Who can say they never clutched the fence at their local zoo’s lemur exhibit and didn’t long to sneak over the top just for a few minutes (or, okay, in my case, A FEW HOURS) to cavort with those frisky, big-eyed, long-tailed cuties? Admit it – you’ve always secretly wanted to, haven’t you?
Well, now you CAN!
An hour from Tokyo Station by bus is a little private zoo deep in the heart of Chiba prefecture where you can go into the enclosures and pet all kinds of exotic animals. It’s called Sayuri World,* and it did not disappoint!
There were also llamas, tortoises, deer, peacocks, guinea fowl and bunnies roaming around freely (and not above trying to cadge a snack).
Open: Every day, except closed on Thursdays
Hours: 11:00 – 16:00
Admission: Adults (older than high school) ¥1200, Children (3-18): ¥900, Under 3: free (If you also want to go into the elephant zoo next door and ride the elephants, you can buy a combined ticket for ¥2500. It usually costs ¥2000 to go into the elephant park, so you save ¥700.)
HOW TO GO TO SAYURI WORLD
• Get yourself to Tokyo Station and go out the Yaesu Central exit.
• You’ll see a bunch of buses waiting in an area right outside at street level, but those are not the buses you’re looking for. Cross the big street that runs in front of the station and you’ll see two bus shelters next to the curb.
• The one you want isn’t the first one that services Hokkaido Line buses, it’s the second one. This is what it looks like.
• Get in line for #4, the orange line bus. Here’s the schedule.
As you can see, there aren’t very many buses on that route, so I highly recommend you catch the 10:00 a.m. one. It’ll get you to Sayuri World very close to the 11:00 opening time.
Note: Getting there early is key, because once the animals have been offered snacks by a bunch of other visitors, they tend to retreat to their little houses to digest and aren’t so eager to have their pictures taken with you. Also, going on a weekday is way more fun than going on a weekend, because it can get so busy you have to stand in line to visit the animals. On weekday mornings, it’s great.
• You can use your Suica/PASMO card to ride the bus. It costs ¥1550 one way. Pay with your card when you get off at Ichihara-tsurumae Bus Terminal. (Don’t tap your card on the sensor when you get on, just when you get off.) It’s the second stop on the route, and it’ll take about an hour to get there.
• The walk to Sayuri World from the bus stop is less than one kilometer (about 900 meters, takes about 10-15 minutes) and is gently uphill on the way there.
• When you get there (you’ll know, because it’s clearly marked), pay the admission fee at the reception desk and buy snacks to feed the animals.
There are a few (common sense) rules that the reception desk person will explain in Japanese. Here’s what she’s telling you:
• You may pet the animals if they allow you to, but do not pick them up
• No yelling or running (even children), because it scares the animals
• Do not feed the animals anything but the fruit provided, because it’s bad for their health
• Please watch small children carefully so they don’t provoke the animals.
• When you go into animal enclosures, be sure to close the doors carefully behind you, so the animals don’t escape to the places where they’re not supposed to be.
Also (caveat from moi): Wear clothes that can be washed, because this:
And I also recommend packing a lunch and/or eating a big breakfast before you go, because Sayuri World is smack in the middle of nowhere. There’s a coffee stand in the park, but there’s really nowhere to eat real food for miles around, so be forewarned!
*Sayuri World is small and private and entirely supported by ticket sales, donations, and the owner, so it doesn’t have the kind of fancy landscaped habitats we’ve all come to expect at bigger zoos. The animals all looked happy and in good health and well cared-for (water always available, and every enclosure has enrichment structures and a place for the animals to retreat when they’re tired of people), but if you object to animals living in cages (however spacious) this place is not for you.
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!