Zoorasia is one of those rare places where you can enjoy fresh air and lush greenery without being too far from the city. Forests, ponds and grassland provide a natural setting for the animals and make it a perfect spot to relax and take photos. It’s almost like being on safari!
Opened in 1999, the zoo now plays a role in the conservation of endangered species. It’s home to over 80 different kinds of animals, including the fluffy native Tōhoku hare and the more gaudy and exotic Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo. So, as well as photographing and observing the different creatures, you can help to protect them too.
Explore a verdant wonderland
Located in Asahi Ward, Kanagawa prefecture, it’s easily accessible by bus or car. Special Zoorasia buses run frequently from Nakayama, Mitsukyo, Tsurugamine and Yokohama station and take about 15 minutes one way.
If you’d like to get round the entire zoo and see everything (which is recommended!), you’ll probably end up walking around 3km. Dressing comfortably and wearing sunscreen is advised, although there are plenty of leafy shady spots where you can sit and cool off.
Entrance will cost around 800 JPY for adults (approximately US$6.70), 300 JPY for high schoolers (approximately US$2.50) and 200 JPY for elementary and junior high schoolers (approximately US$1.60). The price also includes a multilingual map (available on entry) which makes a great keepsake.
See birds and beasts of all shapes and sizes!
Since there’s plenty to see, you can easily spend a day at Zoorasia. It’s cleverly organised into different sections named after the animals’ natural habitats, including a Japanese countryside section for tourists who want to see native wildlife. Try and spot the cute tanuki, or Japanese raccoon dog, an animal prominent in folklore and popular culture.
Animal lovers will be pleased to see that the enclosures are large and designed to be as much like home as possible for their inhabitants. Many of them, including the Sumatran tigers, tapirs and fur seals are housed in glass fronted enclosures to give you a better view.
A firm favorite with everyone are the penguin and seal tanks. You’ll love watching the penguins chase your fingers up and down the glass and marvel at the fur seals’ underwater acrobatics. Sitting next to the seal tank bathed in the cool blue glow from the water is also a wonderful way to relax!
Another must see is the giraffe-like okapi, the zoo’s rather unusual mascot animal. From the entrance to the exit, you’ll be bombarded with hints that this is the star attraction.
The cuddly toy okapi at the entrance and okapi themed ice cream sundaes at the cafe add to the excitement! You won’t be disappointed when you reach okapi corner either.
In 2014, the zoo’s resident okapi gave birth to an adorable calf named ‘Lala’. Lala and her mother are kept behind a glass panel, so they’re easy to photograph. If that’s not enough okapi for you, you can also buy 'okapi rice crackers’ in the gift shop!
Enjoy the special events and activities!
There are numerous special events at Zoorasia, from festivals to bird shows and camel rides, so it’s worth checking the website to see what’s on. The bird show in the African Savannah area features exciting demonstrations from trained birds of prey. Each show features owls, falcons and more and lasts for about 30 minutes.
The morning show starts at 11.30 and the afternoon one at 14.30. Both are free of charge, but be sure to get there early so you can find a good place to sit! In August, the zoo also opens at night time for a short period allowing visitors to see the nocturnal animals. You’ll be able to wander around until 20.30 while enjoying the shows and illuminations that are unique to the night zoo.
If you’re not fond of the sweltering summer heat, going to the zoo after dark is recommended. August nights in Japan are still warm enough that you can stay comfortable in a T-shirt and shorts.
Festivals are usually held in the Korokoro Hiroba near to the large pond. Often there will be games, activities and food stalls which you can enjoy while taking in the beautiful lakeside view.
Go for a pony ride!
From the Korokoro Hiroba, it’s only a short walk to the Paka Paka Hiroba where you can go pony riding! This activity is available for adults and children of over 100cm in height and under 90kg in weight. You can take either a short of long ride around the arena for 300-600 JPY (approximately US$2.50-$5) with a special souvenir photo (optional) for 1,100 JPY (approximately US$9.20). If you’re lucky enough to go on a Monday or Saturday (except the 2nd Saturday in the month), you’ll also be able to trot through the forest. After your ride, you might want to thank your tiny steed by feeding him a carrot! You can do this at feeding time from 13-14.30 in the afternoon.
Feeding time at the zoo!
Feeling peckish? Zoorasia is not short of places to eat. The jungle café is situated next to the popular tiger enclosure and offers a variety of light bites including burgers, onion rings and soup. The burgers even have a (you guessed it) cute okapi pattern on top! Further along, you can find several mobile food vans which sell delicious shaved ice, nachos and popcorn. If you prefer to eat indoors, there’s always the Aqua terrace café near the exit and the Aussie hill restaurant just opposite the kangaroo area. The menu includes filling Japanese favourites such as curry and rice and ramen noodles.
Spend the day with animals at Zoorasia!
So, if you’re looking for a relaxing day out to suit everyone, Zoorasia is the place for you. Just make sure you see the okapi!
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