Editor’s Note: Okinawa Zoo was originally reviewed on Okinawa Hai on March 5, 2007; you can read a PDF copy of that original review here. The post below is an updated take on the Okinawa Zoo, published October 16, 2015.
CONTRIBUTED BY MARISSA MATSUZAKI
Recently whenever I’ve taken my daughter for walks, her little legs pedal and her voice squeals as she hears the sounds of animals. Every doggy bark, birdy chirp, and buggy squeak brings absolute delight to my 11 month old. That is why I felt that it was time we tried out the Southernmost Zoo of Japan!
The Okinawa Zoo is not very large and has a modest array of exhibits, but it offers plenty of sights and sounds for a small child. It is also a lovely atmosphere for me as I enjoy art, nature, gardens, and walks. Plus, it is inexpensive. Adults can enter for ¥500, Children age 4 to elementary school are ¥100, and middle to high school students are ¥200. You can also purchase a one year passport (¥2,000 for adults; ¥1,000 for children age 4 to high school). Within the zoo you may want a little extra yen for rides, snacks, and to feed the fish if you’d like.
When we arrived my eyes were drawn to the colorful animal murals that lined the walls of the entrance toward the stairs (perfect photo op for the kiddos!). We followed the mural to the stairs as you must go down a level to go into the zoo; No worries Momma, there is a small elevator for that stroller! We hung a right to the food court area and had some lunch in the shade. Food options included American Hot Dogs and Corn Dogs and Japanese Curry and Yakisoba. You can also get Blue Seal ice cream and some plates are designed like zoo animals for the kids; how cute is that?
After lunch we started walking the loop around the zoo. There were lots of beautiful flowers growing along the walkways and even an herb garden.
We then found ourselves in a rides section. There were four rides to choose from including little cars and a merry go round that you could access with tickets from the vending machine. The prices were between ¥100- ¥300 per ride and parents can ride with the children.
From the rides section we walked a steep slope toward the animal exhibits, the first being birds and fruit bats. I think this was my personal favorite as the bats will come quite close to you in their enclosures and seeing all the birds of prey and orange Kingfishers was awesome! Keep walking and you’ll soon see the kids’ favorite— monkeys! Some other animals you may get to see are giraffes, an elephant, hippos, kangaroos, an anteater, horses, and reptiles.
We missed the petting zoo but it’s open from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., so you may want to check that out! Along the route there were rest areas with seating and plants, restrooms, and nice photo spots. The final leg of our visit to the zoo was spent strolling on a board walk over a large fishing pond. The pond had lots of carp you could feed, water birds, and a fishing and boating area. To complete the circle, there is a children’s center (the nursery is in this building) and restaurant by the main zoo entrance that neighbors the zoo’s separate Wonder Museum. (Editor’s Note: We will be running Marissa’s article about the Wonder Museum next Friday, October 23) It was a fun and worth while outing with my little one and I look forward to going again this fall and spring!
Hours: April to September are 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
October-March 9:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m.
*Last admission is one hour before closing.
CLOSED TUESDAYS and DECEMBER 30-JANUARY 1
Address: 5-7-1 Goya, Okinawa City, Okinawa 904-0021
- Straight out Kadena Gate 2.
- Cross straight over the 330 intersection.
- You will pass Koza Junior High School on your right and Koza Baptist Church on your left. There will be a sign overhead written in English indicating a right turn about a mile after the 330 intersection.
- Continue on this road for less than half a mile. You will see the parking lot on your left.[edited from user comments]: From Camp Foster: -Take a LEFT coming out of the Exchange gate so that you are heading up 330 towards Kadena. Take a RIGHT at the Awase Meadows Golf Course intersection onto 22. (There will be a blue sign overhead before the turn lane pointing out the roads.) Take a LEFT at the 2nd light. Take a RIGHT at the 3rd light directly into the zoo parking lot.
Coordinates: 26.3279236, 127.8013201
pia is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
i hate this zoo!!!! it suck compared to australia!!!!!!!!
I live within walking distance from the zoo. I have a toddler so I was thinking this would be a place I would take him to quite frequently since it is so close to our house. I was aware before going that the enclosures were small and there weren’t really that many animals, but its really quite sad. I have taken my son there twice within the last 6 months and both times there was a monkey with what looked like a shock collar around his neck and electrical fencing wire right over his head so he could not move around at all. I could hear the electrial wire buzzing so I know that’s what it was and that it was on. I totally understand that different cultures have different views about things, but I will personally not be going back there to see that.
These directions are WAY easier to follow- 300 to the 20 etc! Have fun!
We went and will NEVER go again. If we had known how small and bleak the enclosures were we wouldn’t have gone at all. We’ll wait until we’re in the states before we visit another zoo as I’d rather not have my children think that there is anything okay about keeping animals in such conditions. I honestly don’t see how the author of this article had anything positive to say about this “zoo.”
