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