Back in my home country, and still I am now, I dislike going to a zoo for whatever the reason is. I do not like seeing animals on the cage, I do not like how all of the animals look unhappy, and have “leave me alone!” face displaying to us the visitors.
Well, now I have been living in Tokyo for almost 2 years when a friend asked me, “You like animals, right? Let’s go to the zoo!”
I was like, hell, no, but I answered yes, and yes, we went to the zoo.
I did some searching on which zoo in Tokyo has good review (because I did not want to become depressed seeing unhappy animals in a beautiful day in Spring), and I ended up with these 3 options: Ueno Zoo, Inokashira Park Zoo, or Tama Zoo.
Ueno Zoo undoubtedly is the most popular zoo in Tokyo, in fact it is also the oldest zoo in Japan. Ueno Zoo is located in a very convenient place along Yamanote line, in the central Tokyo, so it is easy to get from anywhere in Tokyo. It is also surrounded by Ueno Park which is popular as ever for its beautiful cherry blossom on Spring. More to that, there are numbers of other places you can enjoy around the area: Tokyo National Museum, National Museum of Nature and Science, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and so on. Well, though maybe you would not have spare time after visiting the Ueno Zoo to consider visiting all those museums.
Photo : Photocapy on Flickr
Inokashira Park Zoo, located in Kichijoji Station on Keio Inokashira Line, has squirrel as its mascot so I think it might does not have a lot of variety of animals. I did some research on this zoo, and from this website (http://www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/ino/index.html) they said that Inokashira Park Zoo exhibits Asiatic elephants, rhesus monkeys, raccoons, fennecs, Japanese serows, Japanese martens, masked palm civets, Amur cats, raccoon dogs, Japanese squirrels, red-crowned cranes, Japanese birds, tropical birds, mandarin ducks, swans, and more. There is even museum inside: the Seibo Kitamura (Japanese sculptor) Museum. It is not that bad, I think.
Photo : tomosuke214 on Flickr
Anyway, my friend wanted to see “giant cats” that time, so Inokashira Park Zoo was out of the question. He also had been to Ueno Zoo before, so we decided to go to Tama Zoo, the one that neither of us had come before. From the Internet, I know that Tama Zoo is located on some kind of hills, so I thought I might get some good exercises while “perching” from one animal to another in the zoo (and it was, I indeed did get good exercises!).
Tama Zoo, or Tama Zoological Park, even though it is still located in Tokyo, is about 1 hour trip from central Tokyo. And from my place, which is in Oota-ku, it takes 75 minutes. From Shinjuku Station, you need to take the express train to Takahatafudo Station on Keio Line. From Takahatafudo, change train on Tama-doubutsu Line, or alternatively you can use the Tama Monorail, and get off at Tama Dobutsu Koen Station. The zoo is located in front of the station.
In the Tama Doubutsu Koen Station, you will be welcomed by animals-shaped trees, or even animals-decorated walls around the station. Here one of them, panda shaped tree (or bear shaped?).
￼The picture below is the entrance gate of the Tama Zoo. You can buy the ticket in the ticket machines, it was easy to purchase ticket from there and there is even English menu available. It cost us 600 yen each (for adults), and cheaper for senior citizens and students (about 200/ 300 yen). And it is also free for junior high school students attending schools in Tokyo, and for children up to 12 years old.
The zoo is 52 ha in width, and it takes about 3-4 hours (or maybe more) for completely visiting all the animals. As in usual park in Japan, first thing you have to do is to get the guide map, or if you want to plan your trip the night before, you can get the map from this site http://www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/tama/img/map_tama_english.pdf. In Tama Zoo, they provide English version of the map also.
The zoo is divided into four ecological areas: Asian Zone, Australian Zone, African Zone, and Insectarium. Tama Zoo is very unique; almost the animals are displayed in natural places, and they made the cages as similar as their original habitats. First place we visited was Insectarium because it is the nearest from the entrance gate. I, personally, wanted to see the butterflies.
