8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Ueno Zoo in Tokyo!

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Ueno Zoo in Tokyo!

Founded in 1882, Ueno Zoological Gardens is Japan’s oldest zoo and home to around 3,000 animals of 400 different species, giving visitors an idea of the rich diversity of animal life on the planet, as well being an enjoyable place for day trips. In fact, compared to other zoos I’ve visited around the world, Ueno Zoo is amazing value at just ¥600 for adults, ¥200 for students (13-15) and free entry for under 12s, plus various concessions. Ueno Zoo is best accessed by a 5-10 minute stroll from JR Ueno Station through beautiful Ueno Park which, with its many museums and stunning seasonal cherry blossoms, is a major attraction in itself.



 

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Ueno Zoo in Tokyo!

 

1. Giant Pandas

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Ueno Zoo in Tokyo! panda

Practically the first thing you see on entering Ueno Zoo’s East Area is the immensely popular panda house, and the zoo has been cooperating with Beijing and San Diego zoos to breed giant pandas in captivity. Ri Ri and Shin Shin arrived from China in 2011 and Shin Shin gave birth in 2012, though the cub died from pneumonia after just six days. Shin Shin had a phantom pregnancy in 2013 and the pair haven’t bred since.

 

2. Dig Those Crazy Cats?

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Ueno Zoo in Tokyo! Tiger

It’s often remarked that some of Ueno Zoo’s enclosures are rather small, but for some animals, such as the Sumatran tigers and Indian lions, no enclosure could ever be big enough. It always saddens me to see the palpable captive frustration in their big crazy cat eyes and relentless pacing up and down. But Ueno Zoo is not unique in this respect.

 

3. Primates Rule!

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Ueno Zoo in Tokyo! monkey

Dotted around the East area of the zoo, you’ll find a variety of our distant cousins, including: gorillas, gibbons, white-mantled black colobus, spider monkeys, and the Japanese macaques of Monkey Mountain. If you can, please forego the urge to squeal “kawaii!” and think for a minute; that was us, many thousands of years ago. How far we’ve come since then!

*discovery game: spend some time observing the monkeys and count how many parallels to your own family and friends you can see!

 

4. Picnic for the Bears!

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Ueno Zoo in Tokyo! bear

(flickr By Tomoaki Kato)

Again in the East area, you’ll find Hokkaido brown bears, sun bears, and Japanese black bears. No matter how dangerous it might be, wouldn’t you just love to throw your arms around those big, cuddly beasts! But it’s the polar bears that are the main bear attraction ay Ueno Zoo, as you can now observe them diving and swimming underwater through glass. Close by, you can also see seals and sea lions in the same kind of habitat.

 

5. Crossing Over

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Ueno Zoo in Tokyo! shinobazu pond

Before you leave the East Area, be sure to see the 5 story pagoda, formerly part of Kaneiji Temple. If you can’t be bothered to queue for the monorail to the West Area (Japan’s very first monorail, incidentally), take Aesop’s Bridge instead. The West garden is dominated by Shinobazu Pond with its lotus plants, pelicans, storks and small island shrine. And if you need a break, you’re never very far from restaurants, refreshments and amenities.

 

6. African Animals

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Ueno Zoo in Tokyo! giraff

The West area of Ueno Zoo is home to some impressive beasts of the African continent; rhinos, hippos, giraffes, zebra and okapi. The accommodations might seem rather bijou for such large animals but, apart from the naturally plaintive call of the rhino, they all appear content and well cared for.

 

7. Vivarium

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Ueno Zoo in Tokyo! tortoise

(flickr By takaaki nishioka)

If it’s scales you want to see, the West Area’s Vivarium houses saltwater crocodile, green iguana, geckos, corn snakes, Japanese pond turtles, and many other reptiles and amphibians. It’s also home to Ueno Zoo’s oldest resident; 75 year old Taro, a giant Galapagos tortoise. Weighing over 190kg, Taro cuts an impressive, if very slow, figure!

 

8. The Cute Zones

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Ueno Zoo in Tokyo! small animals

Some animals are born entertainers, like the otters and prairie dogs in the East Area, and the West Area’s penguins, while others are quietly cute. You’ll find examples of the latter in the Nocturnal House, and the Small Mammals House, East and West Areas respectively. Also in the West area is the Children’s Zoo, with guinea pigs, rabbits, donkeys, goats, sheep and other domestic animals.

 

Conclusion

For someone who doesn’t really like zoos all that much, I’ve been to rather a lot of them, but I think Ueno Zoo is my favorite. It may not be the biggest zoo in the world, but its exhibits are comprehensive and the atmosphere generally good. Not only that, but Ueno Park has a lot of added attractions, while Ueno itself is an interesting old area for shopping and eating out. So why not make a packed day of it and enjoy everything the area has to offer!

 

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Ueno Zoo in Tokyo!

1. Giant Pandas
2. Dig Those Crazy Cats?
3. Primates Rule!
4. Picnic for the Bears!
5. Crossing Over
6. African Animals
7. Vivarium
8. The Cute Zones