If like me you are struggling to shift those few extra pounds picked up over the winter, you may be looking at the coming summer months and wanting to get back into shape before you hit the beach. There are plenty of ways you can do this. You could head to one of the city’s excellent public swimming pools, you could join a gym, but if you are more of an outdoorsy type, maybe you would prefer to go for a run.
Here are a few ideas for places at which to stretch your legs and shift those extra pounds.
Attractive, close to Sakae and relatively small, the track that runs around Meijo Park is absolutely ideal for no fuss, straightforward jogging, particularly for shorter distances. The track that skirts the park is about 1km with distance markings meaning that as you go round you can track your progress, and being mostly in the shade, it is ideal for avoiding the summer heat. It also has some pretty good facilities, including a workout area with parallel bars, a pull-up bar and a bench for sit ups (all found in a small children’s play area at the north of the park), as well as lockers and showers. on the downside, the track gets really crowded on weekends, particularly in the mornings.
Tsuruma means “where water runs”, but that’s not all that runs in Tsuruma park. Like the aforementioned Meijo Park, this is very much ideal for urban joggers. As well as having charming gardens and the beautiful cherry blossom trees, there are excellent public transport connections, with both JR and subway lines serving it, giving you no excuse to not go! The path that skirts the park is 2km, which gives it a greater scope for running than Meijo, but if you find that a little bit daunting you can also run around the paths inside the park, finding a route that matches your needs. However, be careful of pedestrians with cell phones in hand as they may stop abruptly to catch Pokemon…
In the north of the city, Shonai Ryokuchi Park as one of the city’s largest parks it gives you a real opportunity to stretch your legs without feeling that you are just running in endless circles. There are two main routes around the park, one that is 1.8km and another that is 2.3km, but should you wish there are many paths that zig-zag around, that will take you past fountains and ponds, and through the BBQ areas. There is also an athletics track that is sometimes open to the public, should you wish to time yourself on shorter distances or sprints. Keep an eye out for cyclists who also have use of the tracks.
Also known at various points as the Toki River and Tamano River, the Shonai River (Shonaigawa) has many beautiful areas along which to run. In places it is lined by cherry blossoms, and in other areas you may see cormorants drying their feathers in the morning sun. Having come down from Gifu via Kasugai, the river skirts the north of the city before heading past Biwajima and out to the port. Find a stretch of river nearest you, and run along it as far as you can.
If you find the above parks a little busy and are looking for a place to run with a little bit more peace and quiet, you can do worse than following the Inchimanpo course that runs through Heiwa Koen (Peace Park). Along with the relative quiet, this run is a little more arduous as it takes you through some unsurfaced sections, so it’s not one for beginners. However, if you do like heading off road and picking your own path, it could be right up your street, if you’ll excuse the pun. If you enjoy this route, then you may also want to check out the forrest around the Higashiyama Zoo.
Okay, so this is not one for the faint of heart, we are dealing in real endurance stuff here. The Tokai Shizen Hodo (Tokai Nature Trail) is a long distance walking trail that connects Tokyo and Osaka. At around 1000km, it is unlikely that you can do it all in one sitting (and if you can, let’s get you signed up for the Olympics now), but it is well worth finding parts along which you can run. It follows through beautiful countryside, through gorgeous old towns, while still offering some challenging terrain and mountains. The trail passes through Seto and Kasugai, amongst others, so they may be good places to start, but make sure you know how to get back, unless you want to run all the way to Osaka!
By Mark Guthrie
In the past, the best TV programming option for expatriates living in Japan has been to contract with one of the cable providers which offer a dozen or so popular English channels. In recent years, with the growth of internet-based content providers and VPN service usage to access geographically blocked content, the number of options has grown extensively. Here is an introduction to some of the basics.
There are several large paid TV providers in Japan, however most have similar channel offerings and similar pricing of around JPY 5,000/month for their basic packages, with additional offerings of premium paid channels. The deciding factor between these providers is usually just which service area the housing falls under.
