Location: Susuno, Shizuoka, Japan
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.