Ueno Park is filled with lots of things to do and places to see such as various museums, an old amusement park area for little kids, large public areas, picnic areas, restaurants and cafes, various park areas, areas for festivals and music events, and of course the zoo.
From our experience so far, we’ve not been overly impressed with Japanese zoos. Of course we’ve only visited the one up in Sapporo and seen others on TV shows—so our impressions may not be completely correct—but from what we’ve seen, they all appear to be similar. That is, they need updating desperately. Many of the animals are in small cages, and many of the outside pens are old cement holding areas. Often, the animals look crazed to get out.
I do like to go to zoos however. I like to see the various types of animals and there is always something fun and kitschy to check out. The Ueno Park Zoo did not disappoint in these two areas and sadly it did not dispel my preconceived notions of Japanese zoos either.
They had exhibits of the usual animals, plus there were a few interesting areas—some worth checking out and others not so much.
Worth checking out:
The Small mammals area—lots of cute little critters like hedgehogs, and I forget what these were, and a crazed armadillo that just ran back and forth (poor guy).
And the Aye Aye house—though dark, it was not too dark and you could see them running around on the branches. Also, there were some closeup pics of their faces so you could see what you were missing (which is a face only a mother Aye Aye could love).
The panda area—if not out in their outside pen, the two bears can be found in large rooms. We got there around lunchtime and after rousing themselves from naps, they proceeded to poop, bath, yawn, and eat for our entertainment. You are very close to them and you could probably stand there and watch them for hours as the area was not too crowded.
The Vivarium or snake house—who ever gets tired of looking at huge anacondas three feet away, when there is a pane of very thick glass between yourself and it?
The Monorail—for 150yen get a ow ticket from the East part of the zoo to the West (and/or vice versa). It takes all of five minutes to ride over and it takes you over a beautiful pond and saves lots of steps.
The various Photo Ops scattered around the main part of the zoo—There are lots of fiberglass pandas and weird figures to pose with for photos.
And the oodles and oodles of adorable school kids all wearing their various school hat colors—They are just too cute.
Not worth checking out
The Nocturnal House—it’s too dark to see anything. All the areas that contained animals were way too dark and the animals were either asleep or hiding back in the dark corners, or may have been gone completely for all I know. All were totally unviewable.
For an idea of what it looks like: close your eyes.
Cockroaches—if you live in a city, the last thing you need to see are cockroaches. I don’t care if they do hiss.
Most of the rest of the zoo—unless you like to look at a zebra living with a mountain goat in a too-small area, most of the cages are sad situations.
The JR station is right across the road from the park. The Tokyo Subway line is across the street but down the hill a couple of blocks and requires more walking to get to the zoo.
At 600yen (300yen for seniors) the entire zoo can be seen at a fast clip in about a couple of hours if you don’t have kids in tow. We went there during the week but I bet the place gets really busy on a weekend.