Fury at Kyoto Aquarium plan

By Michael Lambe

The construction of a mammoth aquarium in a much-loved public park in Kyoto is stirring up discord in the ancient “city of peace and tranquility.”

Umekoji Park was established 15 years ago in the heart of Japan’s old imperial capital for the benefit of local citizens. A stone’s throw from Kyoto Station, it includes woods, meadowland, a stream and a steam locomotive museum. On any given day, you will find joggers, dog walkers, families, sports clubs and pensioners enjoying the park. Some people come for a chat with their neighbors, others simply want to take in some fresh air and sun.

News that the city administration had given the go-ahead to build an aquarium here has been greeted with incredulity. How could they take away public land to build something so inappropriate? Yet despite strong public opposition, the plans have gone ahead. Construction of the aquarium began in July, and Orix, the corporation behind the scheme, is planning to open its doors in 2012.

The story is not over yet, though. An anti-aquarium network of local, environmental groups continues to meet, demonstrate and fight the city in the courts. And now concerned foreign residents have also decided to lend their support to the cause. Over the past few weeks, I have met with several other foreign residents in order to discuss the planned Kyoto Aquarium. We all agree that this controversial scheme has not received nearly enough attention in the foreign press. We believe strongly that the decision to give the aquarium the go-ahead was misguided and out of keeping with this city’s character.

Our arguments against the aquarium are as follows:

• The loss of public green space: City parks are essential for people's physical and mental well-being and Umekoji Park is very popular with the local public for sports and recreation. It is an oasis of natural beauty and also a precious resource; it cleans the air and helps to regulate the city’s temperature. Any loss of parkland here is a great loss to Kyoto.

• It is not suitable for Kyoto's local economy: A world-class aquarium, The Kaiyukan, exists only an hour away, in Osaka, and draws nearly 2.5 million visitors a year. Kyoto officials have claimed that the aquarium will bring in more tourists and revitalize the local economy but Kyoto is an inland city with no maritime associations. It makes more sense to support those businesses that take advantage of Kyoto’s existing assets: restoring "machiya," improving existing museums and educating people about Japan’s traditional arts.

• The plan is environmentally unsound and sends children the wrong message: The aquarium will release 5,400 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. A variety of marine wildlife will be captured and confined in a highly artificial environment. Dolphins will be kept for entertainment purposes in constricting conditions. The stress these creatures endure will undoubtedly shorten their life spans significantly.

• The decision was made behind closed doors between the city administration and private business: This is public land but public opinion has been ignored.

For these reasons, we stand with local residents in opposing the Kyoto Aquarium project. It is bad for the local environment, bad for Kyoto’s children, bad for the city’s public image and is highly unlikely to succeed in Kyoto’s economy. We demand that local government listen to public opinion and that construction be halted immediately. If you agree with us, then please sign our petition to “Stop the Kyoto Aquarium!” and let both Orix Corporation and Kyoto Mayor Kadokawa know that not only local, but world opinion is opposed to this aquarium.   The English petition can be found at and the Japanese petition at

Michael Lambe is chief writer and editor at

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This is ridiculous - another project that is completely out of place in Kyoto. The new train station was bad enough but this would take the cake.

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the The Kaiyukan was so incredibly disappointing it wasn't even funny. Both Tennessee and the New Orleans Aquarium were 10000 times better than the Osaka Aquarium. I remember hearing about the Osaka one before I moved to Japan and couldn't wait to visit. I finished the place in about 10 minutes and was wandering if I some how didn't see 90% of the building. nope I saw the entire thing.

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Everyone who goes to Kyoto must have been thinking, "You know, this place is missing something but I can't quite place it..."

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This is the same kind of action that was taken up against the construction of the monolithic Kyoto Station building, and while I greatly admire these efforts to stop what is a completely inappropriate use of public lands and funds, they will likely be as unsuccessful... As a former Kyoto resident, however, I will sign the petition...

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Aquariums in Japan stink. They are loud and noisy. The entertainers spend more time talking and clapping their hands then letting the animals perform. They care more about their skimpy little outfits than the animals.

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Yet another awful, trashy project being built in Kyoto? Will wonders never cease. City authorities once again put their feet firmly on the accelerator to hasten the cities already well-advanced slide into oblivion.

I agree 100% with the writer and signed the petition, not that I expect it to make any difference, but still....the stupidity of projects like this are such that anything opposed to them deserves my support.

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"The loss of public green space" is a sufficient reason.

This screams "corruption" so loud I am surprised the plan is not for a pachinko.

Furies: everyone's problem

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Of course the decision was made behind closed doors! Politicians don't like to be seen taking money from contruction companies for pork projects!

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oasis of natural beauty

established 15 years ago

It's hard to imagine a bit of teenaged landscaping being an oasis of natural beauty. Was this an existing "garden" that became public 15 years ago, or was it all just tamped and slapped in 1995?

Regardless, there is plenty of need for park space and ZERO need for an aquarium.


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Down with ORIX and corrupt government officials! People of Kyoto, take back your precious city!!

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I hate this crap... fat cats giving out fat contracts to companies for favors and in the end it wastes my tax money and flies in the face of everyone else.... people should be going jail for stuff like this.

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I read that this is an attempt to lure Chinese tourists, whom surveys have revealed to be uninterested in temples.

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Just the fact that they plan to kidnap and imprison dolphins is enough to STOP THIS AQUARIUM. Showing they have learned nothing from Taiji and the public outcry against this inhumane and cruel practice. Dolphins commit suicide from being trapped in concrete swimming bunkers and not being out swimming in the sea. How cruel!

If this aquarium was full of small and beautiful tropical fishies swimming happily in aquariums, that would be nice (I think) but this sounds like another heartbreaking, corrupt monster.

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I don't see why Kyoto needs an aquarium when it would take away from its biggest assets. But Kyoto sure does need a big train station no matter how ugly. Apples and oranges here.

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I know Japan is not a small beach town in California. Where even to put up a stop sign the city needs to inform the public and hear their opinions pros & cons before a shovel hits the dirt. Does anyone know, is it legal here not to hold any public hearing on projects like this? Or maybe the residents ignored any public notice/ hearings until this project started?

@ Ranger Miffy Just the fact that they plan to kidnap and imprison dolphins is enough to STOP THIS AQUARIUM. and then this If this aquarium was full of small and beautiful tropical fishies swimming happily in aquariums, that would be nice (I think)

Do I need to check with you on what animals or acceptable for captivity?

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Wow, this is the dumbest idea ever. Just what Kyoto, the ancient capitol of Japan, famous for its temples and culture needs: an aquarium! Logic seems to have officially died in Japan.

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Something Mighty "Fishy" going on around and it Ain't Sushi!One of THE Most Important Historical Sites in Japan(And Beautiful)!! Boycott DEM BUMS!!!

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Bad Idea - very outdated on top of it all. The current trend is to CLOSE all aquariums in the rest of the world ..... DUH ??

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