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Posts Tagged ‘animal’

fuji-safari-park-review

Location: Susuno, Shizuoka, Japan

Website: www.fujisafari.co.jp/english

Highlights: Safari Drive Through, Walk through capybaras

Photos: July 2016

Children Friendly (7): A fairly child friendly zoo with plenty of options to make your day more suitable for your children. Having half the zoo a drive through you can save the little ones walking and tiring out too quickly. Lots of interactive portions and opportunities for the kids to get up close and personal with the animals. While this is exciting, I did knock off some points as there were a number of petting areas or close encounter areas without enough staff supervision in my opinion.

Animal Diversity (7): A surprisingly wide variety of animals, not just ‘African safari’ but also have a number of more domesticated species, and those from other areas of the world. Mammals are the vast majority of the animals so if you’re looking for reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, fish, etc. this isn’t the best location for you.

Animal Viewing (9): I was extremely surprised by the amount of animals they had on display, especially through the safari. I was expecting a handful of each (lions, tigers, bears, etc) but there were conservatively 20 of each. This meant you were pretty much guaranteed to get a good view of, at least, one from each section. They were fairly close to the driving pathways as well so you didn’t have to manoeuver awkwardly to see them well. We did not take the safari bus but from online photos this is where you are going to have a hindered view. Due to the number of grates and barriers needed for safety you won’t get as good a view.

Animals Happiness (5): While the number of animals is great in terms of spectators, it felt very cramped to me. The large amounts of space in each section was deceiving as they were boxed off by electric wire into smaller sections for individuals. Having so many other members of their species surrounding them, in range of their senses, and being confined to your own area must be a little distressing. The elephant section also appeared rather small with limited enrichment for their residents.

Photography (6): For the majority of my visit the photography was fairly good, lots of animals close by with limited obstructions. This was largely due to my method of travel as we drove our own car through. Taking the safari vehicle or bus would make taking photos of any decent quality virtually impossible.

Layout/Map (5): I found the layout quite confusing and nonsensical. The safari portion is one way with a loop so in that regard it is hard to mess up. The remainder of the zoo however is all over the place with animals not arranged according to anything in particular. There is also limited signage to help you navigate from the parking or between sections. The map is fairly good, with good labeling and definitely helps you find your way.

Hours (9): Pretty consistent throughout the year which is good for guests. I was surprised they are open year round considering the general type of animals they house. Fairly early hours during the peak season and staying open later for a drive through safari style park. Night views increase their hours during peak times as well. I do think they could open slightly earlier or at least keep the walk through section a bit later to increase their hours as well.

Price (7): Quite pricey compared to other zoos in Japan, more comparable to aquarium prices here. That being said most foreigners, at least from Canada or America, would find it pretty standard. Discounts available for children and seniors. Food and souvenirs were decently priced as well as other small features. The bus and safari vehicle rentals were pretty pricey but if you drive your own vehicle that would eliminate that cost. The animal cafes were also an additional cost.

Food (10): I was impressed with the actual number of dining locations throughout the zoo, especially since the non-safari portion isn’t that large. A cafeteria style main restaurant had a wide variety of options ranging from hearty to light, and everything fairly suitable to children or foreign visitors. A number of more sit-down restaurants were also available and had decent menu options with variation between them. Some snack venders were also around selling more of the treat or quick varieties of zoo food.

Website (8): The English version of the website contained quite a bit of information. It was fairly simply designed but got the appropriate information across. Online maps and pictures were a great inclusion at least for their main features. I appreciate the FAQ section and the simple navigation. I do think they could still improve on appearance and information. Especially on events or births which would draw even more foreign visitors I think.

Gift Shop (10): A huge gift shop which was full of every variety of souvenir or gift you could want. Toys, stuffed animals, games, puzzles, clothing, figurines, etc. They really focused on the animals they had there at the zoo and I was impressed that many of the puzzles, toys, and other gifts used pictures of animals actually from the zoo itself. Educational section was well done with books and games and things. Pricing was decent as well on the items. They did have plenty of the more Japanese style souvenirs but they also included quite a few unique ones that I hadn’t seen anywhere else which would be fun to bring home to family and friends (example: animal themed masks for when you’re sick).