Sky PerfecTV! uses either a satellite (two types: BS/CS110° or their own type of satellite) or runs through NTT’s fiber-optic line. English customer support is relatively good.
Some English Channel Offerings
Fox, Fox Sports, Disney, Cartoon Network, Discovery, Animal Planet, History, National Geographic, CNN, BBC
A cable company which also offers internet and landline phone service, with discounted bundles for TV, internet, and telephone. English customer support is poor.
Some English Channel Offerings
Fox, Disney, Fox Sports, Disney, Cartoon Network, Discovery, Baby TV, History, National Geographic, Animal Planet, CNN, BBC, MTV
A cable company which also offers internet and landline phone service, with discounted bundles for TV, internet, and telephone. English customer support is poor.
Some English Channel Offerings
CNN, BBC, MTV, Fox Sports, Fox, Travel Channel, Cartoon Network, Disney, History, National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet
The list of options for TV content based on the internet is endless: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Sling TV, YouTube, Amazon Video, etc. While many of these are well-known, Sling TV deserves a short introduction.
A real-time, channel-based internet streaming based content provider owned by Dish Network. You can get their basic package for only $20/month, which includes channels such as BBC America, CNN, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, HGTV, History, TBS, Food Network, the Travel Channel, and others; and add on any additional programming (sports channels, HBO, and many others) as you need.
You will need a US VPN to use this service since it is geo-blocked.
While there has been a push to make content available universally, the availability of services is still somewhat lacking in Japan. To experience the full range of content available in your home-country for services such as Netflix or Hulu, or to access Sling TV or HBO Go at all, a VPN will need to be set up. There are limitless options available online which you can find through popular search engines at varying costs and quality.
In Japan, we can recommend the SonixNet VPN service offered by SonixNet (cost/application details), with US, Australia, UK, and France VPN offerings.
While internet-based content may be used directly through a computer or by connecting one to a TV, it may be preferable to use one of the following designated devices that connect to a TV or other display, hosts content apps, and has a remote controller.
They don’t actually come with any content, so you would need to make accounts directly with the content providers in order to stream on the devices. Please check in advance of purchase that the player supports the app for the content provider you are interested in using. You can purchase the devices abroad before moving to Japan, or after your arrival.
Some devices are available for purchase on Amazon Japan.
Available for purchase on Amazon Japan.
Available for purchase from Apple in Japan.
Japan has a national broadcasting service called NHK, and like the UK, this is funded through subscriptions which are mandatory for all resident families in possession of a television device. While there is a mandate, unlike the UK, there is no penalty in place for those who do not subscribe. They offer several channels which are viewable when a TV is connected to the cable outlets found in the walls of homes.
The offerings are for the most part only available in Japanese, so it is not an ideal resource for expatriates living in Japan. Please be aware that salespeople for NHK often go door-to-door visiting households which do not have a subscription for their service asking residents to sign up.
For more on NHK, check out The NHK Man and NHK Fee – FAQ
Details current as of April, 2017
In Japan, there is one main provider of ADSL and fiber optic internet infrastructure called NTT, which is subject to several anti-monopoly restrictions. While they control the physical components of the internet infrastructure, they may not provide actual internet service. As a result, internet use requires a contract with NTT to connect to their physical network, as well as a separate contract with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) which provides PPPoE login credentials and bandwidth to actually use the internet. While there are dozens of ISPs to choose from, we primarily recommend two ISPs which have excellent English customer service.
Regardless of which ISP you choose, the costs for NTT will remain the same. The exact monthly fee will be determined by the type of property you live in (house or apartment) and number of units in the building (in case of apartment), whether you pay the NTT installation fee in a lump-sum or installments, as well as whether the landlord has any special arrangement with NTT or not. Here is a brief overview of the estimated costs:
In addition to the NTT costs, please find costs of the recommended ISPs below.
