I’ve already written about The Snow Festival in Hokkaido, but while I was there I also did some non-snow related activities. I really wanted to go to the zoo while in Hokkaido because I figured they would have more animals used to colder climates than I tend to see elsewhere. The most famous zoo in Hokkaido, Asahiyama, is originally where I had intended to go but it is…really far out from Sapporo and I had not time to go there. However, much closer to where I was staying was Maruyama Zoo. Once me and my friend arrived it even felt like fate because during the Snow Festival, entrance to the zoo was free! The reason behind this became really obvious once we got inside; there were very few people at the zoo that day.
Probably a mistake on my part but the first section we went to was for the tropical animals and since it was so snowy at this time of year they were all kept inside and it smelt pretty bad too. To be honest it was all just very depressing to me and I got out of that section of the zoo as quickly as possible. I was really worried the whole zoo would have similar facilities but luckily as we walked through it seemed to get more updated as we went.
Unsurprisingly some of the most active animals were the deer, wolves and bears. Me and my friend actually spent a lot of time in this section because the zoo keepers and volunteers were telling us all about the animals which was fascinating and the wolves especially were so playful it was just fun to watch them.
However, me and my friend both had other animals we also really wanted to see. She is obsessed with otters and I wanted to see the lesser pandas because the zoo had an updated section for them (and had pictures of them all over their promotional materials). The “wakuwaku Asia” section where both these animals can be found (along with monkeys and sun bears and more) was clearly the newest part of the zoo, along with the most popular. All the animals seemed really happy and there were lots of places to sit and watch the animals to frolic.
I could totally understand why the lesser pandas were pictured all over the zoo. Their section was so much fun, not just children but adults too. There were several different sections, indoor and outdoor, that were connected by an overhead walkway. I didn’t even notice the walkway until one of the pandas climbed up and began running up and down over our heads. After several failed attempts to take a selfie with him (lesser pandas don’t pose for photos go figure) I just made do with watching and taking any snaps I could. They even had a small climbing wall for children in the corridor alongside so they could be on eye level with the lesser pandas and a huge chalkboard to draw on too. The newer sections of the zoo seemed incredibly family friendly.
All in all, the trip to the zoo was a nice change of pace. Of course there were some snow related activities there too (like snowman building) but it was easy to focus on all the animals instead. I’ve always found zoos in Japan to have a much more reasonable entrance costs than in the UK and to be able to go to Maruyama zoo for free was great. At some point it would be nice to go to Asahiyama zoo too and see it’s famed ‘penguin walk’ but Maruyama was much more conveniently located for this trip.