Quiet Areas (7): Not too bad in this arena. The confusion about pathways and getting through the zoo did lend itself to this in many regards. There were a decent amount of benches or areas away from crowds, at least when we were there. The cafeteria restaurant was very spacious which meant you could sit alone or away from other groups. On busier days the majority of quiet time would probably be in your own vehicle as opposed to any area set up by the zoo.

Safety/Cleanliness (3): In terms of cleanliness I didn’t find it overly clean. The pathways and bathrooms were fairly clean, no signs of garbage or anything. I did think they needed an update of some sort though to tidy them up or make them look a little more put together. Safety wise I think they needed much more staff monitoring the sections to ensure the safety of both the animals and guests. In the drive through area there were far too many animals per each staff member in vehicles ensuring people were keeping their windows closed/not feeding. In the walk through portions again there was not enough staff presence making sure the animals were well contained or showing guests how to properly feed and pet the animals.

Extras (8): More extras than I was expecting for a seemingly one concept zoo. They had three different animal cafes for an additional price. An option to walk through the driving portion on a special path. Bus tours or safari vehicles for rent. Night time zoo was available on certain days/time periods throughout the year which is an awesome thing to include. Some more educational programing and workshops with be an awesome addition if they have the staff and room to do so.

Overall (7.2): Overall a decent zoo to stop in on. It had a larger variety of animals than I expected and you won’t have a problem viewing them. In terms of a unique Japanese zoo I would chose others instead which feature more native Japanese species and in a more convenient location. If you have the means to get here for the afternoon it is pleasant though and you can come home with a great variety of souvenirs.

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Nagoya Aquarium

Location: Nagoya, Aichi, Japan

Website: http://www.nagoyaaqua.com

Highlights: Dolphin show, Kuroshio tank, Orcas

Photos: June 2016

Children Friendly (9): Very well done! The huge floor to ceiling viewing areas for many exhibits allow children to feel absolutely immersed in the experience. Up close views of the animals are easily accessible for even the smallest of children without the need to be lifted up. Plenty of talks, shows, and demonstrations will keep their attention as well. The touch tanks would need parental supervision and caution but everything else is well displayed for kids.

Animal Diversity (7): Quite a bit of diversity for an aquarium including large and small mammals, birds, turtles, fish, and invertebrates. They have a wide selection of the animals you would expect as well as nice displays of ones that are not as focused on like deep sea creatures. Many aquariums are either large marine mammals or a variety of smaller aquatic life, but Nagoya Aquarium is able to provide both.

Animal Viewing (9): Every animal that was promised was on display and visible. It also appears that there are not scheduled times where they are taken off display (during shows and talks you can still view them in the regular exhibits). The floor to ceiling displays of many exhibits also allows for viewing of many of the animals from a distance or above the heads of a crowd which is awesome.

Animals Happiness (7): Now I’m sure this will be the largest area of contention for this review. Yes, they house dolphins and whales, and yes after looking into them the vast majority are wild caught from the infamous Taiji. As I have never looked into where animals came from for past reviews and I feel this is a separate issue unrelated to the actual daily experience of visiting the aquarium I shall leave it as separate. It is widely reported that the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium has the largest outdoor tank in the world and I myself was impressed with the size of it. All of the whale and dolphin tanks are much larger than I have seen at other aquariums and quite clean. Also, none of these animals were solitary, with at least three individuals in each tank (thirteen dolphins were together in the largest of the tanks). While captivity is overwhelmingly criticized for these species I do give this aquarium credit for the amount of space and interaction these individuals get. Performing shows are also criticized but the show I viewed was much more educational than non-stop action. While tricks and stunts were performed the majority of the actions were natural behaviours done on command. Also, no humans entered the pool during the show I watched. Throughout the rest of the aquarium, I saw no animal welfare issues or unnatural displays. The exhibits for other animals throughout were also quite large.

