In the heart of the mega-city that is Tokyo you’ll find a green gem brimming with life known as the Ueno Zoological Gardens (or Ueno Zoo). It is a place for children and adults to learn about and see rare and endangered animals which otherwise can only be found far across the globe.
Ueno Zoo is the oldest Zoo in Japan (though fortunately with updated amenities) remarkably it was founded in 1882. At a size of 35.6 acres (14.4 ha) it may not be as big as the San Diego Zoo in the US (100 acres), but Ueno Zoo houses an animal population per acre density similar to it, with over 3,000 animals from 300 different species! Still, the animals aren’t just for show, over many decades the Ueno Zoo has worked in collaboration with other Zoo’s to save, protect, and even breed endangered animals, going so far as to share what they’ve learned freely with zoo’s worldwide to save even more. With many successes in helping animals under their belt, Ueno Zoo is a popular stop among researchers and sightseeing tourists alike.
The smallest walkways found in Ueno Zoo are big enough for two wheelchairs to pass side-by-side, but most are wider, making it easy to get around. Most of the area is outdoors, with a few inside spaces for some aviaries, nocturnal creatures, etc. The animals are spread out nicely between and East and West sections (accessible via a wide walkway). A printable map with multiple languages is available on the official website (here: https://www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/pdf/map_ueno_international.pdf), and is likewise posted in many places throughout the zoo making it difficult to get lost. If you want to see specific animals (such as the Pandas and Polar Bear) it may be best to go early and see them first. Note that there may be a line for the Pandas and some animals are not available after certain times (For their health, they go to rooms where they can sleep away from the public). At a leisurely pace, you can see just about everything in 2-3 hours if it isn’t crowded. Various snacks, foods, cool drinks and desserts can be purchased at various shops.
Ueno Zoo admission cost is by age/grade: Seniors (65+) 300-yen, Adults (16-64) 600-yen, Student (13-15) 200-yen, Children (0-12) are free, Visitors with disabilities (proof required) and one attendant are also free. The hours of operation are from 9:30 until 17:00 and closed every Monday (closes Tuesday if Monday is a public holiday or Tokyo Citizen’s Day Oct. 1st) and December 29 through January 1.
Ueno Zoo is in Taito Ward, Tokyo Prefecture. The closest station is JR Ueno Station, it is a 5-minute stroll from the Main Entry Gate, alternatively Keisei Ueno Station is a 4-minute stroll to the Benten Gate (West Garden entrance), the park itself has no parking lots.
Almost all of Ueno Zoo is accessible, even some areas with stairs have an alternate route nearby to get to the same area. The pathways throughout are wide and made of a mixture of asphalt, concrete, stone or even wood pavers. These pathways are not very even in parts, but the worst parts can usually be avoided without going too far around. There are a few sloped areas that may be a bit steep for manual wheelchair users, but it is uncommon. Luckily, the only necessary long sloped area that connects the East and West gardens can be mostly bypassed by using an elevator.
Though uncommon, a few of the viewing angles are partly obscured by handrails or waist high obstructions, making good viewing from a sitting position a bit more difficult. Otherwise, the only other accessibility issue is the choice of small “wood pavers” on the pathways in the Gorilla section. These pavers have clearly seen better days, with many damaged, deteriorating, or badly pitted due to weathering and foot traffic, wheelchair users and those who want to avoid tripping take caution in this area. There are no Tactile floor guides in the Zoo.
Whether it’s benches or large picnic table areas, rest areas are common for those who need to rest between walking throughout the park.
Visitors with disabilities (proof required) and one attendant are also free.
The Ueno Zoo may be closed if severe weather warnings are forecasted for the area, so be sure to check beforehand. Most of the Zoo is uncovered leaving very few opportunities to shelter from a sudden rainfall, wheelchair users should also take caution on wet sloped areas. Hot days can be rough here, so bringing some cold drinks is recommended or you can buy some from local shops and vending machines, stay hydrated!
Pets are not allowed, however, Service dogs (seeing-eye dogs, assistance dogs, and hearing dogs) are allowed.
There are more than a dozen wheelchair accessible toilets available nicely spread throughout the Ueno Zoo, many of which have adult changing tables as well as many assistive fixtures including: accessible sink, multiple grab bars, and bidet.
Wheelchairs (non-motorized) are available at Guest Services.
If you’re interested in learning about animals, efforts in saving animals, or just want to see some cute animals in general, Ueno Zoo is the place to get your fix. With all the modern amenities and big pathways, it’s easy to get around. A family can easily spend a few hours here to learn or see something new for an inexpensive price.
- Phone: +81-3-3828-5171
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