Machida Squirrel Garden – The Early Bird Catches the Squirrel
In Machida, there is a small animal park with a huge outdoor enclosure with over 200 squirrels. Visitors can enter the enclosure and feed the squirrels, however you should not be a late riser.
How to Get There
Machida is a town situated on the border of Tokyo prefecture and Kanagawa prefecture. It is a popular area to live for people that work in Tokyo. To get to the Squirrel Garden you can take the bus Machi 55 at the north exit of the Machida Odakyu station. The bus stop where you get off is called Yakushi Ike (薬師池). You can see the park entrance once you get off the bus.
A one-way ride costs 240 Yen.
The squirrel garden is open from 10 AM to 4 PM. From April to September it is open until 5 PM on Sundays and national holidays. On Tuesdays, the garden is closed. The entry fee is 400 Yen for an adult and 200 Yen for children.
The garden has two main areas, the outdoor enclosure and an area with other animals in cages. In the later area, you can watch chipmunks, meerkats, guinea pigs and rabbits. The guinea pigs and rabbits can be fed with food that you can purchase for 100 Yen. I would recommend planning about two hours for visiting the garden.
The Squirrel Enclosure
In the large enclosure, there are over 200 Taiwan squirrels. Inside you can find several glove stations where you can rent gloves for free. Make sure to wear them when interacting with the squirrels. To feed the squirrels you can purchase small bags with sunflower seeds for 100 Yen. Other food is not allowed.
However, if you do not arrive early chances are the squirrels are full already and will not care about the sunflower seeds at all. According to this Japanese Youtuber, most squirrels are already full 30 minutes after the park has opened. When I went to the park it was on the afternoon of a national holiday and most squirrels were not remotely interested in the food. There were so many sunflower seeds lying on the ground, instead of buying some you could just pick up a few.
If you want to actually feed a squirrel, try to arrive at 10 AM and to avoid weekends and holidays. Otherwise, the enclosure is also nice for just watching or taking photos.
Sometimes the animal keepers will present the squirrels food other than the sunflower seeds, which can make for nice photo opportunities. Here is a shot I got of squirrels eating tomatoes.
When you leave the garden, you will find a delightful souvenir shop. Here you can buy limited squirrels magnets.
If you have some spare time on your way home, you can make a short detour to the Yakushi-Ike Park that is on the other side of the road. The entry is free and in May you can see Japanese Wisteria.
Currently, the Squirrel Garden is closed due to the Coronavirus until May 17 and should reopen once the state of emergency is lifted in Japan.