Great Places to Spot Wildlife in Kansai

ByJustin Hanus
Sep 24, 2019

Great Places to Spot Wildlife in Kansai

Japan is known for its densely-populated neon-lit cities but look beyond the lights and high-rise buildings and you can find some beautiful open spaces where you can see nature at play. The Kansai region has no shortage of breath-taking mountains, wetlands, large parks and woodlands filled with a diverse array of birds, mammals and reptiles and more. If you have a day to spare and fancy a bit of the outdoors, head along to any of these places.

Nara Park

The most well-known place to see wildlife in Kansai, and the most famous spot in all of Japan to interact with wild deer, is Nara Park. Located in Nara prefecture, this open park of 8 square kilometers is home to around 1,200 deer. They are super-friendly, too, used to many years of close human interaction. In fact, the park authorities encourage gentle up-close interaction and even sell specially-made rice crackers for visitors to feed to the creatures.

Deer are revered in traditional Japanese culture as messengers of the gods, so it’s not surprising that the park can get pretty busy at times. Autumn is a great time to visit when you can see these beautiful creatures against a rich red-brown backdrop. Just remember to behave respectfully around them and don’t antagonise them as they can get scared and defensive.

Nara Park is fairly easy to reach from the main Kansai cities, located just a 5 minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station.

Website: Nara Park

Lake Biwa

Located in Shiga prefecture about 10 km east of Kyoto, this waterway of nearly 65 km in length is Japan’s largest lake and one of the world’s oldest freshwater lakes. Believed to be around 4 million years old, it’s a UNESCO-preserved area that contains over 1,000 different water species including 46 fish species unique to Japan.

Understandably, Lake Biwa has developed into one of Kansai’s biggest outdoor attractions over the years. You can come here to spot creatures such as catfish, grebes and giant snails, participate in sporting activities such as stand-up paddling (SUP) or kayaking, or even just relax on one of the lake’s many small beaches.

Website: Lake Biwa

Arashiyama Monkey Park

This is one of a number of monkey parks in Japan. Located in the mountains on the outskirts of Kyoto, it’s a bit of a trek to reach but you’re rewarded at the end of it with some great panoramic city views from the observatory as well as the chance to get close to around 120 breeds of monkey. These monkeys are used to human interaction and so will come fairly close, meaning you can get some good pictures. There are also feeding areas. Aside from primates, you can also see other animals such as deer and birds here. Entry is 600 yen for adults and 300 yen for children.


Nankou Bird Sanctuary

A great place to spot migratory birds in Kansai, this nature reserve is in Nankou Island area of Osaka Bay. The sanctuary’s wetland area consists of artificial tidal land and salt marshes that act as a draw for shorebirds at certain times of year. There are also waterways here where you can spot species of fish and crabs. There are over 160 types of birds to be found here, including osprey, grey heron and the eastern spot-billed duck.


User: (WT-shared) ChubbyWimbus at wts wikivoyage [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Justin Hanus editor