Different cultures have different views, and ways of life. What seems wrong to us, may be right to them. It’s just the way of the world.
it is nothing to do with culture. Animal cruelty is animal cruelty in any language and culture. This zoo is a disgrace and should have been closed down years ago. Those visitors that care only about their children’s enjoyment should be ashamed of themselves. I hope at least they had the sense and compassion to report this zoo, as we did, to various animal organisations. Animals in these kind of places are deliberately starved in order for them to beg for food from tourists. If you like this place you would probably enjoy one of Japan’s horrific bear pits as well – fun for the whole family!
Lol. Eating chicken wing is also animal cruelty.
We made it over the the zoo yesterday. It was lightly raining so there was not many other people there. The kids loved seeing the animals. The petting zoo was closed but the goats were in the pens so the kids got to pet them.
We didnt go into the wonder museum we were reading the brochure and we didnt think it would be fun for our kids. After reading the commments I wish we had gone in just to let the kids have a look. We will be going back a few more times.
To make a correction to the price:
•4 year olds through elementary school students pay 100 yen or 150 yen in a group.
•4 year olds through elementary school students pay 100 yen or 80 yen in a group.
We personally really enjoy this zoo. No, it’s not a fancy American zoo (and I grew up with the San Diego Zoo), but it’s great for the kids and a decent one outside of the US. The only part that I don’t like are the cages with the monkeys, which is easily bypassed, and the large cats/bear cages… which we walk quickly through without looking. They have improved the petting zoo and the elephant enclosure since we first moved here.
The great thing is that there are lots of things for the little ones… you can feed the giraffes and the elephants (200yen), watch an elephant play soccer & basketball, go on a pony ride (500yen), and of course the rides and the Wonder Museum. The petting zoo has guinea pigs and baby chicks to hold in addition to bunnies and sometimes a snake to pet. There’s also a large lake that is nice to walk around and feed the carp. It is stroller-passable, but I wouldn’t take a giant double stroller or a flimsy umbrella stroller.
On a separate note, an actual positive about this zoo is that they feed their birds live prey (ie baby chicks)… which means don’t take young children into the aviary during feeding time.
Do you remember what times you could feed the giraffes and elephants?
We visited the zoo today, and my children were sad to see the animals looking so unhealthy and half-starved. The caracal looked like it hadn’t eaten in weeks, the raccoons look insane (pacing back and forth, rocking), and we saw them feeding the ostriches old hot dog buns from the concession stand – which they shared with the pigeons in their enclosure. My children love the wonder museum and the petting zoo, but I hate seeing animals in such terrible conditions. (I have seen menagerie type zoos like this in Germany, but the animals there were healthy and well-cared for. It doesn’t appear to be the case here…)
Unfortunately, Okinawan culture does not seem to hold animal well-being or enclosure maintenance in very high regard. I was shocked about the condition of the snake enclosures at Okinawa World. It was terrible to see a 5m python locked in a cube of concrete.
Thanks for your honest review!
We made our first trip to the zoo today and consider what we spent on the annual pass a donation to the health of the animals who need rescuing. They are kept in deplorable conditions and many are emaciated. Several have over-grown nails which curl back under themselves growing into the animals skin while others appear to have tumor growth. I wept for these animals. I will be allerting the World Association for Zoos and Aquariums and the International Zoo Association in hopes they will visit and offer assistance. It appears most of the income is spent at the Wonder Museum which my children enjoyed immensely.
The passes are the annual or seasonal?
The Zoo is currently having its annual special event, a NIGHT ZOO.
It is every SATURDAY from July 17 to August 28, 2010 (it is held each year during this same period).
You pay regular admission (refer to the original article above) and the Zoo stays open late on these Saturday nights only, until 9:00p.m. (last admission is at 8:00pm).
At 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 there will be special feedings of some monkeys, crocodiles, lions, tigers, and bears (Oh My!). For the monkey feeding, up to 30 children will be given the opportunity to feed the monkeys (they are still in the cages). The cups of food are 100yen. Please remember that at all times, you are not permitted to feed any of the animals food that you bring to the zoo or purchase to eat there.
This is a popular event for many families, and a recent local TV news broadcast showed many children having a fun time.
If you have never been to the Zoo before, it would be advisable to go first in the afternoon while it is still sunlight to see the layout of the whole Zoo. You can get your hand stamped, keep your ticket, and re-enter later when it is dark, or grab something to eat at the zoo for a rest before walking around again during dusk.
Regular Zoo hours are 9:30am to 6:00pm (last admission is 5:00). Closed on Tuesdays.
You can also see a special Science of Sports Exhibit at the Wonder Museum until August 31. This coincides with the current ongoing All-Japan High School Sports Competition being held throughout Okinawa.
