Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tama Zoo

(The sign at the top says "From ants to elephants, Tama Zoo".)

When I first started riding my bike out along the Tamagawa, I was trying to figure out the different places I could get to by following bike paths along the rivers, rather than taking the city streets. After a little while, I decided to try the ride along the Asagawa (which intersects the Tamagawa about 40 minutes into the ride) heading out to Mt. Takao. The first attempt brought me into a deadend at the tracks of a massive train station at Hino. It took several more rides before I discovered that I needed to jog away from the Asa near the beginning to get around the station and continue on the other side. During that time, I did end up taking the streets through the eastern edge of Hino, where there's a big temple - the Takahata Fudoson-Kongoji, which has a statue of Toshizo Hijikata, one of the main figures of the Shinsengumi during the Meiji Restoration period.

Anyway, while researching the routes, I spent a fair amount of time looking at google maps. What I didn't realize was that just a couple of miles further east is a really big zoo - the Tama Zoological Park. The park's website talks about 3 zones - African, Asian and the insectarium. In fact, the park is large enough to support 4 separate walking tours. The longest tour is 70 minutes, the shortest one is about 40. All 4 walks encompass different sections of the park. It's 600 yen for adults, and the park is open from 9:30 to 5 PM. I went for the koala exhibit, which is in the new Australia Garden. Unfortunately, the two koalas visible were both sleeping at 3 PM when I arrived. Check in advance for feeding times.

(The marker at the top of the tallest hill in the zoo. In the back are the laughing kookaburras, which were completely silent at the time. I suspect they were laughing behind my back.)

To get to the zoo, I took the Nambu line from Noborito, and exited at Tachikawa station. Less than a block from the station entrance is the entrance for the Tama Monorail running out to Tama Center. I've often ridden under the monorail on the bike path, and I'd wondered what it would be like to take the monorail out. Now I know. The monorail passes over the Hino station tracks, so I could see just exactly where I'd gotten messed up in the deadend at the start of the track junctions. A couple of stations later, I got out at the Tama Zoo stop, which is right at the foot of the zoo entrance. Be warned, it's 300 yen one-way to get to the zoo on the monorail.

The zoo is big, but there's a guided bus if you don't like walking. Most of the animals were out and active, even though the temps had dropped to about 45 degrees F. The next day, a storm front blew down from China, bringing freezing rain, snow and below 32 degree temps. So, my timing couldn't have been better. It's just that my trip was specifically for the koalas, and they weren't paying attention to me. And the elephants had been stored away in their building to avoid the cold.

The best parts of the visit were the female tiger playing with her two cubs, the pack of lesser pandas playing in the trees, and the gray wolves standing and staring at the humans, trying to decide which of the weaker ones to pick off. There's also a walk-through atrium with various colorful birds I don't know the names of.

(Washing off a fish before eating it.)

Now that I know the zoo is within 50 minutes of the apartment, I can ride back on my bike when the weather gets better to see the rest of it.

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