SonixNet is Japan’s only hybrid ISP, partnered with not just one but two of Japan’s top tier network backbone giants. They provide the best English customer support available in Japan 10am to 7pm Monday to Saturday.
Asahi Net, Inc., listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, operates “Asahi Net” ISP, providing communication services that balance high quality lines, fast communication speed, strong customer support and low-cost.
There are also several cable companies which offer internet. Some of the larger options include:
These options, however, have very similar offerings and costs, meaning that choosing between them normally comes down to which service area your housing falls under. The speeds are somewhat slower than NTT (up to 1gbps through their fiber-optic lines), and usually max out around 320mbps, however this is more than sufficient for most users.
If you choose a service which will take time to setup after your arrival to Japan, you may wish to setup a temporary source of internet to use immediately from your move-in date. Sakura Mobile is a reputable company with an English website and English customer service which offers portable WiFi devices, often referred to as “pocket WiFi” in Japan. You may schedule with them to have a device delivered to your home in Japan on your move-in date, or to your hotel before your move-in date, and they will send a pre-paid return envelope with it allowing for easy returns. Details are below:
Assist Solutions also offers pocket WiFi for short term rentals up to 3 months and data SIMs for long term rentals of 3 months or longer. Their fees can be lower than Sakura Mobile for those who need service for more than a few days, and data plans are offered generously at high speed data up to 1GB/day and anything over that being restricted to 200kbps. No configuration is required for easy set up, and fast delivery is offered with multiple options, including same-day delivery or pick-up. Their English website and great English customer service make arranging this service exceptionally easy.
Recently there have been many options for “pocket WiFi” long-term contracts. Most of these run on one of the large mobile phone service provider’s networks, and do not require a contract with NTT. One of the most reasonably priced, high-speed options is UQ WiMAX, which offers service through several ISPs, including AsahiNet. Just be sure to read all the terms and conditions thoroughly, as there are some differences from a static landline (such as the internet speed being throttled when more than 10gb are used over three days even for their “unlimited” plan).
This document is adapted from a pamphlet produced by Relo Japan for use by their clients moving into Tokyo or the surrounding area. Reference to any business or organization is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute an official endorsement by the H&R Group. You may find other options available to you with further research.
All logos courtesy company websites, used without permission
Cinco de Mayo, while originally a commemoration of an unlikely victory for the Mexican Army against the then powerful French in 1862, has in the US become something of a large celebration for all things Mexico. As these things tend to go, Japan has taken the American interpretation of the holiday, and this year will see the fifth annual Cinco de Mayo festival held in Tokyo.
Unusual for international festivals in Japan, which tend to come around at inappropriate times of the year (I’m looking at you Oktoberfest), this year’s Cinco de Mayo Festival will be held bang on time from Thursday 4 to Saturday 6 of May, 2017. Having previously been held in Yoyogi Park, this is its debut year in Odaiba, and it promises to be a huge celebration.
Claiming to be the “most international festival in Japan”, the festival of Mexican culture will have a wide array of delicious food from not only Mexico but also the US, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Jamaica, Colombia and, for some reason, Canada.
Once you have had your fill, you can burn off those extra calories by getting down to the music and dance from Central and South America. With a huge helping of salsa and samba, you can also move your body to some New Orleans jazz, soul, rock and much more. Of course, there is a good chance that you’re not much of a dancer, or maybe you just don’t know the moves of the dance styles. If that is the case, then you shouldn’t worry as there will be instructors on hand to gently introduce you to the various regional dances.
If you still need a bit of encouragement to move to the sexy beats, then a bit of dutch courage may be in order, and as it happens, drinks play a big part at Cinco de Mayo. At the festival you can enjoy craft beer and wine, but this wouldn’t be a latin festival without a variety of exotic cocktails. Traditionalists may wish to stick to the Mexican classics of tequila and margarita, but the entire region is represented with mojito, pisco sour, piña colada, cuban libre, caipirinha and other tropical cocktails on offer. Non alcoholic drinks are also available for those not wanting to indulge.