The Museum is open 9:30am to 5:30pm (closes 5:00pm October through March). The admission fees are: Adults 200yen, 4 to 18 year old 100 yen, 3 years old and under are free.
On August 7 and 8 there will also be Eisa performances starting at 4:00pm until 9:00pm. On Sunday, access at the Zoo will be for the Eisa only, and not the animal exhibits, with regular admission charged.
If you are new to the island, you might want to consider buying the annual passport for the Zoo, ask at the ticket window BEFORE purchasing the regular admission ticket (refer to the informative previous comments above)
Also, pets are not permitted to be brought to the zoo, and you should not throw anything at the animals. During the hot summer days, many animals are sleeping or lethargic (just like many humans), and some people try to throw stones or branches at them to get them to move. Occasionally, you may have the opportuniy to see a Zoo attendant or staff feeding or interacting with animals to check on them.
There are mini-bumper cars, a carousel, small boats, a small train, and other activities which are priced separately from admission. Bring extra yen for these attractions, to buy food to feed the koi, fish and waterfowl in the pond and food/snacks and more importantly beverages for the family.
Adjacent to the main gate parking area is a small park that was recently upgraded with walking trails and some outlook posts offering very nice views over the Okinawa City area and the beautiful Awase Bay and Pacific Ocean (Philippine Sea) waters to the east.
For the directions in the article, the Koza Baptist Church is no longer in that area; there is a new tall apartment building on the left hand side, the Jr. High School on the right. At that traffic signal you turn RIGHT and the zoo will be after the next traffic signal.
When you go out Kadena Air Base Gate 2, then through the intersection with Route 330, the right turn is only about 500 meters farther, just after the large trees are no longer lining the road, and after a small S-curve in the road.
Look for overhead small road signs for the ZOO (the signs might say KODOMO-NO-KUNI or CHILDRENS PARK).
If the main (front) parking lot is full, the parking attendants may signal you to drive to the second parking lot (East) which is down a small side road adjacent to the zoo. You will then enter at the East or back gate of the zoo, close to the big pond.
Purchase membership right at the entrance to the zoo where you pay the admission fee. They have the application in English and the list of rules (just common sense stuff like the membership is for you not whoever you give the card to)also in English.
Jennifer, you can ask for the annual pass at the ticket office before you enter the zoo. I just got mine last year and it was well worth the money. I think I must have gone at least three times this month alone! I’m not sure if they offer the annual pass anywhere else.
Also wanted to add that there is a new exhibit at the Wonder Museum called “Trick Art” that will be there until the end of March. For the most part they’re 2D paintings on the wall that have a 3D effect.
I almost missed it as it’s located in a small room off to the side on the middle floor. So glad I didn’t though as I got some funny photos of the kids there including one of them rolling around on the floor trying to escape from the lion climbing out of the wall.
Check this link for their flyer. It’s all in Japanese but you’ll get a better idea of what to expect.
Where do you purchase the season passes? We have already spent that much in trips to the zoo this past 2 months (my kids love it!)? Can you purchase them at the zoo or is there another place?
On a side note-My kids LOVE feeding the fish down at the pond. They would spend all day there if they could!!
Finally got ourselves over to the Zoo today. It was about what I expected – habitat-wise. I’m normally a little sad at all but the most well-funded zoos — and this was no exception. On the flip-mom-side though, I do love that my kids can see the animals from the books & TV in person. The giraffes were a big hit.
However, I was TOTALLY surprised by the completely AWESOME “Wonder Museum.” And with the admission being only 200Y over my yearly pass (+ as mentioned you get 5 free passes) we will be back A LOT!! My 2 year old was in heaven and I even found an area set up for 0-1 year olds where the baby enjoyed hugging a stuffed hippo (there’s also a breastfeeding/baby changing area that’s very nice on the bottom floor — which always impresses me).
The coolest part is this incredible set up of tracks that run golf balls up and over and around in every direction — fabulous study in physics for the little ones. They also do crafts and things there, but I have to find someone to translate the info for me. I was just so darn impressed with how much cool stuff they packed into a pretty small space (3 round-ish floors) and the fact that most of it was assessible even to my little guy. HIGHLY recommend repeated trips to the museum and an occasional glance at the zoo.
For those of you who are coming from Camp Foster:
-Take a LEFT coming out of the Exchange gate so that you are heading up 330 towards Kadena.
-Take a RIGHT at the Awase Meadows Golf Course intersection onto 22. (There will be a blue sign overhead before the turn lane pointing out the roads.)
-Take a LEFT at the 2nd light.
-Take a RIGHT at the 3rd light directly into the zoo parking lot.
An annual pass is available for 2000 yen a year. It buys you unlimited trips into the zoo and 5 free passes (for anyone) into the wonder museum. It’s well worth the price as 3 trips to the zoo and wonder museum will cover the price of the annual pass.