Photography (10): I was absolutely blown away by the photography I was able to do at this aquarium. Aquariums are notoriously more difficult for taking photos due to the obvious glare from glass, fingerprints, curved/angled glass, and watermarks – but this aquarium had very little of any of those. I repeatedly said during the visit that everything was so clear! Considering the amount and size of the exhibits it really was impressive how good the shooting was.

Layout/Map (7): The aquarium is divided into two buildings – one for the large mammals (dolphins, whales, seals), and one for everything else. The divide makes sense in terms of zookeeping and logistics for displays and shows, but it would definitely create huge crowds in one area for much of the day. The layout itself is set up for a one way trip through the displays and for the most part is successful in having a natural progressions, however there were one or two times where I second guessed which direction was correct. This isn’t helped by the fact that you go back and forth between floors a number of times giving you the feeling that you haven’t completed it before moving on. The map itself is quite good and does it’s best with numbering the exhibits and providing guide lines – any confusion from the map I contribute to the route not the map itself. Plenty of pictures and details in the English map was greatly appreciated.

Hours (8): Fairly good hours with consistent opening times year round. Closing times are generally 5-5:30 in the slow seasons, with extended hours until 8pm during vacations and holidays. During the off season they are closed every Monday.

Price (8): Not as cheap as Japanese zoos but for an aquarium these prices are pretty good. Discounts for children, students, and groups are available. During the extended hours, night time prices are discounted. Memberships earn money back by the third visit which isn’t too bad.

Food (9): Actually quite the variety of food options at the aquarium. They have a full service sit down restaurant with a variety of dishes. They also have more of a cafeteria style restaurant with quite a few options for both adults and kids, at affordable prices! Near the dolphin show there is a food counter area with snacks and drinks. Quality of food seems decent and lots of options.

Website (9): A pretty impressive website! The English version has everything you could need (except for info about restaurants) and looks nice. They provide PDFs of both the maps and the event schedule on the site which is awesome. They do have this version of the website in three other languages as well. From searching through their Japanese site it appears they give a lot of detail about each exhibit (not just the most popular!) and plenty of news from the aquarium.

Gift Shop (10): Awesome gift shop! We experienced the Museum Gift Shop in the South Building fully, but there is also a gift shop in the North Building as well. The gift shop had a huge variety of souvenirs for every age group – clothing, stuffed animals, toys, stationary, decorations, etc. They highlighted quite a few of the species they housed, including ones that maybe aren’t as popular. While food is a hugely popular souvenir in Japan and they did have a large selection of cute food options to buy, the entire space was not taken up by it which I appreciated.

Quiet Areas (10): For being an aquarium I was very impressed with how well they incorporated spaces to rest and take a break. Benches or seats were present at quite a few of the exhibits and near many were boxes with padded mats you could use if you wanted to have a seat to take it all in (or during demonstrations). It was also a pretty spacious aquarium, I do understand I went on an off day, but even with crowds there should be enough area to be able to step to the side for a moment with your family. They also have a large outdoor area to relax or have a picnic.

Safety/Cleanliness (9): Very clean throughout the aquarium from the exhibits to the walkways and everything in between. I saw no cleanliness issues anywhere. Safety was also well done, with staff and security guards placed throughout the aquarium to monitor visitors and the animals. Touch tanks had staff present and hand wash stations. They do provide interaction experiences with the dolphins in some cases which I have said before are usually fairly safe but the potential for injury or mishaps is always increased.

Extras (10): So many extras! I was very impressed by how much they offer at this aquarium both as part of your entrance fee but also extras you can plan for. Besides the very well publicized dolphin show they also have a variety of keeper talks, training demonstrations, feedings, and movies in an IMAX theatre, all included with admission. From their website they also have sleepovers, yoga classes, dolphin interactions, educational presentations, and community events.

Overall (8.7): Overall, I was more impressed by this aquarium than I was expecting to be. The displays were big, clean, and provided awesome photography opportunities. They had a good variety of species to view and provided many opportunities to learn about them through talks and demonstrations. A fun family experience worth the money!