As if that wasn’t enough, there are also quite a few events for children to get involved in, making it a fun packed event for the entire family.
If the festival has whet your appetite for all things Mexican, you could try out one of these Mexican restaurants around the capital city. Of course this is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a few examples that you can find.
If you agree with The Great Bard that music is the food of love, then look no further than Tepito. Kumi Takizawa met Mexican mariachi singer Jesús Oroarite when she won a competition to see his band perform. She quickly found the way to his heart by learning to cook the food of his home country and now they are married and the owners of this authentic Mexican restaurant in Setagaya. Kumi makes annual trips to Mexico where she sources recipes for dishes – salada de nopales (cactus), flautas, sopes, chicharron, ceviche, tamales, pozole – you are unlikely to find anywhere else. As an added bonus weekends see live mariachi performances.
If there is one thing that Americans complain about dining out in Japan, it’s finding a decent burrito. Guzman y Gomez is an Australian chain that has set up in four locations in Tokyo following the wild success of their Shinjuku branch, and they provide just that. The newest store in Roppongi is spacious and bright with communal tables and counter seats mixed in among regular tables and chairs. Check out the reviews and you will find a long list of Americans praising its extensive menu. That the burritos come in for particular acclaim should come as no surprise.
How do you know when you are in a Mexican theme restaurant? When there are bright colors on the walls, even brighter cocktails in the glasses, and Day of the Dead figurines everywhere, that’s how. Junkadelic in Meguro-ku and Akasaka has all of the above. But they also have great Mexican food. If you are wanting quick service with the food plonked on your table, this may not be the choice for you. However, if you are willing to wait as, for example, the guacamole is crushed and prepared after you order, you are in for a fresh and tasty treat.
Image via http://www.cincodemayo.jp/english.html – screengrab (modified)
Were you to take the evidence offered up by Japanese TV, you might be fooled into believing that the Japanese drink of choice was either humdrum lager or cans of whiskey highball. But you would be wrong.
There is no doubt that the national drink of Japan is sake, or to give it its proper title, ‘nihonshu’ (with ‘sake’ being a term to cover all alcoholic drinks). It is believed that nihonsnhu in its current form – made up of rice, water and ‘kōji’ mold – dates from around the Nara period (710 to 794), and then later used for religious ceremonies, court festivals and drinking games.
Today it is enjoyed all over the country with many breweries, or ‘kura’, around the country involved in its production (in 2007 there were approximately 1700 kura making around 10,000 different types of sake).
On Saturday the 27th of May, some 50 of these breweries are coming together to form the Nagoya Sake Brewery Festival. All the kura are from the Tokai region, with representatives coming from Aichi, Mie and Gifu, and will be displaying some 150 different kinds of sake.
Entrance to the festival costs 3,500 JPY which gives you around one hour to sample the delicious, fragrant nihonshu of the Tokai area. Included in your admission fee you will receive 20 vouchers to exchange for samples of sake (because it is unreasonable that you could manage all 150 in that time!) as well as a few sake related gifts including three ‘chokko’ nihonshu drinking vessels.
If you run out, additional tickets are available at a cost of 1,000 JPY for 10. These vouchers can also be used in exchange for food items, as the bringing of your own food is prohibited.
There are three different sittings for the festival, with early birds entering between 12 00 and 13:45, the afternoon crowd from 14:45 and 16:30, and a final sitting from 17:30 to 19:15. Admission tickets can be bought at one of the many convenience store ticket machines around the city using the relevant code (see below).
If the festival has ignited a passion for tasting sake, why not try out one of these interesting sake bars around Nagoya.
The below postings are all recommendations from sake lovers that I know and trust, so are about personal taste. As such everything is for information only and Japan Info Swap does not endorse any of them.
