Chances are you’ve never heard of the Oceanic Culture Museum. This is undoubtably because it sits in the shadow cast by two other tourist attractions; the Churaumi Aquarium and Tropical Dream Center.
The Oceanic Culture Museum is located at the Ocean Expo Park closest to parking area P3 and P5. If you don’t know what you’re looking for you may just miss the entrance even though it’s right under your nose. What’s important to remember is that when you walk down the main staircase towards the outdoor water fountain it will be on your left. While we’re talking business it’s important to note that there is an admission fee for this museum which was less than ¥200 for adults and only ¥50 for children. There is also a strict NO PHOTOGRAPHS unless you’re in the designated areas policy which we will talk a little bit about later.
The focus of the museum is oceanic culture (no surprise there hah?) in the Pacific region. Throughout the rather large sized museum you can explore methods of fishing, cooking, making boats, tattooing, dancing and much much more. There are videos playing and multiple displays that look like you should be able to reach out and touch them to experience textures and feelings of materials. . . . . . but wait there is a do not touch sign there. Past the displays you will find huge boats which are on display. These are the boats that I feature in my video and the photos here mainly because they are the only pieces of the museum that you are permitted to photograph, but we will talk about that a little bit later.
Moving towards the back side of the museum building you will come upon information related to Okinawa’s oceanic culture. This is the part of the museum that I have to admit was a bit disappointing. Some of the items on display were the same items you can see and purchase at a local fishing shops. Of course there were a few traditional items but in my personal opinion there were a few things left out like Nago’s history of whaling which would have added a nice element to the museum as it seems to be unique compared to the other locations featured in the museum. The route then leads to an open room with a very different feel. There is a great place to take a photo of you and your friends and also features information about Expo 75. This includes some great pictures and models from the expo.
The museum’s second floor features information on how boats are made with both Japanese and English descriptions. Although much less interesting than the rest of the museum there were some great areas of interest to include boat models from all around the Pacific in a display case.
Walking through the museum was an opportunity to experience some beautiful displays and learn the oceanic culture of the Pacific region. However, I had a hard time getting past the very unwelcome and policed feeling we were getting from the staff members. This might seem like a really strange thing to say so let me elaborate a bit. We started our journey off as bloggers, photographers and videographers usually do. . . . by inquiring about what limitations we would have while inside the facility. Most of the time when taking this extra, yet necessary, step you are likely to be met with enthusiasm. This was not the case today. It was explained to us where we could and could not take photographs. We were also given maps in which these locations were clearly indicated. At this point everything that we had experienced was pretty much what you would expect. You’re not always going to be granted special access to every location (specifically museums) and that’s ok. In fact the limitations wasn’t really the problem; it was what happened next.
Once we got into the museum and took a moment to regroup (which included taking off our jackets because it was horribly cold outside and a sauna inside). Then we all went our separate ways based on what we wanted to experience. We read a little of this, photographed a little of that. . . . then I start to feel like I am being followed and/or watched. I brushed it off must be my imagination. Nope! Not my imagination. . . . . I was photographing a boat and I see two members of my group walk one direction and in a hurried walk the security guard follows close behind. Shortly after I move to another part of the museum and out of an area behind a large display another staff member hurries to adjust himself in order to keep an eye on my husband and I. Now. . . . maybe it’s the Bostonian in me but I do not like being followed and I do not like being treated like a criminal, which is how I felt. The way that the staff conducted themselves around us (and I am only speaking for myself and my husband here not the rest of the group because I do not know how they felt) put such a sour taste in my mouth that I feel as though I didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy some of the displays.
Despite that experience (which I credit simply to the fact that it was 5 of us all wielding cameras although still feel that it was an unacceptable way to treat paying customers) the museum is a wonderful one and a great place to visit on a rainy cold day (like today) or in an effort to enjoy the entirety of the Ocean Expo Park. I could certainly go again. . . . . although this time I might leave the camera in the car.