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Fukuoka Zoo

Location: Fukuoka, Japan

Website: http://zoo.city.fukuoka.lg.jp/general/index_en

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.

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Umitamago Review

Location: Oita, Japan

Website: www.umitamago.jp/en/

Highlights: Outdoor beach, Local Waters displays

Photos: Dec 2015

Children Friendly (10): This aquarium has a lot inside, with quite a bit of it geared towards kids. There is more than one play area with plenty of interactive structures designed to be educational. Multi-level viewing areas allow for children to get great views of the animals and interact with many of them as well. Since the aquarium is both indoor and outdoor (but not overly huge) children will be able to stay stimulated without completely wearing themselves out.

Animal Diversity (7): The aquarium does a good job showcasing a wide variety of animals from the main attractions (dolphins, sea lions, sharks) to smaller less known ones. The inclusion of some birds and amphibians is also a nice way of showing more diversity. For an aquarium their diversity is pretty good.

Animal Viewing (8): Many of their exhibits are multi-level and/or have both indoor and outdoor viewing areas, which is great. Almost all animals were on display during my visit which is good, especially since I visited later in the day. That being said, many of the exhibits were also being cleaned while I was there which isn’t the for viewing the animals.

Animals Happiness (2): While many of the exhibits were well done and looked very natural, there were also quite a few that looked rather bland and devoid of natural atmospheres. The biggest faults in this category were in the larger mammals: dolphins, sea lions, seals, and walruses. The tanks for these animals were much too small and devoid of enrichment or stimulation. Repetitive ‘pacing’ was seen in both sea lion tanks. While there the smaller dolphin pool was being cleaned which involves raising the bottom of the tank high enough for a staff member to stand in it about knee-high and clean the bottom – with the dolphins still in the tank. The fact that the tank is already far too small for one dolphin let alone four should already be a concern for the aquarium.

Photography (7): The photography here isn’t too bad, but has some room for improvement. Some exhibits did have a lot of glare or odd angles to shoot from. The glass was clean with minimal scratching or other damage. The lighting for most exhibits was ok but nothing extraordinary, some displays were a little difficult to get the photos I wanted.

Layout/Map (4): This was a very disappointing category. This was possibly the worst one-way route attraction I have been to. The route is not clearly marked in the aquarium itself making you constantly second guess yourself on whether you are heading in the right direction. Also, there are multiple entrances/exits to the outdoor portion which is great in terms of emergencies and choices for guests to go in and out as they please but adds to the confusion of route. Also, the beach area is at a different area outside than the other show areas which could also be confusing, especially since it is skipped over in the suggested route on the map. The map itself is actually not bad – visually appealing, good photos and information – but it has the same problem as the aquarium, it’s confusing! Once you get the hang of it you can manage, but having essentially five layouts that look very similar it would be hard to see where you are quickly.

Hours (9): Open year-round with consistent hours, the aquarium does have this going for it. They also are open for night visits during busy holiday seasons which is great. They are open a little later than other aquariums in Japan tend to which I appreciate.

Price (6): A little steep for price with adults being over 2000 yen. There are discounts for children, youth, seniors, and the disabled but it is still more expensive than I’d like to see. Also, I was disappointed that the membership prices were not better, not making your money back until the third visit.

Food (10): I was impressed that the aquarium had not just one but two restaurants on site. One appears more family oriented with more a cafeteria feel featuring quick, easy meals for families. The second is a restaurant with sit down tables and French cuisine more suited for dates, dinners, or events. Having the different options is great and opens up the aquarium for hosting events as well as the day to day guests.

Website (10): Their website is impressive, providing lots of good information to prospective guests. They have a good layout with nice graphics, showing what the aquarium will look like when you arrive. I was impressed that the English version looks very similar although simplified in its information. The website definitely sells the aquarium well.

Gift Shop (10): I was also impressed with their gift shop. They actually have more than one, with a smaller version on the second floor. Unlike many gift shops in Japan they showed a wide variety of souvenirs apart from the typical boxes of food. They had a good assortment of souvenirs for both children and adults including clothing, toys, décor, and even some beauty products. They were themed around the animals we did see at the aquarium which I appreciated.

