Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hirakawa Zoo

Kagoshima has an amazing number of family-friendly attractions within an easy drive of the city center. If you have a car. And if you don't mind paying $7.08 for a gallon of gas (currently 144.2 yen/liter; 1 gallon = 3.78 liters; $1 USD = 77 Yen). Ignoring the obvious costs of using a car to get around, there are a lot of large parks, galleries and museums within a 25 mile radius of Kagoshima-chuo station. Back when I was living in Austin, TX, a 25-mile drive was "a reasonable hop away". Heck, I used to go that far on my bike every day, although it did take an hour and a half for it. But now, most of my travel is on foot, limiting me to roughly a 3 mile area. I can still get 10-15 miles out by train, but the destination needs to be near the arrival station and I don't do it much just because I want to keep my costs down.

With all of that said, that Sunday was nice and pleasant and we decided to take the bus out to Hirakawa Zoo, near Goino. I doubt anyone will remember, but Goino is where the shochu distillery is located, down at the bayshore. It's 20 minutes out by train, for 220 yen one way. By bus it's closer to 40 minutes, and about 320 yen. On the other hand, Goino station is 1 km from the zoo entrance, and you either end up walking it or taking the bus anyway, plus the bus goes directly from the Tenmonkan shopping complex to the zoo and back. Kinkowan Park (the one with the rocket statues) is right next door to the zoo, but we decided to save that for another day.

Hirakawa Zoo is a nice little area nestled in the hills, about 72 acres of rolling land with small sections dedicated to the animals of Africa, India, etc. Not a lot of variety, with just 3 big cats, 3-4 bears, and 1 or 2 red or lesser pandas and so on. Still, it's only 500 yen to get inside, and it's a nice walk.

(Ashi-yu, or "foot spa". Ashi-yu are very common throughout Kagoshima prefecture. Here, we can see the creatures in a habitat very close to that found in nature. In this sense, the zoo excels in its presentation.)

When we went, Benesse Corp. was sponsoring a stamp rally, with 3 stamp points (at the hippo, white tiger and koala exhibits) combined with a quiz regarding the animals at each point. It's an easy rally to complete, but the prizes are toys only made available to kids (pens, papercraft books, etc.) although interestingly the required entry form you had to complete and submit to get the prizes included a lot of the parent's personal information. Guess it's one way to open yourself up to a lot of spam later on.

Lesser pandas are cute. Bengal tigers are cute. Big, bone-crushing, marrow-sucking vampire elephants are cute. Collect them all!

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