Nagoya’s Higashiyama Zoo and the neighboring Botanical Gardens first opened their gates to visitors in 1937. Located just east of the city center, and extremely popular with Japanese families and couples, the city-owned Higashiyama site is easily accessible by public and private transport.
In common with zoos the world over, this one will not please everyone. The last major renovation was carried out in 1968, and some of the facilities are showing clear signs of age. It will come as no surprise to visitors familiar with Japan’s love of concrete that the predominance of the gray material, along with the small size of many enclosures, singularly fails to conjure up any impression of a ‘natural’ environment.
The other side of the coin, of course, is that the zoo is playing its part in preserving endangered species, and through signage and interactive displays it seeks to educate its visitors about the natural world. The Children’s Zoo is a good example of this. In the Petting Zoo, kids can touch and feed livestock animals such as sheep and goats, and the Bird and Squirrel Forest allows visitors to see indigenous creatures close-up in something approaching a natural setting.
There are plenty of side attractions for those seeking a break from the fauna, such as a monorail that circles the zoo, a lake with pedal boats and the Botanical Gardens. The latter are extensive, and include a rose garden, botanical hall, western garden and even a Gassho-style house (a traditional house with a steep thatched roof).
There are many Japanese maps dotted conveniently around the zoo grounds. English-language maps and information pamphlets are available from the Zoo Education Center near the main gate.
There’s plenty of standard Japanese fare available onsite, but it is quite pricey and packing sandwiches or a bento is probably a better idea. Just be sure not to share your food with the animals – they are on special diets.
For six nights in early August (5-7 and 12-14), Higashiyama Zoo will be open until 8:30, past the usual closing time of around 5pm. Highly recommended for families and anyone else who has ever wondered what a zoo looks like at night.
If that’s not enough of a draw, they have plenty of attractions to keep everyone entertained:
• Animal Talk Relay
Hear fun stories about the animals from their breeding staff.
• Massive Wall Painting Project – A gift to the future
This project is part of Civic Participation Programs. A huge mural will be completed and presented on August 6th. Don’t miss it!
• Food Stall Village
Based on the theme of “local production for local consumption”, there are many delicious shops gathering in this stall village.
• Light Art with Mino Washi (Japanese paper)
In collaboration with the tourist association of Mino city, about 90 pieces of light art are displayed on the 550m long historic street.
• Charity bracelets
Glow stick bracelets will be sold with the aim of supporting reconstruction up in Tohoku.
• Flower Stage Show
Masters of illusion and magic Primavera and Sweet Lily will be performing on the stage.
• Uchiwa (Japanese paper fan)
Each day, the first 1200 people to arrive will get original “Night Zoo and Garden” paper fan.