Quiet Areas (8): Having a confusing layout and multiple entrances/exits to the outside exhibits does benefit this area. There are many areas to step aside and collect your group or quiet areas to take a moment. I would like to see more benches or places to sit within the aquarium though.

Safety/Cleanliness (8): The aquarium was quite clean despite having both indoor and outdoor exhibits. Glass was well maintained as well as walkways and other facilities. Safety was also fairly high, doing quite well in the indoor areas. I did take off marks for their outdoor areas, as many exhibits are far too easy for a guest to enter. The one section is widely advertised as being interactive and while this is a draw for many people the risks are also much higher.

Extras (7): During the visit they do have a number of extras including animal shows, keeper talks, feedings, and demonstrations. These happen every day and multiple times a day which would greatly add to your trip experience. They also have various art work and other displays throughout the aquarium. I could not find information about programming or camps, which would be greatly beneficial for them.

Overall (7.6): Overall the aquarium was well done in terms of the extras of restaurants, gift shops, and interaction for children. Many of the smaller exhibits were well done and executed but by today’s standards they need to greatly improve their large mammal exhibits. More enrichment in all the exhibits would also go a long way for the health and happiness of their animals.

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Kagoshima Aquarium

Location: Kagoshima, Japan

Website: http://ioworld.jp/english

Highlights: Large multi-species tank, Deep sea dark area, Whale shark

Photos: Dec 2015

Children Friendly (10): I believe children would have a great time at this aquarium! There are so many ‘changes’ that occur they would not get bored easy. Changing floors and types of animals you see was great in keeping the anticipation of the next animal high. There was a play area AND an interactive zone full of hands on activities and exhibits for children to play in. The tanks and exhibits were at good heights for kids, many of which were floor to ceiling or close to it. They have outdoor exhibits for the dolphins as well as an indoor show area to keep the children busy throughout the visit as well. A big aquarium but not large enough to take up the entire day or exhaust the kids.

Animal Diversity (7): For an aquarium they actually have a large amount of diversity. They showcase a large amount of fish, invertebrates, and a handful of reptiles and mammals as well. You will be able to see a number of species not common in other aquariums which is great.

Animal Viewing (9): I was very impressed with the viewing of many exhibits. The tanks are for the most part quite big and have viewing on more than one side in many cases. Some exhibits have multi-level viewing and you can get right up to the glass to get close to the animals. Even the exhibits with hiding spots for the animals did not appear empty and most exhibits had plenty to look at. The glass was for the most part well maintained making it easy to see the creatures inside.

Animals Happiness (8): In most cases this aquarium was great in this category. The exhibits appeared very natural with plant life and natural looking hiding spaces for the more private animals. The larger animals are where they seemed restricted. The tank for the whale shark was noticeably smaller. For the dolphins it appeared their only indoor tank for night time was the show tank. During the day they are outside in the canal which provides a much more natural experience for them (and the guests). I also loved the dark area where you used red lights to view the animals, having the creatures in the dark for the majority of the time would make them much happier.

Photography (9): I was very impressed with the quality of the photography at this aquarium. At aquariums it tends to be harder to take good quality photos as the lighting and glass can be quite tricky. At this aquarium I did not have as many issues, the lighting was usually very well done. The glass was also quite clean, with only a couple exhibits having a little bit of problems with cleanliness above the water line.

Layout/Map (8): I actually really enjoyed the layout of this aquarium as it kept the pace well and introduced new climates/types of species in an interesting way. There were floor changes fairly regularly making it clear when you were changing what you were looking at and kept the anticipation up for the next exhibit. For 90% of the time you knew where you were going next, a couple times we would second guess if we were supposed to take a different route. The map, although a little confusing at first, is excellent. They provide just enough detail to sort out your whereabouts without being overwhelming. If they made it a bit bigger they would be able to put in some more detail. Also on the map it does not show the best time/way to view the outdoor exhibits or then the route to exit properly which was a little like a ‘what now’ moment.