Sake Bar Marutani is exactly what you might think of when the words ‘sake bar’ come to mind. Once a rice granary during the Edo period and set on the Horikawa river, it is all hard wood and old world charm. They have a large range of sake and meals perfectly balanced to match what you drink. It is the ideal ambiance in which to sip nihonshu in a classical atmosphere. I have had many recommendations for this place – from both expats and Japanese – and it is of such a high quality that I plan on taking my brother-in-law – a sommelier by trade – to sample his first sake experience when he comes to visit.
Everyone needs a friend who is a sake expert and Torikko in Imaike is the recommendation of mine. Although he said that the best sake bar around is in his own home, unless you get an invite from him, he says that this is the next best thing. This is a bar in the traditional style, but the sake choices are top notch and the ‘master’ (the Japanese term for what we would probably call a landlord or bar owner back home) is as friendly and helpful as he is knowledgable about all things nihonshu.
This place should be on the list for its name alone – it translates to The God of Sake – but it is much more than a clever name. Osake No Kami Sama is a standing bar in the covered arcade of Endoji, and is my own recommendation, and somewhere you can find me most Friday evenings post-work. A majorly relaxed atmosphere, a knowledgeable master and a foreigner-friendly mixed clientele of salarymen, local folks and nihonshu aficionados makes it a must visit bar, just as long as you have the legs to stand while you are drinking. They also have a great menu of Nagoya foods at unbeatable prices.
If you want to go further afield to sample nihonshu where it’s made, you can do worse than head to Takayama. The Gifu city has plenty of local breweries, and you can easily spend the day getting lost (and perhaps a little tipsy) trying out the brews. Some of them have been going for around 200 hundred years, so you can probably equate that longevity with consistent quality.
There are also many breweries in the Nagoya and Aichi areas. Some of these offer sampling tours, but only on specific days. Check out the ever excellent kikuko-nagoya.com website for up-to-date details.
While not usually considered a cultural heartland of art, like Tokyo, there are actually plenty of great exhibitions to see in the city. Below is our pick of the bunch for this May.
For anyone who has done a bit of traveling around Japan, or is perhaps planning to do so, this is an absolute must see. Utagawa Hirose (1797 – 1858) is considered to be the last great master of the ukiyo-e medium (wood block printing), and this is seen as being his finest work. The exhibition shows Utagawa’s impression of the 53 trading stations along the Tôkaidô road that connected the financial capital city of Edo (now Tokyo) with the spiritual capital of Kyoto, with the series becoming the best sold ever ukiyo-e Japanese prints. Even were the the display not enchanting and beautiful in equal measures, it also give the modern viewer a chance to see some locations that they may have visited in a completely different light.
A finer example of ‘how the other half lived’ during the Edo Period you are unlikely to see. Chiyohime, the eldest daughter of Iemitsu, the third Tokugawa shogun was in 1639, at two years old, betrothed to Mitsutomo, the second lord of the Owari Tokugawa family. Not such an exciting event for an infant, you might imagine, but still she was given as a gift a remarkable trousseau that is here on display, and considered to be the most luxurious example of its kind in Japan. The items range from large furnishings and palanquins down to the most delicate of cosmetics appliances, all of which are made of the finest maki-e inlaid lacquer, the design of which is based on the “Hatsune” (first warbler) chapter of The Tale of Genji. Seventy-five of the items are designated as National Treasures and, with an alternative name of “Furnishings from Dawn to Dusk,” due to the fact that one would never tire of looking at them, as far as matching luggage goes, they make Louis Vuitton look cheap imitation.
Moving away from Edo era Japan, but remaining with furniture, The Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence with this showcase of contemporary product design. Whether Marimekko textiles or Artek furniture, the Finns are renowned for design of stylish elegance with a playful edge that remains fresh and in vogue. This exhibition, made up of approximately 700 works through a variety of furniture, tablewares, and textiles, provides a comprehensive introduction to Finnish design that demonstrates the harmony that rests between nature, people, and the spaces they share.
