Location: Fukuoka, Japan
Highlights: Leopard exhibit, Orangutan exhibit, Sun bear exhibit
Photos: Jan 2016
Children Friendly (8): Animals were generally pretty easy to view within the exhibits and many allow for ‘face-to-face’ opportunities. The newer parts of the zoo have more interactive exhibits too which is nice. A children’s zoo allows for some hands on with some smaller animals. On site there is an amusement park with rides for those wanting more than just animals. It’s not overly big but there are a couple hills, nothing too steep though.
Animal Diversity (7): They have a great variety of mammals and birds, hitting most of the key ‘big draw’ animals. They also did a decent job representing animals from different parts of the world. They were greatly lacking in the reptile, amphibian, fish, and invertebrate departments though. Indoor pavilions were lacking making it difficult for these species to be well represented.
Animal Viewing (8): Generally the viewing was well done, during the visit I was able to see almost all the animals listed. The newer section especially allows for viewing from a number of different angles and levels. As what seems to be popular in Japan, for the animals not on exhibit, I was still able to view them in their indoor enclosures. While this benefits in some regard the viewing windows for some of these were very small and/or with poor visibility.
Animals Happiness (7): As mentioned there are a number of exhibits which have been obviously revamped recently. These exhibits are very well done with multiple levels, structures, and enrichment within the enclosures – most notably the leopard, sun bear, and orangutan exhibits. The exhibits on the other side of the zoo would benefit from an update as well as they appear much more dated. Smaller sized enclosures with less natural looking environments make it seem like a different zoo all together.
Photography (7): With the updated enclosures comes more photography friendly barriers – cleaner glass, better fencing, and in some instances no barrier. Other exhibits on the other hand had multiple layers between the camera and subject, most notably the penguin exhibit and the indoor lion and tiger displays. It appears they are making the necessary changes but still have a long way to go.
Layout/Map (6): The map is quite accurate to the layout of the zoo which is appreciated. The inclusion of simple cartoon animals on the map itself make it quick and easy to find your place. The numbering system they used however is quite confusing. Numbering the exhibits is usually done in a way that would suggest a path to follow or at least a logical progression in one section. On the map the numbers jump around within the section a couple times and don’t flow well from section to section. The actual layout does allow more or less to follow one path through the zoo without too much trouble but the animals are not grouped in any sort of manner (geographically or by type).
Hours (6): The hours aren’t awful but could definitely be improved. The days they are open the hours are always the same so they do get points for consistency. The problem is the hours themselves are not exactly long – closing every day at five. They are also closed every Monday (or the following day if a holiday) and over New Years. At the very least they should be open seven days a week, if not extended hours on weekends!
Price (10): Once again Japan astounds me with their cheap zoo pricing! Adults costing a mere 400 yen with discounts for anyone high school aged and below. Free admission for those with disabilities and seniors citizens from certain cities in Kyushu.
Food (7): The cafeteria area was a decent size and had a good variety of food that are sure to be crowd pleasers. Prices were fairly reasonable and appear to be an ok portion size. That being said there is only one restaurant in the zoo which could mean long lines and a very crowded eating area. They may have food stalls throughout during the summer but they were not present during my visit.
Website (8): I actually quite like their website and appreciate the aesthetic is the same in Japanese and English. The English version has all the necessary information and is well organized. I like the look they chose with the stylized animals, I feel it’s good for children while still be welcoming for adults as well. The content does look a little bit dated in its presentation in that they seem to have a routine of how they upload content.
Gift Shop (5): Much like the restaurant, they only seem to have one gift shop which I was surprised by. It was also fairly small considering it is their only one. The merchandise was ok but nothing that you couldn’t get at any other zoo. Everything seemed fairly generic. Especially being in Japan, they are missing a huge opportunity for profits from children and adults alike.
Quiet Areas (9): The zoo actually had quite a number of rest spots throughout, the larger ones even noted on the map which was nice. There are a decent number of pathways and routes to take to make your views more scenic or away from crowds. There were also a good number of benches distributed throughout.
Safety/Cleanliness (8): The zoo was pretty clean throughout which was nice. I did not notice any garbage or unkempt pathways. In terms of safety most barriers were well done and sufficient. Some of the older exhibits did not have as up to date barriers, more pit style which allow for things to fall into the exhibits and/or visitors to lean over railings to get a good view. During my visit there were a couple incidents of guests throwing objects into an exhibit and taunting the animals (with the animals clearly showing signs of stress). Having more staff/security present to hinder this would be beneficial for the animals health/happiness as well as safety of the guests if things should escalate.
Extras (7): Via their Japanese website it does appear they do small events almost daily, weekly for sure. These events do not seem overly big but still something to draw people in. Having the botanical gardens right next door is a huge plus to the grounds and adds a lot for guests wanting to expand their day. On their site I didn’t see any mention of camps or programming with the community which would be a welcome addition.
Overall (7.4): The zoo was pleasant, not overly big but a good way to spend the afternoon. If you’re into mammals and birds it’s a good option, but other animals are not well represented. The newer portion is quite well done and I hope they continue their work in updating the exhibits to represent advanced zoological requirements and expectations.