Hours (9): Pretty good hours for an aquarium in Japan, they are open the same hours every day until 6pm. Opening time is 9:30 which I feel is a bit late, even just 9am would be better especially with how early the sun rises. They are closed four days out of the year at the beginning of summer which isn’t too bad. They also are open in the evenings until 9pm on weekends in the summer which is fantastic. I would argue those times on weekends year round!

Price (9): They have some of the cheaper prices for an aquarium I’ve seen, not only in Japan! At 1500 yen for an adult that is considerably cheaper than many I have been to. There are discounts for infants and children up to Junior High School age. The memberships are quite reasonable being the price of two visits (with discounts even more if you purchase two or members of your family purchase at the same time). Although there is a parking charge it is not overly expensive and is very close to the aquarium.

Food (9): Food options were good with a sit down style restaurant. They had a variety of easy fan favourites that were a good size and a decent price. They also had kids meals and dessert which was nice. I did take off a point as it would have been nice to have a couple more ‘fast’ or snack options somewhere else in the aquarium.

Website (8): The English site is well done with all the necessary information simply laid out. There’s nothing essentially wrong with the website but it definitely doesn’t do the aquarium justice. Having more photos or a map posted with some exhibits you see would bump this up for sure. The Japanese site is much better (not entirely different) and I love that their map online is interactive and shows you exactly what the exhibits look like when you click on them – very well done!

Gift Shop (7): I was a little disappointed with their gift shop to be honest, with the size of the aquarium I thought it would be better. There are two shops, both not very big. They do have quite a bit of whale shark souvenirs but overall variety was pretty low. More options for adults, more clothing, and less generic souvenirs would do wonders I think.

Quiet Areas (9): I was surprised at how well this aquarium did in this category. Most indoor aquariums with a guided route do not have many places to take a moment but this aquarium did really well. They had a number of spots you were able to cut through to a different part of the route which created areas to take a break. There were also a couple spots designed to regroup, take a rest, or just enjoy the view. I feel even in their busiest times there would still be a good flow throughout the route making it less congested overall. With the outdoor viewing of some of the animals it also makes for a larger area for people to gather and/or get away.

Safety/Cleanliness (8): In general this was a pretty clean and safe attraction. There were not any noticeably dirty areas or exhibits, the glass was kept clean and the exhibits were well maintained. In terms of safety, the interactive section did have rock you could lift up to reveal creatures inside which I feel could be slightly dangerous as some children would try to then pick up or touch those animals. Also the rock covers did blend in well and could be tripped over or stood on if not paying attention. A little more presence of staff in these areas might be a good idea.

Extras (8): Throughout the day there are multiple feedings at a number of different exhibits. There is also dolphin training as well as performances conducted every day. A daily talk by staff at a set location as well as a guided tour are available free of charge which is awesome. On the Japanese website it also appears there are workshops and events held regularly.

Overall (8.4): I would recommend this zoo to anyone visiting the area. The exhibits were nice, with a good variety of animals on display. The cheaper price than many aquariums nearby is also a huge plus. A great family outing or a fun date night!

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Nagasaki Penguin

Location: Nagasaki, Japan

Website: http://penguin-aqua.jp/english/

Highlights: Dive tank, outdoor penguin beach

Photos: Dec 2015

Children Friendly (8): A small indoor and outdoor aquarium which has plenty of hands on and interactive activities. Children would be able to complete it before getting tired. Most exhibits are easy to view for smaller children with multi-level viewing areas. I also noticed stools at a couple exhibits which would help as well. The outdoor exploration areas are very interactive with options for even more at an additional cost.

Animal Diversity (3): As the name suggests it is based around penguins, housing nine different species. I was surprised by the number of other species there though, with sharks, rays, fish, and invertebrates as well.

Animal Viewing (9): I was impressed with how well we could see the animals both underwater as well as above. The dive tank was awesome showing the underwater swimming. No animals were off display during our visit as far as I was aware of. The outdoor swimming area was a very nice touch in showing what the penguins look like in a more natural environment. When they are in the water however the actual viewing of them is not as good as it could be.

