Note: Japanese zoos are generally not the best place regarding animal welfare. Most of the zoos, I have visited have a few cages where my heart breaks for the welfare of the animals. That said, I believe zoos do have a role to play in educating people, protecting the animals and inspiring the next generation. Steve Backshall summed it up beautifully in This article in the Huffington Post. I take my children to zoos, to generate a greater love for animals, educate them about the animals and their plight in the wild and I use the opportunity to discuss animal welfare.
There are quite a few zoos in and around Tokyo, all displaying various quality of animal husbandry. Most of them have amazing pens for some of the animals as well as some pens that makes my heart break.
So which do I think are the best?
1: Zoorasia, Yokohama
This zoo is about an hour’s drive outside of Tokyo. Being in Yokohama, there is more space available, so the cages are generally much larger. It is divided up into areas and while there are a vast variety of Asian animals to see, there are also few non- Asian animals at the zoo. One memory that particularly stands out for us is the aviary filled with seagulls, only because they are such a pest along the UK coastline!
2: Tama Zoo
This zoo is the largest zoo managed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. It is about an hour by train from Shibuya and is just as easy very easy to get to by car. It is made up of 129 acres (on a hill) and so most of the cages are large and spacious.
It is divided into three areas- African, Asian, Australian Gardens and the is an insectarium. Most of the animals have lovely cages, but I did find the Asian bear and cheetah’s cages a touch heart wrenching.
3: Ueno Zoo
Ueno zoo boasts being the oldest zoo in Japan and in places this is visible. It was founded in 1882 and is set over 35 acres of land. It boasts a large variety of animals (over 450 different species) and with it being in central Tokyo, one of the easiest to get to. Personally, I enjoy the vivarium the most, despite it giving me the heebie-jeebies.
4: Fuji Safari Park
Fuji Safari Park is set at the base of Mt Fuji and so provides a beautiful setting for this safari park. The children loved the opportunity to drive through the pens and photograph the animals close up. The part that I found challenging is that despite the animals being in large pens for us to drive through, they were kept in smaller areas and apart from each other with discreet electric fencing. There is also a part of the zoo where we walk around and the children can pet some animals. Since we visited the park, they have put in a swimming pool for the Asian elephant, which looks like lots of fun- for both the elephant and the spectator.
5: Tobu Zoo
Tobu Zoo is about 1 1/2 hour drive outside of Tokyo in Saitama prefecture. It is a bit tricky to find as its along a typical Japanese country lane and not hugely signposted. I was, as a result, rather surprised as to how large it was. The zoo is in fact a hybrid between a zoo, an amusement park and (in the summer) a water park.
Their claim to fame is that they have successfully managed to breed their white tigers, which my three really enjoyed watching.
Let me know what you think. Which is your favourite zoo?
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