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Asahiyama Zoo (Asahikawa): Complete Guide to Japan's Incredible Zoological Garden!

Asahiyama Zoo (Asahikawa): Complete Guide to Japan's Incredible Zoological Garden!

Date published: 15 January 2020
Last updated: 3 June 2020

Asahiyama Zoo is a popular zoological garden just outside central Asahikawa City. It became famous in Japan by drawing out the natural ecology and behavior of animals and incorporating it into the “behavior display” method. Many people visit Asahiyama Zoo every day to see the lively animals, and it has become a destination of choice with visitors from abroad.

Here are some tips on how to efficiently tour the very popular zoo with many visitors.

Table of Contents
  1. Asahiyama Zoo: Access and best times to visit
  2. 1. Head to the Hippopotamus House: Make sure to get there before they fall asleep!
  3. 2. Check the Mogumogu Time and head to the Polar Bear House
  4. 3. You must see the seals swimming in the glass pipe if you visit the zoo!
  5. 4. To the next highlight, Penguin House
  6. 5. Breaks, Lunch and Gifts!
  7. 6. View the origin of the Asahiyama Zoo
▲You can see seals swimming right in front of you

Asahiyama Zoo: Access and best times to visit

The northernmost zoo in Japan, Asahiyama Zoo is located on the outskirts of Hokkaido Asahiyama City.

Many animals are located at the foot of the mountain to the middle area, so using the front or west gate is convenient. The west gate is closest to the middle area, however, there are no free parking lots and only private paid parking lots.

Also during the crowded period such as the weekends and summer holidays, it is easier to secure parking space at the east gate. Most group tours and tour busses will use the east gate.

▲You can get a full view of the zoo from the east gate. On a clear day you can even get a view of Asahikawa City area.

The best time to visit the zoo is right after they open. The later you go, the harder it is to secure a parking lot close by. Also, there is a higher chance to see energetic animals in the morning.

Let’s head into Asahiyama Zoo!

1. Head to the Hippopotamus House: Make sure to get there before they fall asleep!

Hippos are nocturnal and are asleep during the day. If you don’t get there early, you won’t be able to see them active.

▲A hippo diving in the pool! You can only see this in the morning or afternoon

A highlight here is the indoor pool that is 3m deep. You can get a side or bottom view of the hippo in the water!

▲Hippo swimming above!
▲Face to face with a hippo!

To create an environment close to their natural habitat, warthogs and ostriches are kept in the Hippopotamus House.

The reticulated giraffe also lives in the same environment as the hippo, so the Giraffe House was built right next to the Hippopotamus House. The Giraffe House also has other animals that live in the same environment such as the pelican and helmeted guineafowl. And they live in the same space as the giraffes.

Keeping animals living in the same natural habitat in the same space, they call this the symbiosis exhibit, which is a unique method used at Asahiyama Zoo. The same kind of exhibit is used at Seal House and at the Spider Monkey and Capybara House.

▲Exiting the Hippopotamus House are giraffes! You can view them from the ground level or up top by their head

2. Check the Mogumogu Time and head to the Polar Bear House

You can’t miss mogumogu time (feeding time) when visiting the zoo! Feeding time is the best time to see the animals in action!

The feeding schedule for animals is set in the morning. The feeding time for each animal is displayed on their website and a bulletin board in the zoo. Use this as a reference to tour around Asahiyama Zoo.

▲Polar bear walking majestically on the rocks

A mogumogu time you can’t miss is the one for polar bears! Usually you can’t witness the huge bears diving in the pool or swimming. However during the mogumogu time they place the food in the water and you can definitely see them swimming around!

▲A crowd formed immediately to see the polar bear swim

The viewing space for the polar bears is in front of the water tank indoors of the Hokkyoku Guma-Kan. With limited space, they have put restrictions on entering the area. After about 10 minutes the next group goes in.

Also polar bears aren’t really slow eaters, so it is better to get there at the start of mogumogu time to make sure you can see the action.

▲On this day mogumogu time started at 11 AM. We arrived 15 minutes early and were able to secure space for the viewing

There is another highlight here, you are able to view the polar bears walking around through a capsule called the seal’s-eye.

▲You can view polar bears from the same angle as their prey seals in the seal’s eye capsule
▲Attacked by a polar bear!?

