[2019 Edition] Absolute Must-Visit! Top 10 Zoos in Japan by Word of Mouth
Zoos are one of the most popular tourist destinations. Japan may be dotted with zoos, but you probably want to check out the spots that are famous among tourists, correct? So, with that in mind, below are the Top 10 zoos in Japan that have been receiving particularly high praises online (Source: TripAdvisor(R))!
- No. 10: Nasu Animal Kingdom (Nasu-machi, Tochigi)
- No. 9: Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens (Nagoya-shi, Aichi)
- No. 8: Izu Shaboten Zoo (Ito-shi, Shizuoka)
- No. 7: Tama Zoological Park (Hino-shi, Tokyo)
- No. 6: Shizuoka Municipal Nihondaira Zoo (Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka)
- No. 5: Kakegawa Kachouen (Kakegawa-shi, Shizuoka)
- No. 4: Kobe Animal Kingdom (Kobe-shi, Hyogo)
- No. 3: Asahiyama Zoo (Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido)
- No. 2: Adventure World (Shirahama-cho, Wakayama)
- No. 1: Noichi Zoological Park of Kochi Prefecture (Konan-shi, Kochi Prefecture)
No. 10: Nasu Animal Kingdom (Nasu-machi, Tochigi)
Nasu Animal Kingdom is a zoo where 600 animals of 150 different species live. Divided into two areas, “Kingdom Farm” and “Kingdom Town”, it is a place where you can interact with and feed alpacas and other animals. Visitors also get drawn to this zoo by its animal shows such as the free flight of birds of prey and rare cat performances. Another star at this zoo are the kittens of a Pallas’s cat (also called a manul) that were born in 2019. The areas of the zoo are linked by covered corridors, so you can comfortably move around even on rainy days.
Easy access from major stations: Free shuttle bus from JR Nasu-Shiobara Station and othersspots (such as Nasu Garden Outlet and Hotel Epinard Nasu)
Admission fee: Kingdom passport: Adults (junior high school students and older): 1,400 - 2,400 JPY, Children (3 years old to elementary school students): 700 - 1,000 JPY * Varies depending on the season
No. 9: Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens (Nagoya-shi, Aichi)
Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a spot where you will get to encounter around 500 kinds of animals ranging from huge elephants to small Japanese medaka (ricefish). It is home to plenty of popular animals such as cute koalas that have become an icon of the zoo, and the gorilla named “Shabani” that successfully sold numerous photo books and a wide range of merchandise thanks to its reputation as a “handsome” gorilla. The zoo is packed with attractions, too, including Japan’s largest Asian elephant house and the Natural Animal Museum where you will find nocturnal animals and reptiles. The zoo is also annexed to a botanical garden and amusement park, so you are bound to have a lot of fun all day long.
Access from main stations: Approx. 3-minute walk from Higashiyama Koen Station on the subway Higashiyama Line
Sample admission fee (zoo + botanical garden): Adults (high school students and older): 500 JPY, Junior high school students and younger: Free
No. 8: Izu Shaboten Zoo (Ito-shi, Shizuoka)
Izu Shaboten Zoo is located in the Izu region that is known as a hot spring resort with warm climate. One of the highlights of this area is the original open-air capybara bath that is only open during winter. There is no doubt that you will feel soothed by the sight of capybaras happily soaking in the hot bath. On top of capybaras, the zoo also lets squirrel monkeys, peacocks and other animals run free, and letting people get close enough to observe them has become the secret behind the popularity of this zoo. Further, there are 1,500 species of cactus and other plants from all over the world on display inside.
Access from major stations: Approx. 10 minutes by taxi from Izu Kogen Station on the Izu Kyuko Line
Admission fee: Adults (junior school students and older): 2,400 JPY, Elementary school students: 1,200 JPY, Children (4 years old and above): 400 JPY
No. 7: Tama Zoological Park (Hino-shi, Tokyo)
Tama Zoological Park is a popular zoo that has managed to keep much of nature intact despite its being located in Tokyo. It works under the motto of showcasing animals moving around as freely as possible through such means as partitioning the vast grazing area with trenches or grooves instead of cages and raising animals that form groups in the wild in a way that they are in groups in the zoo. There are around 300 kinds of animals inside, including Japanese animals such as storks and raccoon dogs, and giraffes and orangutans. This zoo is also famous for the string of births of koalas and chimpanzees in 2019.
Access from main stations: Approx. 1-minute walk from Tama Dobutsuen Station on the Keio Line or Tama Monorail
Sample admission fee: Adults: 600 JPY, Junior high school students: 200 JPY, 65 years old and above: 300 JPY
No. 6: Shizuoka Municipal Nihondaira Zoo (Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka)
Shizuoka Municipal Nihondaira Zoo breeds 700 animals from about 160 different species. Visitors have been giving high marks to this zoo for the way it showcases the animals, as it comes up with ways to match the zoo environment to the original ecology of the animals. Some of its facilities are the Wild Animal House 299 where you can observe polar bears and Siberian tigers up close from different angles, the Red Panda House where you can see the adorable red pandas as they demonstrate their superior agility, and the Flying Cage for birds that is the largest of its kind in Japan. You are bound to be thrilled by the view of animals in their natural habitats.
