Translated by Briony Dunbar
Ueno Zoo - 8 Animals You Absolutely Must See!
Written by Hori Yuhei
Ueno Zoo is one of Japan's most popular zoological gardens, home to around 500 different animals. Many of the animals here are very cute and rare, and the zoo is always bustling with visitors. We introduce eight of its most popular animals.
Ueno Zoo - Famous for Its Cute Pandas! A Must-Visit Place in Ueno
Ueno Zoo isn’t a very large zoo, but to see each animal properly you’ll need at least two to three hours, which can be tough if you are on a tight schedule. So we've put together a list of cute and rare animals, which Ueno Zoo fans are sure to agree you'll be missing out on if you don't see them while at the zoo!
1. Pandas - The Stars of Ueno Zoo
The giant panda is a member of the bear family which lives in the south-west region of China. Because of its charming black and white patterned fur, and how cute it looks eating bamboo grass, it has gained immense popularity in Japan.
Currently, there are only around 1,800 giant pandas living in the wild. If you wish to see pandas, do come to see the precious, world-famous pandas at Ueno Zoo!
On the official website and at the entrance to the zoo you can find out at what time are the pandas fed, so if you want to watch them eating bamboo grass, then adjust your visit accordingly and head towards the panda breeding center.
2. The Only Place in Japan to See Them! Say Hi to the Aye-aye
The aye-aye is an animal that lives in the tropical rain forests, bamboo thickets, and mangroves of Madagascar Island. Children in Japan learn a nursery rhyme called “aye-aye” in kindergarten and elementary school, so there are probably many people who can imagine the sweet little monkey that appears in the song.
However, in the aye-aye’s homeland of Madagascar, they are feared as a demon primate.
Aye-ayes eat their food with their long fingers. The nocturnal aye-ayes are raised in their own exclusive breeding center, where the lights are turned off. Thanks to this, their day and night are swapped around, so even during the day when the zoo is open you can see the aye-ayes moving.
3. Is it a Horse? Is it a Zebra? No, it's the Marvelous Okapi!
The okapi lives in certain central African countries such as The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon. It’s famous for looking like a cross breed between a zebra and a horse. What’s special about it is that, while it’s very similar to the horse, its legs are patterned with black and white horizontal stripes, just like a zebra.
This pattern acts as camouflage in the forest. People have a tendency to think that the okapi is a member of the zebra family. But, it is actually a member of the giraffe family. An animal close to the ancestors of giraffes, it is said that its appearance has barely changed from that of ten thousand years ago.
The only places you can see the okapi in Japan are Ueno Zoo in Tokyo and Zoorasia Kanazawa Zoo in Kanagawa.
4. Ueno Zoo's Largest Animal - The Elephant
Elephants are known to everybody but when you actually see them up close, you’ll be surprised at just how big they are.
In Ueno Zoo’s greenery and earth free-roaming zone, you can see the area where elephants are being raised. You can observe aspects of the elephants’ lives, like them being in their bedroom, bathing in the luxurious pool, and basking in the sand.
5. The Japanese Monkey, Living on the First Monkey Mountain in a Japanese Zoo
Ueno Zoo is home to the first monkey mountain built in Japan, which was constructed in 1931. As the name suggests, the Japanese monkey’s home is Japan, and its characteristics are its bright red face and posterior.
During mating season, the redness of their posterior and face stands out even more. You can watch the older monkeys groom the younger monkeys and see them playing about freely on this mountain.
6. The Zoo's Oldest Resident - The Galapagos Tortoise
As the name suggests, the Galapagos tortoise is a tortoise that originates from the Galapagos islands and is known as the world’s biggest land tortoise.
Currently, there are three Galapagos tortoises being raised in Japanese zoos, and two of them, Taro and Kamekichi, are being raised at Ueno Zoo.
In 2015, Taro was estimated to be over 75 years old and 193 kilograms, and moving him about was difficult. Due to this fact, the handlers take watermelon (Taro's favorite treat) and use it to get him to move on his own.
Although their bodies are big, tortoises are tortoises, so their walking speed is slow. To cover the distance that a human would in one minute of walking, the Galapagos tortoise would end up taking around 15 minutes.
7. The Polar Bear - Ruler of the Arctic
In order to observe the polar bears’ dynamic movement underwater at Ueno Zoo, a pool was set up within the facilities. Also on display are the seals and sea lions, who live close by in the same habitat as the polar bear.
The highlight of this attraction is seeing the giant polar bear diving and swimming in the pool.
8. The Cute and Slightly Chubby Pallas’s Cat
The Pallas’s cat is a small wildcat that lives in the relatively mountainous region that ranges from Russia’s Yablonoi Mountains (around the circumference of Baikal Lake), to the Elburz Mountains of the Caspian Sea. It looks cute due to its short, stout figure, and long hair, which make it look round and chubby.
How to Get to Ueno Zoo
Ueno Zoo is located in Ueno Park and its main entrance is located close to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.
If you're using the JR Ueno Station, enter the park through the eastern entrance and you'll reach the zoo entrance in less than 5 minutes. The eastern entrance is also easily accessible from the Keisei Ueno Station in about 5 minutes on foot.
If you are using the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line or Hibiya Line to arrive to Ueno, please use Exit 7 and head for the Ueno Zoo east entrance. The walk takes about 12 minutes.
Ueno Zoo has an additional western entrance called Ikenohata Gate, which can be reached in about 5 minutes on foot from Nezu Statin (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line).
For more details on Ueno Zoo, please refer to the article below.
Enjoy Your Visit to Ueno Zoo!
If you are on a tight schedule but really want to see some of the animals at Ueno Zoo, the creatures introduced above are the ones you simply shouldn't miss out on. There are hundreds of other animals waiting here for you, though, so if your schedule permits, make sure to check out the other cute animals at Ueno Zoo, too. You won't regret it!