To be honest, I didn’t like Maruyama Zoo when I first went there about 15 years ago. The enclosures were small and made of concrete and the animals seemed unhappy. But the zoo has changed and is still changing. There has been a large amount of construction work to enlarge the animal's space and to improve the viewing experience. The construction work is ongoing and may finish in 2019. I am very excited. As it stands today, the zoo is an excellent day out, especially if you have children. My daughter and I both love to spend the day there.
If you are driving, parking is on the west side of the zoo. If you are walking (which I recommend), take the subway to Maruyama (丸山) station and go out exit 6. Turn left (at KFC), head one block and cross the road towards the park (opposite a wedding chapel). Make sure you’re on the right of the road and start walking up the hill. It shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes tops and you can walk along some very attractive park paths, or just head up the road.
The zoo is ¥600 for anyone over 15 and free for anyone under 15. You can buy a year passport for ¥1,000 if you are thinking of coming back.
The zoo is fairly large and all of the animal information is in English as well. If you are coming with children, then your first stop will be the petting zoo, a short way up on your left.
There are chickens, ducks, beavers, raccoons, prairie dogs, sheep and horses. You can pet the chickens, sheep and horses. Being tall, I was able to pull leaves off the trees. I gave them to my daughter, making her instantly popular with the sheep.
If you head on up the hill you come to the monkey enclosure.
Turn left and you can find the giraffe. She was having lunch when we got there.
The lion and all of the other animals have been moved to the brand new African area. The giraffe will be moved there soon. It will be a huge improvement on her current enclosure. If you follow the road round you will go past the chimpanzees and the seals.
There is a new baby in the orangutan enclosure but I couldn’t get a good photo.
Go to the top of the hill and you will find the polar bears. The mother has babies once every couple of years and you will be able to tell when because the zoo will be packed with a thousand camera wielding people looking for that perfect postcard pose. They have started construction on a new enclosure for the polar bears which, judging by the pictures on the wall, is going to be awesome.
On the way back down the hill you will find the tropical bird house. I have been there many times but this time, purely by chance, I discovered that they have rain!
Round the corner from the birds is the reptile house. You can’t go wrong with crocodiles, snakes and poisonous frogs.
There are many other fascinating animals as well and you can wander slowly for hours. However, if, like me, you have a three-year-old daughter, you are going to be steamrolling past all of these fascinating animals and heading straight for the children’s park. We usually spend longer on the slides than we do in the whole rest of the zoo.
At some point during your time in the zoo you are going to want to eat. You have a choice of a few cafes.
They sell fast food and ice cream. A word of warning about the ice cream. If you tell your three-year-old daughter that the ice cream you just bought her is a secret from Mummy, you can be certain that she will blab it the second she steps through the door! If you don’t feel like the cafés, then there is a Seven-Eleven just by the main entrance. You have to pick up a ticket as you go in to show you have left the zoo.
There is actually another café that no one seems to know about. Down by the main entrance you can find the animal science pavilion. It has some animal skeletons, a few cool games and experiments for kids, a gift shop (of course) and, hidden away at the back, a little café with scrumptious looking pancakes.
So, take a few hours with your kids at Maruyama Zoo. You’ll have a great day.