Japan zoos full of family fun!

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Ueno Zoo

When you want to go to a zoo in the Tokyo area, your best option is Ueno Zoo. Located in Ueno Park quite close to the station, it is the oldest zoo in Japan. It is definitely a must visit if your passion is animals, or if you at least like to look at them.

Once you enter through the main gate after purchasing your tickets from the vending machine, immediately to the right is the zoo’s main attraction, the Panda enclosure. If you think that placing the most popular animal right beside the entrance is a bit unusual as it may provide a letdown for the rest of the zoo, it actually allows the visitor to see them twice, once when entering and once when leaving. Of course this area is always filled with throngs of zoo goers, so pick your time to see them to get a clear view through the slightly dirty glass around the enclosure.

This part of the zoo is actually the upper-- or East Garden--part of the zoo that also houses a group of elephants that even put on a show at various times during the day (usually around their feeding time). Also in this part of the zoo are many species of birds (Owls, Eagles, etc.) in cages  that mimic their natural habitat, albeit in a scaled down form. Past the birds you find the entertaining Gorilla Woods that house a number of Gorillas including recent baby Gorillas. As you keep going along the path towards the first of the rest areas, you also pass by the Tiger and Lion habitats. On the day I visited, none of these animals were particularly active, so viewing them was a bit difficult as they like to lay down in areas that were in the shade and hard to see from some angles. Continuing past the rest area with its numerous tables, you can see more Japanese birds and the Bat House. This rest area has a couple of short-order restaurants serving typical Japanese fast food. After this is one of my favourite areas, the Polar Bear area. I just happened to pass by right at feeding time and the staff made it like a show and got the Polar Bear to really work for its food. Beside this is a tank for Seals and Sea Lions, however with the exception of a couple of them, they mostly just laid on the rocks sleeping. On the other side of the Polar Bear habitat was Bear Hill that had a collection of different Bears in different sections. The next area is another rest area that has more upscale food and a restroom that you are able to change your baby in. Also in this area is the Monkey Mountain containing a large group of Japanese Macaques. Also here is the Monorail.

The Monorail will take passengers down to the other part of the zoo, or the West Garden. You are free to walk there via Aesop’s Bridge, but taking a monorail for 1 minute is much more fun.

Down in this part of the park, you are immediately confronted with the penguins. To the left is a large pond that is also home to a few animals including water fowl and Lemurs. At the end of the pond is the reptile house that is so humid it is hard to stay long. However, the Galapagos Tortoise is well worth the walk. There is another entrance here as well. Continuing past this area are the real stars of the zoo, the large mammals. First there is the Okapi, followed by the Giraffes, the Rhinos, and the Hippos. The Hippos were a bit difficult as they continuously swam in the water which was quite dirty, so it was hard to get a good view of them, let alone a picture. Here is also another rest area with tables and another short-order restaurant.

There are also a few souvenir stores that were mostly selling Panda-related items but these seemed to be populated mostly by young children. One interesting item that is worth looking into is the Ubiquitous Communicator that is available for free for guests to carry around the zoo and get more information about any of the animals just by tapping the Communicator on a sensor located near the animal areas.

It is easy to spend a long time here so pack a lunch. It is definitely worth the time to visit and you will probably want to return. I know I do.

Ueno Zoo is easy to get to from anywhere in Tokyo. Located in Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo, the zoo is 5-10 minites’ walk from JR Ueno Station, Subway Ueno Stations (Ginza-line or Hibiya-line), Keisei Ueno Station, or Subway Nezu Station (Chiyoda-line).
Address: Ueno Zoo, 9-83, Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-8711, Japan
Phone: 03-3828-5171

– Christopher Harley

Tama Zoo

No matter how old I feel, I’ll always be a little kid inside the confines of a great zoo, and Tama Zoo is a great one indeed. Animals have always seemed to have it all figured out and the enclosures at the Tama facility respect that, offering the space and comfort of a natural habitat. What I know for sure is this, the real hosts of the Tama Zoo are comfortable being themselves, where tigers run, rhinos wade within a few feet of us and orangutans swing dramatically above the enthused cries of the crowd. On a recent trip to the Tama Zoo, I expected the norm but was given much, much more.

In the savannah style enclosure of the African Habitat, giraffes, zebras, antelope, white pelicans and ostriches cohabit the expanse, giving you the feeling you’re a bit closer to being in the wild than it may seem. Chimpanzees fish for termites with sticks and swing through the large outdoor structure as they would in their natural habitat.

In the Asiatic Garden, orangutans swing directly above the crowd and tigers watch guests while pacing the hillside they occupy, ready to challenge each other for the largest share of meat with roars and paw swipes. Golden eagles perch in the trees around a deep-seated waterfall and rhinoceros wade within feet of guests.

You can find wombats, laughing kookaburras and more under the star set ceiling of the Koala House, an indoor excursion lit to resemble the calming dim of a planetarium. Outside are red kangaroos, emus, a food vendor and a playground for kids.

In the Insectarium, fireflies, hummingbirds, flower mantises, stag and tiger beetles swarm, allowing an up close inspection of insects at work.

The 129 acre park blends animal habitats right into Hino City’s natural landscape, with plenty of space to give the larger animals room to be themselves. An observation deck provides a view over the Elephant and Lion Garden enclosures and if you forgot to pack a lunch, the central food stand offers meals for reasonable prices.

Entrance to the park is 600 yen per adult (children 12 and younger are free), and I was still excited after six hours, a day well “spent” in my book. Lunch was surely reasonable, with a variety of items asking no more than the larger of coins in your pocket. For an additional 350 yen one can hop on a bus running rounds with a pride of lions, plenty of opportunity for fellow photo-buffs to come face to face with the king.

