Walking Tokyo's Wild Side
Douc Langur monkey
Courtesy of Zoorasia
It's an urban jungle
out there, but if you thought the most exotic Tokyo wildlife came was an evening in
Shibuya with a bunch of kogaru orange girls and some Hawaiian nanpa, think again. Tokyo
and its surrounding areas probably contain more zoos than any other major city.
Zoos help to educate people about what's going on in the animal kingdom by housing
endangered animals until their population can be secure again, and by letting urban souls
of all ages see them, smell them and watch them, to make them more than just a picture in
a book or on TV. Many zoos are heavily involved in conservation efforts, and new additions
like Zoorasia's permanent breeding center are sure to help, not hurt, animal populations
in the wild.
One personal request I make is that, when visiting any of the below zoos, please show
respect for the animals: Don't smoke in the zoo, feed the animals, bring in your own pets,
and do use the trash cans. There's nothing sadder than watching macaques fight over who
has the right to chew (and possibly choke on) a plastic bag that someone lazily left on
the ground nearby, as I unfortunately witnessed on a recent trip to Ueno Zoo. Melanie
monorail at Ueno Zoo
Photo by Melanie C. Redmond
Tokyo's most famous zoo, the main attractions here are the three giant panda, but fans of
scarier-looking animals such as reptiles will enjoy the new Vivarium, which opened July
20, and is home to the zoo's gators and lizards. The setup involves being able to walk
around a central exhibit and watch them swim, sleep, and stare back at you.
9:30-4pm, closed Mondays. Adults JY500, students JY200. 9-83 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku
(03-3828-5171). Nearest stn: Ueno. Map available in Japanese, English and Korean.
Inokashira Shizen Bunkaen Park
This place seems like a park with a low-budget zoo thrown in as an afterthought, with an
unusually large duck collection, one lonely elephant and a few spinning children's rides.
Only seriously recommended if you're bored with nothing else to do in Kichijoji.
9:30am-4:30pm (last entry 4pm). Adults JY400, students JY150. 1-17-6 Gotenyama,
Musashino-shi (0422-46-1100). Nearest stn: Kichijoji, JR Chuo or Keio Inokashira lines.
Map in Japanese only.
By far the most enjoyable zoo I have visited. The animals are displayed in their native
environments, which means you'll see monkeys in trees, not cages, and have to board a
special bus to drive through the lions' territory. Besides the usual collection of
animals, split into the Asian Garden, the Australian Garden, and the African Garden,
there's also an Insectarium with nocturnal animals and mounted specimens of insects. Tama
Zoo also offers plenty of shade and refreshment spots, so you can feel comfortable
visiting on a hot day.
9:30am-5pm (last entry 4pm), closed Mondays. Adults JY500, students JY200. 7-1-1 Hodokubo,
Hino-shi (0425-91-1611). Nearest stn: Tama Dobutsu-Koen (50 min by Keio line to
Takahatafudo stn., transfer to Keio Dobutsu-en line. During spring and summer holidays, 40
min by direct train from Shinjuku stn.) Map available in English or Japanese.
Golden Takin being bred at Zoorasia
Courtesy of Zoorasia
The newly opened Zoorasia in Yokohama has seen more than 740,000 visitors since its
opening on April 24. Only half the projected 53.3 hectares are open, but there's more than
enough wildlife in the zoo's open environment to make you feel you've left Japan and
joined a safari! "We want people to see not just the animals but the surrounding
wildlife as well," says one zoo official. "We don't want to just put them in a
box like other zoos." Zoorasia is also home to some animals that are not only rare,
but have never been seen in Japan before, including the okapi - a small giraffe-like
animal of which there are only 140 left in the world - and the Baku golden turkey. In
total, there are 300 animals and 60 different species at Zoorasia.
9:30-4:30pm (6pm in summer), closed Tuesdays. (Open everyday during spring and summer
vacations.) Adults JY600, age 16-18 JY300, age 6-15 JY200. 1175-1, Kamishirane-cho,
Asahi-ku, Yokohama-shi (045-959-1000). Homepage.
Buses from Tsurugamine and Mitsukyo stns (Sotetsu line), Nakayama stn. (JR Yokohama line).
Map available in English and Japanese.