Zoos of Tokyo

ByMark Guthrie
Feb 15, 2016

Zoos of Tokyo

As spring starts to raise its oh-so welcome head, it’s time to abandon the confines of the indoors and embrace the glorious outside before that stifling summer heat reclaims the land. One  great way to enjoy the fresh air whilst entertaining the family is to take them out to one of the city’s zoos. There are six – count that, six! – to choose from.

Ueno Zoo

TigerLet’s start at the start with Japan’s oldest – and probably most famous – Zoo. Established in 1882 and situated and land bequeathed to the city by the Imperial family slap-bang in the middle of the city, Ueno Zoo is as convenient as it is evidently popular. It is a world class zoo home to some 2,600 representations of over 460 species, some of the most popular being the western lowland gorilla and the Sumatran tiger (pictured). However the current stars of the show are most undoubtably Lily (リーリー) and Shin Shin (シンシン) the two Giant pandas for who, if reports are to believed, are currently in the mood for love, raising hopes of the cub-less pandas successfully breeding for the first time in 10 years. The zoo is split into 63 sections including the Gorilla Woods, Tiger’s Forest and a petting zoo. To navigate your way around the vast space you can ride on Japan’s first monorail.

  • Where9-83 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo
  • When: 9.30am – 17:00 (last admission 16:00); closed Mondays or Tuesday if Monday is a public holiday.
  • How much: Adults: 600 JPY, Seniors: 300 JPY, Students (13-15): 200 JPY, Children: free
  • Websitewww.tokyo-zoo.net/english/ueno
  • Interesting fact: In 1943, fears that escaped animals could wreak havoc in the Tokyo streets due to the bombing of the city were so great that the government ordered all “wild and dangerous” animals destroyed. A monument to this now stands in the grounds.

Tama Zoo

The Tama Zoological Park, to give it its full name, was originally opened in 1953 as part of Ueno Zoo. However today the park, making the best of the topography of the luscious Tama Hills, stands at nearly four times that of its neighbour (52 ha, compared to the 14.3 ha), meaning that the animals have more freedom to roam about as if it were their natural environment. The grounds are split into three major ecological areas – the Asiatic Garden, the African Garden and  the Australian Garden, – as well as a vast Insectarium. Amongst its stand out points must be the fact that it was the first zoo in Japan to not only raise koalas – always particularly popular in this country thanks to their evident cuteness – but having a Lion Bus, from which you can see the lions in safari-esque conditions.

  • Where7-1-1 Hodokubo, Hino, Tokyo
  • When: 9.30am – 17:00 (last admission 16:00); closed Wednesdays or Thursday if Wednesday is a public holiday.
  • How much: Adults: 600 JPY, Seniors: 300 JPY, Students (13-15): 200 JPY, Children: free
  • Websitewww.tokyo-zoo.net/english/tama
  • Interesting fact: The Australian garden was built in 1984 in comemoration of the twinning of Tokyo with the State of New South Wales.

Edogawa City Natural Zoo

But vast tracts of land and searching out big game may not be your family’s cup of tea – particularly if you have small children – then the Edogawa City Natural Zoo in Edogawa’s Gyosen Park may be more suitable to your family’s needs. Featuring smaller animals such as rabbits, hamsters, peregrine falcons and seals, it also has a display of aquatic animals that live locally in the Edo River, but their signature animal is the adorable red panda. On each animal there is detailed description of their lives and habitats to encourage learning for all ages, but best of all it is free to enter!

  • Where3-2-1 Kita-Kasai, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo
  • When: Weekdays 10:00 to 16:30; Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 9:30 16:30; November until February closes 16:00; July 21-August 31 9:30 to 16:30; closed Mondays.
  • How much: Free!
  • Websitewww.edogawa-kankyozaidan.jp/zoo
  • Interesting fact: There are less than 10,000 wild red pandas in existence today, a number that is in decline partially due to poaching and habitat loss.

Inokashira Park Zoo

If your area of particular interest is the animals and wildlife of Japan, then Inokashira Park Zoo is worth checking out. Two zoo for the price of one it is separated into two sections, the first being a squirrel and duck sanctuary that specializes in breeding and releasing mandarin ducks into the wild. The second enclosure houses all the other animals such as red-crowned cranes, Amur cats, rhesus monkeys and Yaku deer, the latter of which range freely. One other draw is Hanako the first Asiatic elephant to come to Japan following WWII, although the conditions in which Hanako is kept have recently given the park some international notoriety.

  • Where:
  • When: 9:30 to 17:00 (tickets sold until 16:00); closed Mondays or Tuesdays if Monday is a public holiday).
  • How much: Adults: 400 JPY*, Seniors: 200 JPY, Students (13-15): 150 JPY, Children: free (*Reports say that foreigners with a passport can receive a 20% discount)
  • Websitewww.tokyo-zoo.net/english/ino
  • Interesting fact: Hanako the elephant was given to Japan from Thailand in 1949 as a gesture of good will.

Hamura Zoological Park

A zoo with a goal “to nurture affection for nature by introducing children to animals,” Hamura Zoological Park is a pleasant though smallish zoo that you can find your way around in as little as two hours. Like the zoo in Edogawa, it is ideal for small children: to the left of the entrance there is a petting zoo in which children can hold chicks and guinea pigs and there is a large playground and picnic area in which you can sit and eat your lunch. On the animal front small is very much the way forward with lynx, red foxes, wolves, prairie dogs, and wallabies, while there are a few giraffes, zebras and emus.

  • Where4122 Hane, Hamura-shi
  • When: March through October 9:00-16:30pm (admission until 16:00); November through February 9:00-16:00 (admission until 15:30); Closed Mondays.
  • How much: Adults: 300 JPY, Children: (4-15) 50 JPY, Infants: (0-3) free.
  • Websitewww.t-net.ne.jp/~hamura-z
  • Interesting fact: The zoo’s theme is ‘fairytale’, and both peacocks and flamingos freely roam the grounds giving the park a particularly exotic feel.

Ōshima Park Zoo

Okay, so Ōshima Park Zoo isn’t strictly in Tokyo, but instead is on the (relatively) close island of, you guessed it, Ōshima. Home to 50 species of animal it is a zoo that does a wonderful job of encompassing its natural environment. The walk through Flying Cage is home to 15 species of bird and using the island’s camellias and Ōshima Cherry trees, is the largest of its kind in Japan. Perhaps the jewel in the zoo’s crown is the 300m Monkey Hill, made of naturally formed volcanic lava rock and through which a bridge bisects giving visitors various angles from which to view the primates.

By Mark Guthrie

Image: flickr.com "Khunde - Sumatran Tiger" by Harimau Kayu (AKA Sumatra-Tiger) (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) – Modified

About the author

Mark Guthrie editor

Novelist, copywriter and graduate from the most prestigious university in Sunderland, Mark whiles away his precious time on this Earth by writing about popular culture, travel, food and pretty much anything else that is likely to win him the Pulitzer he desperately craves. Find some more of his musings at www.markguthriewrites.com and on instagram @markguthriewrites