Access from the main stations: From JR Higashi Shizuoka Station, take the Shizutetsu Justline’s (bus) “Shizuoka Nihondaira-sen” for about 10 minutes and get off at the Dobutsuen Iriguchi bus stop and then walk for about 5 minutes to get to the zoo
Sample admission fee: Adults (high school students and older): 620 JPY, Elementary and junior high school students: 150 JPY *Preschoolers: Free
No. 5: Kakegawa Kachouen (Kakegawa-shi, Shizuoka)
Kakegawa Kachouen is a popular theme park that was designed based on the concept of “interacting with flowers and birds”. Occupying a vast area, this park is home to plenty of unique birds. Visitors love the fact that majority of the birds are not kept in cages, so you can directly interact with them, try feeding them, and take souvenir photos with them. You shouldn’t miss the thrilling bird show either, as it will let you see a hawk fly low to a spot near you to demonstrate its special skills. There are also other facilities in the park, including a greenhouse where various flowers bloom.
Access from major stations: Approx. 10-minute walk from JR Kakegawa Station
Admission fee: Adults (junior high school students and older): 1,300 JPY, Seniors (60 years old and above): 1,000 JPY, Elementary school students: 600 JPY, Infants: Free
No. 4: Kobe Animal Kingdom (Kobe-shi, Hyogo)
Kobe Animal Kingdom is a popular theme park where you will get to encounter various animals. Here, you can touch animals such as capybara, alpaca and kangaroo, and experience feeding them. The most popular attraction at this zoo is the powerful bird performance show. You are bound to be impressed by the colorful birds gracefully gliding on the water lily pond. The park is packed with a wide array of attractions, divided into a variety of areas that include the Rocky Valley where animals from North America gather, and the African Wetland where ominous shoebill birds and adorable lemurs live.
Access from major stations: A short walk from Kei Computer Mae (Kobe Animal Kingdom) Station on the Port Liner Airport Line
Sample admission fee (incl. tax): Adults (junior high school students and older): 1,800 JPY, Seniors (65 years old and above): 1,300 JPY, Elementary school students: 1,000 JPY, Infants (4 - 5 years old): 300 JPY
No. 3: Asahiyama Zoo (Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido)
Asahiyama Zoo is a spot that is popular throughout Japan thanks to its adoption of the “active exhibition (*)” method. This zoo doesn’t seem to run out of recommended spots and activities, such as “Mogu-Mogu Time” (feeding time) that will let you see polar bears make a powerful dive into the water to get to the food under the massive pool, and seals swimming in a large cylindrical aquarium. But it is during winter when you can really feel the charm of this place, as it holds events that are unique to snowy regions, including the Penguin Walk that is held every winter from late December and the Asahiyama Zoo by Snow Light where you can watch the animals as they are illuminated by lights at night.
*An exhibition method that draws out the inherent behavior of animals, and lets visitors see the animals in their natural habitat
Access from major stations: From JR Asahikawa Station, take the Asahikawa Denkikidou’s (bus) "Asahiyama Dobutsuen Line" for about 40 minutes and then get off at Asahiyama Dobutsuen bus stop. The zoo will be a short walk from there.
Sample admission fee: Adults (high school students and older): 820 JPY *Children (junior high school students and younger): Free
No. 2: Adventure World (Shirahama-cho, Wakayama)
Adventure World is a famous zoo that houses 1,400 animals from 140 different species. Visitors are raving about this zoo’s giant panda family that is famous throughout Japan, and its dolphin show which will let you enjoy an exciting performance by dolphins. The interactive attractions are also major highlights here, including the safari tour that will get you close to carnivorous animals such as lions! This zoo is also annexed to an amusement park, Marine World and various other facilities, making it a comprehensive leisure spot where you are sure to have a lot of fun.
Access from major stations: From JR Shirahama Station, take the Meiko Bus for about 10 minutes and then get off at Adventure World bus stop. It will be a short walk from there.
Admission fee: Adults (18 years old and above): 4,500 JPY, Seniors (65 years old and above): 4,000 JPY, Junior (12 - 17 years old): 3,500 JPY, Children (4-11 years): 2,500 JPY
No. 1: Noichi Zoological Park of Kochi Prefecture (Konan-shi, Kochi Prefecture)
At the No. 1 spot is the Noichi Zoological Park which is located in Kochi Prefecture in the Shikoku region. This zoo boasts a vast land area that is divided into several areas such as the Temperate Forest and the Jungle Museum. There are about 1,500 creatures from around 100 species that live inside the zoo, but one of the most popular animals is the shoebill named Sasa. Visitors often find that he is “cool” based on appearance alone! You should also try two of the popular events that are held at the Jungle Museum. They have managed to recreate a squall that is unique to tropical rainforests by using around 1 ton of water at “Squall Time”, and the magical "Jungle Time" is where fog is generated to create a fantastical atmosphere. Both are extraordinary experiences.
Access from major stations: Approx. 20-minute walk from Noichi Station on the Tosa Kuroshio Railway Gomen/Nahari Line
Sample admission fee: Adults: 470 JPY *Under 18 years old/high school students and younger: Free
This article featured different kinds of zoos, from large-scale facilities where you can spend all day enjoying, up to zoos that are next to amusement parks and other attractions. So, how about checking out these spots and soothing your mind by looking at the cute animals?
*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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