

Japanese Spider Crabs (Macrocheira Kaempferi) and their friends from Japan's sea bottom in Kaiyukan's 'Japan Deep' exhibition

On the other hand, we do realize that not all of us can travel to Antarctica, or dive the depths of the Pacific Ocean, and without places like zoos and aquariums like this, we probably would never get the chance to see these animals in person. And watching kids’ faces light up like this is a joy in itself:
All around the place, there are many parents pointing at the various creatures, telling their kids about them, and the kids would press their cheeks against the glass, looking astonished and seemingly very eager to learn about these fascinating friends from the sea. Honestly, we feel like these kids too! But then again, it is a few hours of entertainment for us, but a lifetime of captivity for these animals. 😞😭

Meanwhile, let's take a look at this interesting debate that we found on Twitter, which somehow manages to highlight our ambivalent emotions about zoos and aquariums:

Soaking in the serene, relaxing ambience at the bottom of the tank.

The jellyfish exhibition was one of our most favorite parts in this aquarium. The beauty of their movements and transparency created this sense of peaceful elation inside us. And again, it's because seeing jellyfishes in a tank like this (and many other small creatures that aren't as intelligent nor self-aware as the larger ones) don't make us feel morally depressed.

Ethical issues aside, we have to admit that Kaiyukan is a great and interesting place to learn about marine life, because not only we can observe these beautiful living creatures in person, they also put these informative and interesting texts about each creatures, the environment they live in, a bit of facts and history behind this and that, and more.

552-0022 Osaka Prefecture, Minato-ku, Kaigandōri 1 Chome-1-10, Japan
Tel: +81 6-6576-5501
Regular Operating Hours: Mon-Sun, 10am-8pm

¥2,300 for adults aged 16 and over
¥2,000 for seniors aged 60 and over
¥1,200 for children aged 7-15
¥600 for children aged 4-6
FREE for children under 3 years old

You can buy your ticket(s) here:

Gonna end this long, emotional post with this one happy picture of us in USJ to lighten up the mood.
Thank you so much for reading and see you guys on our next post!

Elle & Jess