Catch me if you can! a Cheetah (Photo: Steve Morton)

Going Wild at Tama Zoo

Big cats and cuddly things up close

Catch me if you can! a Cheetah (Photo: Steve Morton)
Steve Morton   - 4 min read

The last time I remember going to the Zoo was so long ago that I can no longer count the number of birthdays on my fingers, (even with the use of both hands). Ironically, it probably would have been many more years had it not been for some volunteer work which brought me here.

Located in a far western corner of suburban Tokyo in Hino City, Tama Zoo feels a world apart from other places like Ueno Zoo in central Tokyo for one very good reason; because it is different!

Boasting a surface area of over 50 hectares, Tama Zoo is about four times larger than its more famous Tokyo rival. This size difference is immediately apparent by a distinct absence of the all too common and shameful site of animals being crammed into ridiculously small cages. Instead of this, you will find an abundance of open planned enclosures allowing many of the animals to roam around more freely.

Considerable thought has obviously gone into providing as much comfort as possible for the animals. The result of this provides a refreshingly natural looking environment where you feel almost able to interact with the wildlife, albeit from a safe distance.

Tama Zoo is located within an easy one minute walk from ‘Tama Doubutsu Koen’ Station on either the Keio Line or Tama Monorail; (about 40 minutes from Shinjuku Station). Opening times are from 9:30 am to 5pm and the entrance fee is 600 Yen.

The Zoo is comprised of four main sections including; an African Zone, an Australian Zone and an Asian Zone. In addition, there is an Insectarium offering you the chance to get up close and personal to countless creepy crawlies, if this should happen to be your desire.

Navigating your way around can easily be done by following any of the walkways which despite being several miles long are very user friendly, (even I didn’t get lost!). In addition, there are numerous rest areas situated along the way providing endless opportunities for a pit-stop. This is definitely one place that has been designed for visitor comfort.

Whilst neither loving or loafing insects, I decided to head for the Insectarium first where I was immediately confronted by some of the world’s largest cockroaches. Despite trying my best, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to appreciate these creatures.

Hurriedly stumbling out of the Insectarium, I then made my way over to the African Zone. Here you can see Lions, Zebras and Giraffes, amongst many other animals roaming around in their savannah like environment. On this occasion two male Lions where squaring up to each other; no doubt trying to impressive some uninterested looking female Lions. Perhaps Lions and Humans aren’t so different after all!

For 360 Yen it is possible to get on the Lion bus which takes you on a Safari like experience right into the heart of the Lion enclosure.

The Australian section offers something more distinctly cuddly and bouncy; Kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and of course, Koalas. Unfortunately, by the time I got here all of the kangaroos had returned to their pens. However, several little wallabies were still bouncing around and I was able to get a look at a koala which, unsurprisingly was taking a nap.

My best experience however, came towards the end of the day when entering the Asian Zone. Here I was confronted with the amazing spectacle of seeing several Snow Leopards, a couple of Red Pandas and something I had never seen in my life, a Golden Takin. Whist the Leopards and Pandas were happily playing around with each other, the Golden Takin captivated me with is stillness and serenity; we both made eye contact and shared a moment together.

By the time I was ready to go to the next enclosure it was already reaching closing time. Perhaps like many other people I had made the huge mistake of assuming that a couple of hours would be enough. With so many amazing things to see this is definitely one place worthy of spending the whole day. My next visit here will definitely be in the near future with the whole day set aside!

Steve Morton

Steve Morton @steve.morton138

Yokohama based content creator, editor, and researcher. Steven likes, eating, reading and traveling on a streamlined budget guaranteed to make any self-respecting local gulp. When not too busy with work assignments, Steven attempts to not get lost while following Japanese tourist maps.Follow me o...