There is a really great free zoo in Yokohama near Hinodecho Station. Despite being free it is a decent sized zoo with a great selection of animals. The thing I liked best about it is that they have designed it in such a way that during visiting hours the animals are up close and visible even to the smallest of children. Saitama has a number of free zoos too, but it is much larger with a better choice of animals than both the free and low cost zoo areas here (Kitamoto, Maruyama, Omiya, Chikozan).
The place was crowded understandably, and according to Google reviews, even on a weekday it is quite busy. The zoo has been around a long time and was the first zoo in Japan to enjoy success in housing a number of foreign animals including leopards, sloth bear and lemurs. They still have the latter (lemurs) but currently there are no sloth bears or leopards. They do have other bears, and a lion and tiger. You can see them up close and personal. They have a fantastic petting area where you can meet, touch and hold a variety of small animals such as mice, guinea pigs, chickens and snakes. Beside that area they have a few penguins with low barriers for easy viewing. They currently have a good selection of monkeys. The red pandas are supposedly the most popular especially at feeding time. In total there are about 1500 animals of 100 different species. They have a list of all animals on their website.
The zoo is quite hilly, but there are ramps that people with strollers can use. I sometimes had to go around a longer way due to the buggy, but I didn’t find it hard to navigate and it was only a minor problem. There are plenty of toilets, one of which is a family toilet with a child’s toilet, urinal, changing area and regular toilet. There are rest areas and drink and food vending machines. There are some fun areas within the zoo for kids, such as the old train that is turned into a rest area or the old polar bear enclosure which kids can explore.
Opening hours: 9.30am to 4pm. CLOSED ON MONDAYS
Address: 63-10 Oimatsu Cho, Nishi Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa 220-0032
Access: About 10 minutes walk from Hinodecho Station on the Keikyu line or about 15 minutes walk from Sakuragi cho on the JR Negishi Line.