All in all, I’ll be going back. The wide, winding paths and slow drift into each exhibit relaxed me into thinking I’d see it all in one day. I kept my map tucked in my back pocket and let it happen upon me by chance, choosing left or right at each intersection as it came. In stark contrast with the easygoing pace of a park underestimated was the variety of genus tucked naturally into each hill and furrow. Red Pandas ran next to raccoon dogs and animals I didn’t even recognize. Truly a treat for the tourist and local alike.

Tama zoo is located in Hino City, suburbs of Tokyo.
A. From Keio Line’s Shinjuku Station, take the express train, change trains at Takahata-Fudo station, and get off at Tama Dobutsu Koen Station (about an hour’s ride).
B. From Tachikawa Station, take the Tama Monorail, and get off at Tama Dobutsu Koen Station. (about 20 minutes’ ride).
Address: Tama Zoo, 7-1-1, Hodokubo, Hino-shi, Tokyo 191-0042, Japan
Phone: 042-591-1611

– Brandon Heal

Maruyama Zoo

Summer has begun in Sapporo and that means “al fresco” everything. While the city parks of Odori, the botanical gardens and the former Governor’s residence do offer a respite from the hectic pace of the city, they don’t offer an absolute escape.

Maruyama Park in the western part of the city differentiates itself by its sheer size and truly enables those who visit to immerse themselves in the lush, green forested hillside. The park also happens to contain a number of family-friendly playgrounds, open fields for sports, an athletic park and the Maruyama Zoo.

The park and its inclusive sites of interest can easily be reached by hopping aboard Sapporo’s simple and efficient subway system. To reach the zoo, you must stop on the Tozai Line at the appropriately named Maruyama Koen (Park) Station. You can expect the walk to take 15-20 minutes from the exit to the entrance of the zoo. Thankfully, the bulk of the trek is through boardwalks that meander through thick forests and mountain streams.

The zoo itself is reasonably priced at ¥600 for adults and free for those aged 16 and under. In addition to family friendly pricing, the zoo has a children’s petting zoo, a large playground near the main entrance and of course this being a zoo in Japan, it means a convenience store is located inside the grounds (7-11).

You can expect to spend at 60-90 minutes on your visit. There are a number of exhibits that house animals indigenous to Hokkaido such as bears, wolves, and white-tailed eagles. And there are also species from other global regions such as tigers, giraffes and primates. The current state of the zoo is a mix of older and some recently completed structures with each offering exterior and interior views of the animals they house.

The highlight of the Maruyama zoo is the bear exhibit and more specifically, the Polar Bear exhibit. When I arrived the crowds were relatively large given that there have been a couple of recent additions to the caniform fold (bear family).

For those with families or visitors that wish to spend the day at the park, the zoo is a good way to “book-end” your foray into the forest – at either the beginning or end. And if you happen to be in Sapporo during the winter, the zoo remains open affording those who stop by the chance to see the exhibits and the animals in a white, wintry scene.

Address: Sapporo Maruyama Zoo 3 - 1 064-0959, Chuo-ku, Sapporo Miya months hill
Phone: 011-621-1426

– RS Reynolds

Edogawa City Natural Zoo

A free zoo sounds too good to be true in Tokyo, but Edogawa City Natural Zoo is just that. Not only is it free admission, the animals in the zoo impressively range from the smallest petting zoo bunnies to peregrine falcons to seals to red pandas. The zoo boasts over 30 different species of animals with detailed descriptions about habitats and behavior, so adults and children alike can learn about the animals. A short 15 minute walk from Nishi-Kasai Station, Edogawa City Natural Zoo is a part of the greater Gyosen Park. The zoo is closed on Mondays.

Address: 3-2-1 Kitakasai | Gyosen Park, Edogawa 134-0081, Tokyo Prefecture
Phone: 03-3680-0777

– Karin Wu

Tennoji Zoo

Tennoji Zoo, located in Tennoji Park and near many tourist spots like Shinsekai and the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, houses about 1,000 animals.

The zoo focuses on animals from the savannah, but creatures from other parts of the world can be found in the wilds of this man-made habitat, too.

The zoo is great for people of all ages, but children in particular will be delighted with the array of critters here. From hyperactive hyenas to listless lions and carefree chimpanzees, Tennoji Zoo is a fun place to explore whilst exploring other parts of Tennoji as well.

5 min. walk from Dobutsuen-mae station Exit No.1 of either Midosuji or Sakaisuji subway lines.
Address: 1-108, Chausuyama-cho, Tennoji-ku, OsakaCity, OSAKA Prefecture 543-0063
Phone: 06-6771-8401

– Michelle Montano

Omoriyama Zoo Akita

The Japanese are obviously fond of animals through the vast numbers of zoos scattered across the country, from Okinawa to Sapporo. Thus, what makes Omoriyama stand out from the rest is the huge expanse of space that the zoo occupies. It is like you´re walking in a park alongside the elegant flamingos and regal giraffes standing tall among the animal kingdom. What´s more, the animals themselves come from all parts of the world, from South America to Asia. What I especially  like about the zoo is the amusement area, where there is a tower situated in the middle that educates kids and visitors alike about the characteristics of all the animals in the zoo.

Furthermore, there is a slide at the top of the tower to ensure an exhilarating ride down and it also saves you the effort of walking all the way down.To reach Omoriyama zoo, it is a 35 minute drive from Route Inn Hotel Grantia Akita, 30 minutes from JR Akita Station or alternatively, you can take the Araya Line bus from the bus terminal outside of JR Akita Station which will bring you to the zoo in around 38 minutes.

Address: 154 Hamada-aza- katabata, AkitaCity, Akita Prefecture 010-1654
Phone: 018-828-5508

– Jeremy Yap



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