Animals Happiness (9): All species appeared happy and healthy. Having the outdoor area allowed some individuals to have an even more natural environment to interact with. Most of the tanks were very realistic and appeared quite clean. As with most aquariums larger pool sizes are always needed, at this aquarium it was the one section of outdoor pools with above ground viewing that I noticed this the most.

Photography (7): In general the photography was actually quite good with very clean glass in the underwater viewing areas. The large main tank had a lot of water spots on the inside making it quite difficult to photograph through which is the main area they lost points in this section. There was some difficult glare in a couple displays as well. Most other tanks had low glass which you were able to take photographs over easily. The outdoor area also had no barriers making for good photography.

Layout/Map (9): The layout is generally a one way route but they do make it easy to cut through and go backwards and/or choose your own route to a certain extent if you want to see feedings or something first. There are a couple offshoots or dead end branches off the main path making it a little confusing in which direction is best to take. That being said the map is fantastic and numbered exhibits to show the proper course. It is also has cartoon figures and colourful making it more exciting to look at!

Hours (9): Open year round every day is obviously a huge plus! They are open 9-5 every day with it extended to 6pm in August. I do understand it gets dark early but I feel they could extend their hours a bit, even opening an hour or so earlier.

Price (10): Absolutely awesome prices. About $5 for adults and $3 for children up to Junior High age. Free admission to children under 3 and senior citizens who are residents of Nagasaki city. Their year round memberships are also an amazing deal, saving money by the third visit. Even though you have to pay for parking, the cost is minimal and with such low admission costs I feel like it is not that much of an annoyance.

Food (7): A decent selection of drinks and ‘light meals’. It’s not huge but the prices are okay and if you are peckish during your trip you can head there. Since it is a small aquarium I understand not having a huge amount of options or a large cafeteria but if you are in need of an actual MEAL this isn’t the best place for you.

Website (10): A very well done website actually. The English version is easy to navigate, gives all relevant information, and is still nice to look at. It doesn’t look overly different from the Japanese version just more simple and streamlined.

Gift Shop (7): The gift shop was small but had quite a bit of merchandise in it. I did appreciate that it was mainly themed around penguins and/or aquarium animals. The products were mainly what I consider Japanese style souvenirs and more geared towards children. Having a wider selection, especially for adults would be a good improvement.

Quiet Areas (7): Even though it’s a small aquarium there were more quiet areas than I thought there would be! Having outdoor portions allow for more space to sit quietly or regroup yourself. Having the dead end areas also does provide some quieter portions of the zoo as well which is one positive of them I guess! I would appreciate some more benches or sitting areas especially near the larger tanks to allow for more appreciation of the tanks. During busy days I imagine it is quite busy though with not a lot of room to spread out and get away from crowds in the indoor areas.

Safety/Cleanliness (8): Cleanliness was well done throughout the aquarium, more so than I expected with the constant indoor/outdoor traffic. Low exhibit walls/glass could pose a safety hazard to children if leaning over them. It was raining slightly during my visit and it did make some areas of the flooring quite slippery, especially on the stairs which could be quite dangerous to guests.

Extras (8): It does appear they have quite a few extra programs on their website including feedings (both by zookeepers and the public) as well as interactions with the animals. They have small tours and parades throughout the days and even experiences riding in kayaks. They could expand more into summer camps and the like considering their outdoor space.

Overall (7.9): It was an enjoyable aquarium, especially if you love penguins! They had good exhibits with the outdoor one adding an interesting touch. A fun way to spend an afternoon but nothing state-of-the-art.

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Tennoji Zoo Review

Location: Osaka, Japan

Website: www.tenzoo.jp/english/tennnouji.html

Highlights: Lion exhibit, Sea lions

Photos: Nov 2015

Children Friendly (6): The zoo isn’t overly large so children should be able to walk most of it. They don’t have a whole lot of extras in terms of entertaining like play areas, rides, or shows/demonstrations. There are some small aspects of each but not enough to entertain a lot of kids or for very long. Some exhibits are also not the most convenient for little ones to see into.

