Ueno Zoo

Japan’s most diverse zoo features more than 2600 animals

20 April, 2012 by

During out last visit, I was pleasantly surprised by both the extensiveness of Ueno Zoo. It was a trip not regretted as it turned out the popular attraction was home to the greatest number of animals in Japan, including many rare and exotic species, some of which I had never even heard of.

To be honest, prior to this day, I had not visited any zoos apart from Singapore’s famous Zoological Gardens. This was mostly due to warnings from family members living overseas that the local parks are never as impressive as the ones in Singapore.

So while I had passed by many zoos in Japan on a number of occasions I had never quite entered any of them. The decision to visit the zoo this morning was the result of having spent too many days within the shopping districts of Tokyo.

Zoo is split up into different segments.

Ueno Zoo takes up the western most section of Ueno Park. In terms of just pure ground space, the zoo is just slightly more than half the size of the Singapore Zoo. Like the rest of Ueno Park, the land was originally the estate of the imperial family but was gifted to the state when the Showa Emperor married.

Draw points of Ueno Zoo include its convenience given that it is located just 5 minutes from Ueno Station and the low entry price of just 600 yen (approximately SGD$10) for adults. Students studying in Tokyo and children 12 years or under enter completely free. This makes it a great and viable weekend hangout for families, which made up most of the park’s visitors.

Click for full image.

Of the many animals on display, there are no more popular than Giant Pandas. One of the few places in the world where you’d get to see the endangered species, there are two on display right at the front of Ueno Zoo. There was a long (but fast moving) queue to catch a glimpse of the creatures.

Long queue for the park's stars.

Because pandas are from China.

Both giant pandas were asleep.

Unfortunately, both pandas were happily sleeping this morning. It was lovely weather to sleep in, so I wouldn’t blame them.

Giant panda.

On a related note, Singapore will be getting its very own pair of Pandas later this year at River Safari, its upcoming 4th zoo.



Used their bodies as a pillow.

Right at the entrance, we see a pretty wide range of birds of prey like owls, eagles and even vultures. Ueno Zoo boasts over 2600 animals and 460 species. For comparison’s sake, the Singapore Zoo hosts 2530 animals of 315 species.

Up close with all the animals.

This is important because while Ueno Zoo does have a lot more variety, it comes at the expense of some of the animals having to live in isolation. Fitting all those animals into half the space also comes with certain sacrifice, though it isn’t as bad as the first point.

Gorilla den.


In fact, each of the animals get a rather spacious enclosure of their own. It is a little depressing to see some of the animals having to live alone in such a large den, but the opposite of having smaller dens would had been worst.

Clean habitats.

Really large seal.

From observation, each habitat was meticulously kept. For example, so while the ocean loving animals in Singapore Zoo has to live in murky waters, all of the enclosures, like the seals’ pictured, are kept pristine.

Lonely polar bear.

Pacing around.

To pack that many animals in the limited park grounds, each of the enclosures have to be closer to one another. The pedestrian paths are not as wide, giving the zoo the appearance of being smaller than it really is. But this comes with the side effect of not having to walk far between sights.

Pretty large enclosure.

Posing for cameras.

Habitats are not distanced from visitors either and you can get a lot more up close with the animals at Ueno Zoo. While more dangerous animals like lions  or bears would have to be separated by a large a moat in the Singapore Zoo, the only thing separating us from the animals here in most cases was just a glass fence.

Also solitary.


Due to a traffic road, the zoo is split up into two halves, which are a short walk away from each other via a pedestrian bridge. The second half of Ueno Zoo is located just beside the Shinobazu Pond which surrounds Bentendo Temple. This part is actually a children’s zoo where kids can play and directly interact with farm animals.

Second half.

Petting farm.

While there are fences here, they are more to keep humans out of the enclosures rather than the animals in. All of the goat, sheep, chickens, duck and other domesticated animals are free to roam about the area.

Basking in the sun.

Free to roam around. But most chose just to hang out here.

Visitors are encouraged to interact with the animals with brushes, or help clean up their litter. Others ran around the park in an attempt to catch some chickens. Since it was a winter, most of the animals decided to laze around a rock structure which was in direct sunlight.

The billy goat was locked away.

Names of the animals.

Just like at the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, the animals around the zoo have all been named with some given descriptions of their personality traits. The accessibility of Ueno Zoo makes it possible for children or park goers to build up a sort of relationship with some of the animals.

Just farm animals.

Felt a little bad for them.

Kind of sad.



Hanging around the trees.

Closer look.

Unlike the first half of the zoo which had many lonesome creatures, lots of the small mammals, farm animals and flightless birds were packed into each enclosure on this side of the park. In most cases there were still ample space though.

A few penguin enclosures in the open.

Lots of penguins.

Vibrant plume.

Ton of flamingos.

Unlike the other pens.

Odd looking bird.

A couple of mountain goats duking it out.

Prairie dogs.

The second part of the park also hosts many other larger animals that we’ve come to expect of zoos. Sadly, like in the earlier parts, these pens held either solitary animals or were sparsely populated. Thankfully, all of the animals looked lively, though they were made to endure the cold winter weather. Many paced up and down their enclosures to keep warm.

Sad zebra.

Pygmy hippos.

Regular sized one.


Lonely rhino.

There are other sub-sections of the park which showcase themed specimens. For example, the World of Darkness contained all of the zoo’s nocturnal animals, while the vivarium held an extensive collection of slimy creatures.

Photogenic meerkat.


Some of the less dangerous animals are kept within arms reach and without any barriers and though I’m not sure anyone would want to risk a bite to touch them, it allows for visitors to observe these animals up close.

Getting up close.

No barriers.

Arms reach.

Amphibians and reptiles.

All sorts of scaly things.

Overall, our visit to Ueno Zoo was thoroughly enjoyable and had we more time, we could had certainly spent more than the morning there. The opportunity to view and interact with the vast variety of animals at Ueno Zoo is well worth the cheap ticket price.

If you love animals and have at least a couple of hours to spare in Tokyo, I would definitely recommend plotting Ueno Zoo on your itinerary, especially when traveling with young ones.

Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.

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Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.