On Friday April 15th I visited Ueno Zoo. I’ve already told you about my main reason for going there in a previous post – to see the new pandas. Given the current situation in Japan, I had naively thought that people would have other things on their minds instead of pandas… I was wrong. When I arrived at the zoo I instantly saw how crowded it was:
I guess it didn’t help that it was a lovely hot, sunny day, and the cherry blossom was still in bloom:
My first port of call was, of course, the pandas (Ri Ri and Shin Shin):
These two pandas were recently leased from China, and their exhibition has only been open to the public for a short time (the opening was delayed because of the earthquake). I can’t believe it costs $950,000 (USD) a year to lease two pandas, but they seem to be drawing in a lot of visitors to make that money back.
There were guards moving everyone through quite quickly and letting kids go to the front so they could see. I couldn’t see much, but enough to say “I’ve seen a panda”, which I couldn’t say before. For those who wanted a bit more panda action, there was a cute stuffed panda set up for photo opportunities:
The gift shop was also nearby, for all those panda items you simply can’t live without:
Ueno Zoo is ridiculously cheap to get in – only 600 Yen – so I could have easily gone there just to see the pandas. But I like animals, and it was a beautiful day, so I decided to stick around and see everything. There’s a lot to see at Ueno Zoo and the zoo is set in the beautiful scenery of a park with ponds and many trees and plants. Here’s the map,which I got from their website (click on the map for a larger version):
My first stop after the pandas was the elephants. I’ve been playing around with my camera a lot recently and decided to do a lot of zooming. Animals are fascinating when you get up close:
After the elephants I visited the Japanese Macaques. After my recent trip to see Snow Monkeys (which are also Japanese Macaques) I did find that these ones weren’t quite as interesting, but they were still cute:
I wandered by the capybaras and llamas and had thought that I might take the monorail as I didn’t last time I went to Ueno Zoo. However, it was closed that day:
I couldn’t read any of the signs but I assumed it was to save power. So instead, I wandered across Aesop Bridge and took in the view from there. It was a really gorgeous day and I really felt like I was on holiday.
Penguins are always fun to watch – this one seemed to be telling the other one to jump! 😉
The giraffes were quite difficult to photograph because of the bars, but luckily this one spotted my camera and posed for me:
When you look at a rhino close up it looks like it shouldn’t really be on this planet:
Rhinos and hippos always make me laugh because they remind me of my Japanese students’ determination to learn to pronounce “rhinoceros” and “hippopotamus” even though I insisted that we almost always just say “rhino” and “hippo”.
I ran into a school trip as I was walking around and couldn’t get over how incredibly well-behaved all the kids were:
I was imagining taking that many kids out to the zoo in England – it would be a nightmare! (>_<) But these kids seemed to be behaving themselves very well and not even complaining about having to wear those hats. If you ever run into a Japanese school trip you will notice that all the kids are wearing matching hats. Each school/grade seems to have a different colour. I guess it must make them easier to keep an eye on.
I spotted a lot of different kinds of cherry blossom (or flowers that looks like cherry blossom to me!) as I was wandering around the zoo. I liked these ones the best:
Cherry blossom will always remind me of spring in Japan – the best time to be there (unless you have hay fever!).
Something I don’t remember seeing in Ueno Zoo before is this animal cenotaph or monument:
I thought it was a nice gesture to have something like this in the zoo, and it was tastefully done.
Ueno Zoo is equipped with more than enough English for the average tourist to get by, and even without English most of the signs are quite easy to understand – like this one:
I know some people don’t approve of zoos but, on the whole, I like Ueno Zoo. The only animal I would say looked sad is this gorilla:
I think the animals in Ueno Zoo have a nice environment and enough space to move around in – and they certainly get a lot of visitors.
As I was leaving the zoo I had thought I might visit the pandas one more time, but the line was so long it was like waiting to go on a ride at Disneyland!
The pandas had moved into the outside part of their home though, so I did catch one more glimpse with my zoom:
Just outside the zoo I found some unofficial merchandise – panda castella (カステラ/Kasutera):
Castella are popular cakes in Japan, and are often found at festivals on street stalls. These ones had red bean paste (anko) in them – yum!
As I was on holiday, I decided it would be perfectly acceptable to have just cakes for lunch. So I stopped at a nearby bakery and bought a panda cake to fuel me for my next adventure…
The whole collection of animal crackers can be seen on Flicker as usual. Please stay tuned for the next Tokyo adventure – coming soon! 😉