Animal Diversity (6): The diversity of the zoo isn’t too bad in terms of representing across mammals, birds, reptiles, etc. but it isn’t that large of a zoo in general. They have your basic high profile zoo animals (elephant, giraffe, lion, etc) but lesser known animals will not be well represented.

Animal Viewing (5): It seemed about a third of the animals were off display when we were there. Many of the animals had quite a bit of their enclosure which made them well hidden from view as well. One big issue I have is quite a few of their animals are taken off display 30mins-1hr before closing. Close earlier or leave the animals out later, there is no reason to be open with half the zoo away for the night.

Animals Happiness (5): Tennoji Zoo is the third oldest zoo in Japan and it definitely shows in this case. The exhibits are not very large and quite a few are clearly still in the pit style. It looks like they have done some updates such as the elephant exhibit but they have a very long way to go. More enrichment and natural flora in the exhibits would be beneficial for both the animals and the visitors.

Photography (6): Photography in the open pit style exhibits was decent in terms of getting good lines of sight of the animals and fairly close proximity. Many exhibits did have viewing from different angles and/or levels which was appreciated. The glass was desperately in need of cleaning at most of the exhibits both inside and out!

Layout/Map (6): The map was great; it was very accurate to the zoo itself and showed where animals and other facilities were nicely. That’s about all it had going for it in their category. The layout was all over the place it looks like they half tried to sort by species and half by region…meaning it hasn’t ended up being categorized at all. This wouldn’t be as bad if the pathways between exhibits were better planned. It would be very easy to skip exhibits or entire portions of the zoo here and some backtracking has to be done to see everything.

Hours (6): Hours are the general 9:30-5 every day which isn’t awful but I feel they could open a little earlier. Having the animals coming off display before 5 definitely cuts it short as well. They are closed every Monday which is where they largely lost points here.

Price (10): Extremely cheap! 500 yen for anyone about 16 years old; anyone under 16, over 65, or handicapped are free of charge.

Food (5): The food locations were not the biggest at the zoo. It seems to be a trend here in Japan of having more small (independent?) stalls selling food than actual sit down restaurants. They did not have a wide variety of food options or ones with the greatest quality. I would recommend going to one of the many restaurants in Tennoji park instead!

Website (6): The website is pretty mediocre. The English version gives you the bare minimum of information on the zoo – hours, price, map, directions and not much else. The Japanese version from what I can tell doesn’t open up a whole lot further either. It’s not a bad website, it looks okay, but if you’re wanting a lot of information or updates and things it is lacking a bit.

Gift Shop (6): There are a couple smaller gift shops throughout the zoo which carried a variety of products. There wasn’t anything exceptional about them. Most of the souvenirs were not of the highest quality but they did represent a large number of their animals. Some higher quality products and a range of gifts for adults would go over well for them.

Quiet Areas (8): With the randomness of their layout came lots of quiet areas and places to regroup. Multiple pathways to and from exhibits made areas feel not quite as crowded and allowed for some smaller pathways to be places to step aside. There were also a number of benches throughout. Designated rest areas are labelled on the map as well.

Safety/Cleanliness (6): The zoo was decently clean besides the glass on some exhibits. Some bridges and features in the zoo could do with a power wash or scrub though. In terms of safety some exhibits had signs up stating to not put hands through the fence but there was virtually no supervision seen throughout the zoo during our visit. They also have statues for photo opportunities which we witnessed many children climbing on (these statues are not small)!

Extras (5): Through their website they have podcasts and newsletters which are great resources. It does appear they have an events page on their Japanese site but not much is listed. Having more programming and educational activities would be a huge asset to the zoo and the guests.

Overall (6.1): The third oldest zoo in Osaka and unfortunately it showed. The exhibits are definitely in need of some updating with enrichment and more natural environments. If it’s a quick visit to see some popular animals then it’ll suit you but it isn’t the highest quality zoo.

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