Entering the butterfly area, we were astounded by the walk-through butterfly garden which is very outstanding. We literally can walk inside the garden and see the butterflies fly all over us. The children looked very happy trying to chase and catch the butterfly. The butterflies, the grasses, the trees, the small flower trees, the environment there reminded me of my back yard in my home country, which is a tropical country.
￼In other areas inside the Insectarium was more like a museum, they exhibits the animals in the glass-covered cages, like in the pictures below.
￼￼And if you are brave enough, you can even try to touch some of the (pretty safe) insects in the Insectarium. I touched a cricket that time :)
From the Insectarium, we went to the Asian Zone, which I think is the largest zone in the zoo. Again, the large cages of the flying animals, such as birds, impressed us. The Siberian white crane, the pheasant pigeon, the flying squirrel, the eagle, and the oriental white stork looked happy because they can fly and walk around all over the large cage. A lot more to see in Asian Zone, but again we were impressed by the orangutan area.
￼There was a board explaining the profile of each orangutan, their name, their age, their birthplace and their character. For example, Que, 46 years old male, is an ikemen (hot guy) type of orangutan. Kiki, 15 years old, was born in Indonesia. It was interesting to read information about them!
Here some other pictures of animals in the Asian Zone.
￼￼￼We do not really understand, but at that time we also saw a peacock roaming freely, outside the cage.
The Australian Zone, as its name, exhibits Australian-specific animals such as koala, kangaroo, wallaby, and wallaroo. Well, to be honest, I did not know before that animals like wallaby or wallaroo exist. ^^
Here are some pictures of the animals from the Australian Zone.
￼We got to the zoo pretty late that day near the closing time, so we did not get to see all the animals. We did not get to visit the African Zone at all. We really regretted it because in the African Zone, there is a lion bus in which we can tour around the Lion Garden riding the bus, and get a chance seeing the up-close view of the lions who are roaming freely in the garden, for the additional 360 yen (adult). The Lion Bus will stop to operate at 4 p.m, make sure you have enough time if you want to ride the Lion Bus. They also mentioned in the website that in the African Zone, we can enjoy the animals such as giraffes, zebra, antelopes, ostriches, pelican, and more in the savannah-style enclosure (we sure have to come back here!).
If you got tired during your walk in the zoo, there are some rest areas around the zoo. You can find the nearest rest area from your location from the guide map, they were written as “picnic area” in the guide map, for example are Nakayoshi Picnic Area and Eagle-Hawk Picnic Area in Asian Zone, Hayashi Picnic Area in African Zone, and Kangaroo Picnic Area in Australian Zone. There are also some cafes and restaurants inside the zoo area, so if you are starving it might be better to buy meals inside the zoo (or maybe you can bring your own bento!). We tried to search for restaurants outside the zoo, around the station, after we leave the zoo, but we could not find any at that time.
￼The closing time of the zoo is 5 p.m, and they will announce it once it got near the closing time. We stopped by in the zoo’s gift shop located near the main gate (and I think it is the only gift shop in the zoo), and they sell variety of animals-themed souvenirs, such as phone and key strap, stationeries, and many stuffed toys.
I felt really happy visiting the zoo, which is rare for me. Tama Zoo gave me the thrill of seeing a lot of animals and watching how those happy and healthy-looked animals interacts in the wild, in a wide and naturalistic environment. We really had a great time hiking up and down the hills, and we were happy also seeing a lot of kids looked thrilled in the zoo. Tama Zoo definitely is a must-see, either for children or adults, especially if you are animal lovers like me.
Well, orangutan was my favorite, second only to the kangaroo (the way they jump was really cute I even took a video of them!). What’s yours?
: Tama Zoo, 7-1-1, Hodokubo, Hino-shi, Tokyo 191-0042, Japan
: 9.30 a.m. – 5 p.m (closes every Wednesdays, or Thursday if Wednesday is a public holiday, and it closes also from December 29 – January 1)
: 600 yen (adult)