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【Asahiyama Zoo, Hokkaido】 What Animals and Spots Are Famous Among Visitors?

Asahiyama Zoo is frequented not only by locals, but by tourists from abroad, too. The number of visitors from other Asian countries – such as Taiwan, China, and Thailand – is apparently quite large. Even though it is also in Asia, Asahiyama City in Hokkaido – where Asahiyama Zoo is located – is actually quite far to the north. The creatures that live at this zoo may be different, but when you see all the foreign tourists stop in their tracks to take pictures of them, you start wondering what exactly is so different about them. To figure that out, I tried to catch a glimpse inside…

I see. A lot of people really do stop at the Hokkaido Animal House to take photos! As the name suggests, this is a facility that brings together animals that inhabit Hokkaido. While the animals here are familiar to those born in Hokkaido, including myself, they are very unusual for people who are not from Hokkaido. So, these animals should be interesting to foreign visitors and Japanese people who are not from Hokkaido!

Personally, I think the animal that best represents Hokkaido is the Kita Kitsune (Ezo Red Fox). After all, if you go “ru-rurururu” like in that famous drama series from Furano, one of them will suddenly appear!

I was born and raised in Hokkaido, so all this time, I thought that kitsune (fox) referred to kita kitsune (Ezo red fox). It wasn’t until I became an adult that I learned that there was a fox called “hondo-gitsune” (red fox) that inhabited Honshu and Kyushu. I had no idea that there were foxes other than kita kitsune!

Unlike the hondo-gitsune, the toes of the kita kitsune are black. Furthermore, though they look slim from spring to summer, their fur becomes thick and fluffy when winter sets in, which is what allows them to withstand the cold weather. In any case, I prefer the plump kita kitsune in the winter over the slim fox in the summer.

This house gathers animals with “Ezo” in their names, such as the Ezo Risu (squirrel), Ezo Yuki Usagi (mountain hare), Ezo Tanuki (raccoon), and the Ezo Kuroten (Japanese sable). However, it looks like the most popular animals are owls, such as the Ezo Fukuro (Ural Owl). Many people stop by to take photos of them, but that’s probably because the nocturnal Washi Mimizuku (Eurasian Eagle Owl) doesn’t move much during the day, meaning it is easier to take its photo.

Another place aside from the Hokkaido Animal House where you will see many people snapping pictures is in front of the Tako Suido (Octopus Water Faucet).

This is an innovative sink where the faucet juts out from an octopus that’s donning a headband. These faucets are actually important spots that have been at the zoo since it was opened 50 years ago. I’m just not sure if the tourists know about this…

This octopus water faucet can be found at six locations inside the zoo: At the former integrated animal house (there’s a raccoon dog!), in front of the animal data exhibition hall/animal library, near the learning hall, at the No.2 children’s farm, at the rest area in front of the Seal Museum, and near the Snowy Owl House (though the faucet there seems to be broken). Note, though, that you can’t use these faucets during the winter (it’s Hokkaido, so the water will freeze…). These faucets may not be animals, but they are rare spots that retain shadows of the past, so if you pass by them, it might be a great idea to take a photo as a souvenir!

Now, let’s go through the Marine Way at the Seal House. This is a famous spot for taking photos with both Japanese and foreign visitors alike. A lot of people even set up their cameras and wait just to be able to get that coveted two-shot! One special characteristic about Asahiyama Zoo is that there’s few obstacles like cages, so there’s a short distance between the animals and humans.

If you look inside the park, you’ll realize that Hokkaido Animal House is famous not just among overseas visitors, but also among locals from outside of Hokkaido. Maybe those of us that live in Hokkaido don’t realize it because when we spot a fox, we’d probably just dismiss it as just a fox and keep going…

By the way, flash photography is prohibited when taking photos of the animals inside the zoo! There also seems to be people who accidentally dropped stuff into cages because they were too absorbed in taking photos. Make sure to have fun without becoming a nuisance to other visitors!
※Photos provided by Asahiyama Zoo

■ Asahiyama Zoo
Zoo schedule:
Summer: April 29, 2017 (public holiday) – November 3, 2017 (public holiday)
※Zoo will be closed on April 10 (Mon) – April 28 (Fri), November 4 (Sat) – November 10 (Fri), December 30, 2017 (Sat) – January 1, 2018 (public holiday)
Winter: November 11, 2017 (Sat) – April 8, 2018 (Sun)
Hours:
Summer: 9:30 AM – 5:15 PM (up to 4:30 PM starting October 16 (Mon)) ※Entrance is until 4:00 PM
Winter: 10:30 AM – 3:30 PM ※Entrance is until 3:00 PM
Phone: 0166-36-1104
Admission fee:
Adult: 820 JPY
Junior high school students and younger: Free

Asahiyama Zoo

Kuranuma, Higashi Asahikawa-cho, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido

[This article was originally published in Walkerplus on 10.11.2017]

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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