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.
The Saitama Children’s Zoo in Takasaka, Higashimatsuyama, is fantastic value for money and one of the best days out for children in Saitama prefecture. The zoo is spread over a large area and there is so much to do, see and experience, that you would definitely need to allocate a full day for a trip to this zoo. Apart from the animals, they have a large athletic playground beside a smaller playground, a Beatrix Potter museum with a small playground, a dinosaur corner, a small amusement area with battery cars and rides, a splash pool in the summer and there is an indoor play area with a climbing area outside (please see Children’s Castle below). Throughout the zoo they have photo props, interactive educational corners with quizzes and challenges for the kids, as well as plenty of rest areas, toilets and places that sell food.
In the petting area the children have an opportunity to get up close and personal with farm and domestic animals. Three times a day at 10.30am, 1pm and 3pm they bring out guinea pigs and rabbits for the children to hold and pet. Sometimes they have baby chicks or snakes, too. When the hour long session is over they have an animal parade where the guinea pigs walk down a long bridge back to their home. Outside of petting hour there is still an opportunity to get to close to farm animals as you can walk freely among pigs, goats and ducks. They provide brushes so you can brush down the animals and there are pooper-scoopers so that the kids can sweep up the animal’s poop. This is all included in the entrance price to the zoo.
Next to the petting area is the cows. At 11am, 1pm and 2.30pm it is possible to try milking the cows under the supervision of the zoo staff. It is included in the price.
Passed the cows there is the penguin area which is relatively new. For 300 yen you can feed the penguins, but they limit the number to 30 people a day. You can buy a ticket from 30 minutes before the feeding times which are 10.15am and 1.30pm.
For 200 yen children over the age of 4 can ride a pony in the paddock beside the stables, which is close to the main entrance of the zoo. This experience is possible between 10.30 and 11.30 am and again between 1 and 3pm. For adults the price is 300 yen.
On weekends it is possible to feed the goats between 2.30 and 3.15pm, it costs 100 yen for a cup of feed.
On weekends it is possible to feed the ponies between 3.15 and 3.45pm, it costs 100 yen for a cup of feed.
On the first Sunday of the month they have a class about animals from 2.30pm.
Every month on the 2nd Sunday you can try your hand at butter making for just 200 yen. You need to book in advance.
Every month on the 3rd Sunday they have an “Enrichment day”. Each time they discuss a different animal in detail.
Every Saturday they have a craft class.
On weekends they have tours of the giraffe’s paddock.
On the 2nd Saturday of each month they have story time; please see the “Children’s Castle” below.
Zoo train which costs 200 yen to ride once or 300 yen to use throughout the day.
One thing I really love about this zoo is that even though we go quite a lot, there is always something different to try. Throughout the year the classes mentioned above as well as the special events change quite frequently. It is best to check the website for up-to-date information and a full list of what’s on offer. Here are some of the more regular seasonal attractions:
Capybara onsen – Winter
2016 the Capybara onsen will start from November 19th until the end of March 2017. The first 12 people there at 14.30 will be able to get up close and personal and dip your feet in a foot onsen. On December 18th they will be giving gifts to the animals.
Australian animal Fair – Spring
Sheep shearing – Spring
Cherry blossoms – Spring
Splash pool – Summer
Night zoo – Summer
Autumn leaves – Autumn
New Year cards photo opportunity – Autumn / Winter
2016 Capybara Onsen, Art Festival and Gift giving day information:
For an extra 100 yen the kids can enjoy an indoor play area with a library room and talking tree. On the 1st floor they have a special tree that tells stories and plays music. Behind that is a ball pool with boats on top of the balls. Beside that is a cinema room with educational videos. There is a climbing tunnel from the 1st floor to the 2nd floor and also a ramp that is wide enough for a wheelchair and strollers. The kids can take a slide back from from the mezzanine to the first floor. On the 2nd floor there is a padded play area with wooden toys and building toys. There is a snake slide and frog cave in the padded area too. Beside it is the library room. Here is where they have the story time once a month.
Hours: 9.30am to 5pm except winter when it closes at 4.30pm. Costs: 510 yen for adults, 210 yen for children between 6 and 15. Free for children under 6. CLOSED ON MONDAYS all year round (except national holidays) and on Tuesdays too during the month of January.
Parking: For 800 cars, costs 600 yen per day. At weekends during peak season, there is an overflow car park. There are also some unofficial parking areas beside the overflow car park that open on busy days and cost 500 yen a day.
Chikozan Park in Sayama is a nice place for a family day out with toddlers. It has a small zoo, with the unique feature of fodder dispensing vending machines (pictured above). It has a lovely walkway through a wooded marsh. There are gardens beside a large open space. There are two playgrounds within the woods; an adventure playground and a general playground with swings, slides and climbing equipment. There is a lake designated for fishing. It is a lovely park in spring and the zoo looks particularly pretty with the cherry blossoms. We had our first hanami picnic at the zoo last week. Some photos after the information (specifically for the zoo) section below.
CHARGES: Children under the age of 6 free. 50 yen for school age children and 200 yen for adults. Discounts available for a group of over 30 people. Parking is free. The fodder dispensing machines cost money. Horse riding is available at a charge.
FACILITIES / SERVICES:
Some playground equipment in the large opening where the cherry blossom trees are
It’s alright to bring your own food
5 buggies/strollers available to rent
2 nappy changing areas within toilets
There is a restaurant within Chikozan park, near the zoo
I couldn’t resist the corny title! As you may have guessed today’s play-a-day involved the zoo. We often go to a zoo near my house, but today we tried out the children’s zoo in Chikouzan park in Sayama.
What I like about this small zoo is you can feed some of the animals. For 100 yen you get a capsule of food. There are various feeding stations, but today we just did the sheep/goats, monkeys and ducks. The capsules costs can add up if you have a few kids, but unlike the Saitama Children’s zoo in Takasaka (which is an excellent zoo) the parking is free. The entrance to Sayama’s zoo is only 200 yen for adults and 50 yen for children of school going age.
There are other attractions in the park too. The park’s entry is free, as are the use of the playgrounds.