by S. Z. Cairney

Living in a heaving metropolis and surviving rush hour trains crammed to the maximum, I will forgive you for that odd look you throw me when I ask “Fancy a nighttime safari?” Tokyo, with its high-rise structures, neon lights, booming announcements assaulting the poor eardrums at every corner, and dense population, is hardly synonymous with Out Of Africa. However, over thirty years ago, a Japanese industrialist went on a safari near Mount Kilimanjaro and fell in love with the wildlife. This inspired him to build a ‘safari’ zoo complex at the foot of Mount Fuji.

Fuji Safari Park is designed to give the variety of wildlife that lives there as natural an environment as possible. You can take the ‘Jungle Bus’ tour or drive around in your own vehicle. At your leisure, peruse the wild and wonderful assortment of beasties that roam free, ranging from bears to zebras. Seasonal night safaris are also available for the more adventurous.

Dobutsu Mura and Fureai Hiroba hold smaller animals that can be petted and played with. There are restaurants in the complex but you can take your own food. Baby cars can be rented for a ¥500 fee. Mummy and baby facilities are available (including breast-feeding rooms). The park is wheelchair and stroller friendly and open all year. Check out for details in English, and in Japanese at

Inokashira Park Zoo located in Kichijoji on the Chuo/Sobu Line doesn’t boast as exotic an array of creatures as Fuji Safari, but nevertheless is a popular destination for families living in the area. I’m sure you will be delighted watching the playful antics of the monkeys, squirrels, and raccoons, amongst other animals, that dwell there! Take a walk through the squirrel enclosure but mind you don’t have anything delicious tucked away in a pocket somewhere. It’ll be gone before you know it! There is also a guinea pig enclosure where you can go and pet the little cuties to yours or your child’s content. There is lots of open space for the kiddies to roam, along with a playground, rides, and cafe area. You can bring your own food if you want. Children 0–12 are free and adults ¥400. There is a pass valid for one year that you can buy for only ¥1,600, which is well worth it if you live in the vicinity. Inokashira Park is just across the road. All in all, a great day out. Have a look at under Inokashira Park Zoo for full details.

Peruse the wild and wonderful assortment
of beasties that roam free, ranging from
bears to zebras.

Those were just a couple of ideas to whet your appetite, but if you feel a Dr. Doolittle moment coming on this summer, here’s a few more to get your teeth into. Just make sure you’ve had your shots first!

Fuji Safari Park

  • Visit Wan Nyan World near Keio Tama Center for dogs, dogs, and more dogs. Pet them, feed them, take them for walks, and even sit in a doggy restaurant with them. Tel. 04-2311-0020
  • Head to the Mutsugoro Animal Kingdom in Hachioji near Summerland for dogs, cats, pigs, and pony rides. Find out more (in Japanese) at
  • Visit animals in a naturalistic 129-acre park at Tama Zoological Park. Species range from Malaysian Sun Bears to Japanese Wild Pigs, and boast a large variety of furred and feathered creatures in between! Visit for information in English.
  • Visit Zoorasia Yokohama Zoological Gardens near Yokohama to see a wide variety of animals including lions, tigers, monkeys, and more, all living surprisingly close to Tokyo. Visit for more information.
  • Located in that most museum-filled of parks, Ueno Zoo offers families a fantastic opportunity to see some wildlife without leaving Tokyo. The oldest zoo in Japan, Ueno has over 2,600 animals from 464 different species! Visit for information in English.
  • Mother Farm in Chiba offers a chance to experience life on the farm with cow milking, sheep-herding shows, a duck parade, and even a chance for your kids to race against pigs!
  • Monkey Park near Mount Takao gives you and your kids an opportunity to interact with monkeys as they run free around you. It’s open from 10am–4:30 pm, and costs ¥500 for adults; ¥230 for children.