Land in Japan doesn’t come cheaply, so when the country dedicates acres of it to build a zoo, they always make sure to get it right. Even so, there just isn’t enough time to visit every animal park in Japan, so if you’ve been wondering which ones will provide the most fun for you and your family, you may want to consider these options within reach of Tokyo:
Ueno Zoological Gardens
This facility in Ueno, Tokyo, is Japan’s oldest zoo, dating all the way back to 1882. It houses over 3,000 individual animals spanning 400 species, with the most popular one undoubtedly being their giant pandas. Imported from China in 2011, the current Ueno pandas Lili and Shinshin attract thousands of visitors every year, but if you want to be one of them, you better get to the zoo early. The park’s other interesting inhabitants include the elusive aye-aye, the Pallas’s cat, polar bears, Sumatran tigers, black rhinos and many more.
For more information visit: hyperurl.co/UenoZoo
Tama Zoological Park
Originally a branch of Ueno Zoo, this park in Hino, Tokyo, has managed to make a name for itself thanks to its size. Nearly four times bigger than its Ueno counterpart, the Tama Zoo provides a more open, natural environment for its animals. You can also get much closer to them thanks to their Lion Bus (currently under construction) that drives straight into the lion enclosure, allowing you too stare down the mighty kings of the jungle.
For more information visit: hyperurl.co/TamaZoo
Inokashira Park Zoo
Located near Kichijoji Station, Tokyo, the Inokashira Park Zoo is dedicated to species indigenous to Japan, plus a few tropical birds. They used to also house Hanako, the oldest Asian elephant in the world, but sadly it died back in 2016 at age 69.
The zoo itself is divided into two sections: a regular park that acts as something of a bird sanctuary, and a more regular zoo. However, Inokashira’s inhabitants don’t include large animals like lions or bears. You are more likely to find smaller critters there like tanuki, civets, or monkeys. The cozy park also includes a tiny amusement park, making it perfect for outings with small children.
For more information visit: hyperurl.co/InokashiraZoo
Yokohama’s Zoorasia is one of the most modern zoos in all of Japan, with spacious enclosures modeled closely on the animals’ natural habitats. You won’t find any bars and concrete floors here. Instead, you’ll be able to admire the zoo’s elephants, monkeys, tigers, and okapi in a relaxed atmosphere as close to the real thing as possible. The park’s main attraction is the African Savanna, a massive exhibit housing four different African species living together in harmony.
For more information visit: hyperurl.co/Zoorasia
Nogeyama Zoological Gardens
Although it’s small compared to the other Japanese zoos, this park in Yokohama has something that many others don’t: it’s completely free. The Nogeyama Zoo also attracts scores of visitors thanks to its red panda exhibit and reptile center. Additionally, you will occasionally find animal specialists taking some of the animals out of their houses and giving lectures to fascinated patrons all over the park.
For more information visit: hyperurl.co/NogeyamaZoo
A hybrid zoo and amusement park in Saitama, Tobu Zoo has been in the global spotlight before thanks to one of its inhabitants: Grape-kun, a Humboldt penguin who reportedly fell in love with a cardboard cutout of an anime character. But Tobu Zoo has so much more to offer, including an entire family of rare white tigers and amusement park attractions for all ages, from exciting roller-coasters to calmer playgrounds.
For more information visit: hyperurl.co/TobuZoo
Fuji Safari Park
This safari park at the foot of Mount Fuji houses about 900 animals that you can get up close and personal with from inside a car. Use your own vehicle to watch the park’s bears, lions, or tigers lounging or walking right outside your window, or rent a park car that allows you to feed some of the park inhabitants like giraffes or goats.
No driver’s license? No problem. You can walk the path surrounding the park, popping into individual, barred-off enclosures and actually getting to feed some of the animals for a small price. Out of all the zoos in Japan, Fuji Safari Park brings you the closest to nature.
For more information visit: hyperurl.co/FujiSafariPark