Imperial Japan’s excursions into Manchuria following the end of the Russo-Japanese War were cemented by the Treaty of Portsmouth that gave Japan control of the southern portion of the Chinese Eastern Railway as well as lucrative mining rights in 1905. The following year Japan established the South Manchoukuo Railway Company and embarked upon an immense colonization program, and photographs of of the area were used to publicize the land of China to the people of Japan. These photographs began as simple portrayals of Chinese tribes and their cultures, and developed into sophisticated symbols with the emergence of the Graphism era. This exhibition features rare vintage prints showing how the photographic expression of Manchoukuo developed over a quarter of a century, paralleling the Japanese Modernism movement.
ARK is a non-profit, non-governmental private organization with the aim of forming a network of people who love animals, believe in sharing their lives with them, and who work actively to rescue them from suffering. ARK was established in 1990 and became officially recognized as an NPO (Non-Profit Organization) in September 1999. In 2008, ARK was accepted as an International Associate Member of the RSPCA.
ARK receives all funding for its activities from the donations and membership fees of the general public. We have approximately 30 staff members and receive support from volunteers who understand our activities. Our staff depends on our many volunteers because ARK is dedicated to not only the care of the animals but also to maintaining our facilities for the animals.
ARK was established in 1990 by Elizabeth Oliver who still represents the organization today. Elizabeth Oliver originally came to Japan to teach English, but after seeing many injured animals she enlisted the help of some friends to rescue them. At that time she had virtually no financial aid and depended on the generosity of people to donate such necessities as dog food.
Over time more people became involved in her activities and as the number of rescued animals grew, several volunteers were hired as full-time staff members. Since its establishment ARK has succeeded in expanding its activities and facilities, and in August 1998, became authorized by Osaka prefecture as a non-profit organization.
There are many ways you can help ARK accomplish its mission of reducing suffering for animals in Japan.
For more information on how you can get involved see the ARK website.
Rainy season is coming! For those of you new to Japan and especially those who are unfamiliar with this kind of weather… let’s just say it will be an experience.
Rainy season or tsuyu is the part of summer that no one likes or appreciates, unless of course you’re a rice farmer or sake producer who needs it for both rice production and good sake. Oh, or a gardener who needs it for their beautiful summer flowers.
Apart from that, it’s a humid time of year which is intense and often causes you to feel irritable; irritable because you get wet and irritable because you want it to stop. Every year the weather forecasters predict how much rain we will get and also how long it will last. Like everything in Japan, they even tell you the day it will start and the day it will end. Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t always agree with their predictions and prefers to have its own guidelines.
Generally speaking, it precedes ‘proper’ summer and runs for a month and a half or so from the beginning of June to mid -July. Nevertheless, the longer you live in Japan, the more you may actually appreciate this break as the sunshine during summer is relentless. Here are a few tips, both general and specific to Hiroshima, to make your life a little easier and hopefully, more comfortable as well during this season within a season.
If all else fails, summer is the season of beer and is the perfect way to drown your sorrows while you sit out the rainy season. Stay dry!
Photo by Takashi Hososhima (Mew, I’m ready for rainy season) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Jade Brischke
The lack of space in Japan has resulted in the need to utilise every square metre possible and thus, to ensure it is put to good use. Combine this with the Japanese people’s love of drinking, particularly beer and you have yourself the standing bar. Best of all, you don’t have to go to Tokyo to experience this, for Hiroshima has the very famous, Shigetomi, right in its own backyard.
Yes, Shigetomi, named after Shigetomi-san, the beer draft Meister, is located on the edge of Nagarekawa, the nightlife and drinking neighbourhood of downtown Hiroshima. But, the bar is a little unusual and it is perhaps its quirkiness that has made it well-known in Hiroshima and in fact, throughout Japan.
Firstly, there is only ever one brand of beer on offer at any one time. By using slightly different techniques when pouring each beer, Shigetomi-san is able to produce five unique tastes. The brand changes each week or so and you can find out when your favourite one is on offer from the calendar on the wall above the bar. Secondly, Shigetomi is open Monday to Satuday for only TWO hours per day. Yep, you read that correctly; two hours from 5-7pm.
