Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Asahiyama Zoo 旭山動物園

Visited 09.02.2013

Undoubtedly this is the most popular attraction in Asahikawa & zoo in Hokkaido. But what made this zoo stands out from the rest in Hokkaido (there are zoos in Sapporo, Obihiro and Kushiro)?

History. Asahiyama Zoo was opened in 1967 and started with only 75 different species of animals. Response was lukewarm and the number of visitors gradually declined over the years. Situation worsened when the zoo met with a crisis in 1994 (a handful of animals in the zoo died of an echinococcus infection) and this caused the zoo to be closed for several months. It was till 1997, when the newly appointed chief proposed a revamp and the fate of Asahiyama Zoo was completely turned over. New facilities were added to the park and these behavioral exhibitions aimed to bring visitors closer to these animals and as much as possible preserve the animals' natural state of life. This move helped the zoo gained tremendous popularity to the point that its visitorship came second to Ueno Zoo in 2007! The success revolution story of Asahiyama Zoo was even adapted into a film in 2009 - the belief that one's dream can eventually come true as they took on the difficult task to revitalise the zoo over the years. 

To me, the main attraction was to see these animals in a completely different setting... in snow - a sight which is uncommon for people living in tropical countries.



(1) Penguin Aquarium. Yet again, penguins won the hearts of most visitors. There is an underwater enclosure which allows visitors to observe how these streamlined bodies creatures maneuver in the waters. The most popular activity is the King Penguins parade which takes place twice a day (1100 and 1430 hrs) during the winter months (Dec - Feb, reduced to once a day in Mar). See how these adorable penguins take small and careful steps on the snow route. Do grab a good spot along the designated parade route at least 10 - 15 mins before the commencement of event.

Penguin Parade - what most visitors were waiting for!
(2) Seal Museum. See how the seals move agilely through the water tunnels, in a twinkling of an eye! In the outdoor enclosure, observe how the seals slide on their stomachs and lie leisurely on the snow grounds. Adore the look of contentment reflected on the faces of these seals! You can also visit them during their feeding times, which takes place twice a day. Please follow the instructions of crew to remove the slip on spikes on your shoes when entering indoors and avoid usage of flash photography.

Seal Museum
(3) Polar Bear Museum. Visited the polar bears during their feeding time. In the indoor exhibition area, visitors can observe their dynamic plunges and powerful kicks in the waters through the huge glass panels. There are also capsules which you can pop your head into to view the polar bears' movement on land more clearly.

Polar Bear Museum
(4) Other attractions include chimpanzee house (an indoor enclosure to see the human like characteristics/expressions of these chimpanzees), the tamed wolves in the wolf forest, Hokkaido's Sika deer and Japanese cranes (Tanchos), amphibians & reptiles house, etc. Giraffes, goats, sheep, ponies, owls and eagles can also be found in this winter wonderland. Spent approx 3 hours touring the park (we reached at its opening time of 1030 hrs). Lastly, don't forget to grab exclusive merchandises from the souvenir shops located within the park before heading home.

Wolf Forest
Sika Deer Forest
Other animals featured in Asahiyama Zoo.

How to get there?

(1) Local bus:
Take Bus 41 or 47 from Bus Stop 6, located just outside Asahikawa JR Station (旭川駅). Approx 40 mins; fee = 440 yen
Bus schedule (search for Bus 41 and 47):

(2) JR Twinkle Bus:
Twinkle Bus Sounkyo-go available from Feb to Mar. This seasonal bus commutes between Asahikawa JR Station and Sounkyo Onsen, and allocates ample time for passengers to visit the zoo during the journey.

- Asahikawa JR Station (1050 hrs) > Asahiyama Zoo (1130 - 1515 hrs) > Kamikawa JR Station (1715 hrs) > Sounkyo Onsen (1800 hrs)
- Sounkyo Onsen (~0920 hrs) > Kamikawa JR Station (0950 hrs) > Asahiyama Zoo (1130 - 1500 hrs) > Asahikawa JR Station (1540 hrs)

Fees (based on 5% consumption tax):
Asahikawa JR Station < > Sounkyo Onsen - 1900 yen
Asahiyama Zoo < > Sounkyo Onsen - 1500 yen
Kamikawa JR Station < > Asahiyama Zoo - 500 yen


Asahiyama Zoo 旭山動物園
Admission Fee = 820 yen
Opening hours:
1030 - 1530 hrs (winter season)
0930 - 1630 / 1715 hrs (summer season)

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