Thirdly, you are limited to two drinks, at 500 yen a pop. From my perspective, this is for two main reasons: 1. there is ALWAYS a line outside and 2. This is Japan where any drinking session is followed by another bar and another and yet another… limits people, pace yourself for the rest of the night. Despite the line outside, it moves quickly due to the two-drink rule.
Even better is that there is a menu outside in both Japanese and English, which means you can choose which technique and thus taste you want while you wait. Added to all that, Shigetomi-san personally opens the door and greets each patron and will impart his knowledge as he pours each beer. He will also explain and show you exactly how to drink it.
Yep, the proper way to drink beer does not mean just opening your mouth and taking a swig. It means standing straight at the bar with one hand on your hip so that the beer is digested properly. Drinking it this way, the gas has a clear path down to your stomach and can move easily without the obstruction of you leaning over or slouching as you normally would at a table. See, drinking beer CAN be educational!
It’s a great place to start off a night out or just to have a beer before heading for a meal. It’s also a popular choice for salary men who want (and probably need!) a beer after work. Either way, Shigetomi is an experience you won’t want to miss out on and may in fact, become your new favourite place.
Hiroshima City Asa Zoological Park, better known as Asa Zoo, is the local place that families and couples go to see wild animals in a relatively ‘natural’ habitat.
The zoo has all the big animals that you normally find at zoos, but also offers some special attractions like the Japanese giant salamander. The zoo has a number of these on loan from the Salamander Museum located in Ohnan Town in Shimane Prefecture and is now working on a collaborative breeding program as well.
Unfortunately, the zoo is a fair way out of town and is not exactly cheap to get to. The easiest way is via the Astram Line either from downtown Hiroshima or from Shin-Hakushima Station which is the one after Hiroshima Station. You need to get off at Kamiyasu Station and from there take one of the shuttle buses that run every 10-20 minutes or you can opt to take the normal bus from Platform 4 heading towards Asahigaoka or Imuro.
The consolation for all the travel and expense though, is the very reasonable entry fee at just 510 yen for adults and 170 yen for seniors and those under 18. Bargain indeed for a family day out! The zoo is open every day except Thursday between 9am and 4.30pm and of course is closed over the New Year’s break.
It has a number of free events on offer including zookeeper talks (Japanese only obviously) and feeding time. See the zoo website for more information on exact times (some events subject to change due to weather). On the weekends you can also see lion feeding at 1pm and elephant training at 1.30pm. If you’re a fan of rabbits and guinea pigs you can learn how to hold them and pony rides are available for the first 15 people who line up near the pony enclosure.
There are a number of small cafés located within the park, but like all places inside attractions, are a little pricey. My suggestion is to bring your own lunch or have a picnic as there are plenty of places to sit and lots of space and playground equipment for the kids to run around and wear themselves out.
In summer the big highlight is the night safari where you can see nocturnal animals wandering around in their natural habitat. These are only eight times a year and are well worth your while coming to see. If you’re an avid photographer, they also provide the perfect opportunity for some really amazing shots.
Of course, with all zoos there is the debate as to whether it is right to confine wild animals, but from what I saw, the cages are clean and all the animals are in good condition. My advice if you have strong opinions about this, however, is to find another activity in Hiroshima that you want to do.
My final piece of advice for a trip to the zoo is to take a jumper or jacket with you. Its mountain location means that even during the warmer months it is much cooler than the downtown area and the breeze can get quite cool. If you’re headed there in winter, rug up because snow often falls here in large amounts and nowhere else.
Asa Zoo is a great family day out and although people say never to work with animals or children, here you’ll find both. On weekends you are guaranteed to find large hordes of children on school trips, so if you want a quieter experience, head there during the weekdays.
It’s a fun place to go with your family, on a date or just with friends. It may be a tad further to get to than most places you’re familiar with, but it’s well worth the effort.
Photo by Asa Zoological Park, www.asazoo.jp/en