3. You must see the seals swimming in the glass pipe if you visit the zoo!

The Seal House is located adjacent to Polar Bear House, its natural enemy. A popular viewing spot in the building is the Marine Way, the glass pipe.

▲Cheers erupt when a seal swims through

You can see seals swimming in a huge pool from inside the facility. A thin pathway is connected from the bottom of pool, which leads to the surface through the glass pipe.
Since seals are mammals they have to go up and down to get fresh air, so seals frequently use the glass pipe.

▲Each time a seal swims through Marine Way, people cheer

The Marine Way is a popular spot and there are always people gathered here. If you plan to get here when it’s not that crowded, stop by right after the seal’s mogumogu time.

▲Staff feed the seals by hand or throw the fish for them to catch
▲The enclosure looks like a port in Hokkaido with a small fishing boat and tetrapod. Many people come to watch the mogumogu time.

Mogumogu time is conducted outdoors, so during this time, there aren’t any seals in the pool. So the inside viewing space is empty at this time. However, as soon as the feeding time is over, all the seals go back in the pool. This is the best time to head to the Marine Way a more leisurely viewing experience.

4. To the next highlight, Penguin House

Across from the Seal House is the Penguin House. The penguin walk conducted every winter when it snows is very famous. I’m sure many people have seen pictures of this even before!?

▲You can see penguins walking freely in front of you (photo provided by Asahiyama Zoo)
▲many people gather around the walking route (photo provided by Asahiyama Zoo)

Even when it’s not snowing, you can see the cute penguins swimming up close.

▲By the outdoor pool. Are they talking to the penguin!?
▲Saying hello through the glass indoors

A highlight in the Pengin-Kan is the underwater glass tunnel!

▲A 360 view of penguins swimming

A good time to comfortably visit the Pengin-Kan is during the mogumogu time for polar bears and seals. Hard to choose between mogumogu time and the penguins. It all depends on when the mogumogu time will be held on that day.

Also for the penguin walk held in the winter, many people stand by the walking route in the freezing weather. If you want to look at the penguins up close, it might be better to secure a spot early on, and make sure to stay warm!

5. Breaks, Lunch and Gifts!

With all the walking around, you will definitely need a break. In Asahiyama Zoo there are various places to take a break, eat lunch or buy gifts. Some places are near the main gate, west gate, Seal House, near the center and east gate.

▲The Chuo Shokudo next to the Seal House is pretty much full throughout the day

One thing to think about is when to eat. Everyone will probably try to eat around the mogumogu time and due to this most places will be packed.

If you want to relax and eat at a restaurant it’s not a major issue, however if you want to see as much as you can in the limited time, we recommend eating something like or ordering takeout.

▲Mogumogu Lunch Pack 1,300 yen (tax included). A Hokkaido style (!?) Jingisukan Karaage Don. A single order of the meal is 730 yen (tax included)

At the Chuo Shokudo (Central Diner) you can eat ramen and buta don (pork rice bowls), but we recommend the Mogumogu Lunch Pack. You can choose between Jingisukan Karaage Don (deep fried lamb rice bowl), Imo Buta Don (Imo Pork rice bowl) and Imo Buta Sukiyaki Don (Imo Pork sukiyaki rice bowl).

You can eat the lunch pack in the store or eat outside on the lawn or bench. The lunch box can also be used as a gift. If you want something easier to eat, we recommend the menchi-katsu (deep-fried ground meat patty) made with Yezo deer.

▲Menchi-katsu made with Yezo deer 230 yen (tax included). No distinct game odor and very juicy

One thing to note, you are not allowed to eat in front of the animals. You don’t want to provoke the animals with human food.

Next to the Chuo Shokudo is the Chuo Baiten (Central Shop). Here you can purchase limited goods, snacks and gifts.

We asked the staff what were the top-selling snacks and goods.
▲A popular snack is the Banana Cookie, 40 pieces 800 yen (tax included)

The Banana Cookie are individually wrapped and is easy to share. A popular item is this with practicality for students.

▲Asahiyama Zoo Original Stamp Set 864 yen (tax included)

6. View the origin of the Asahiyama Zoo

For a period of time, the zoo had a decline in visitors and reached a point of almost closing, however, they looked over their method of displaying animals and implemented the behavior exhibition.

With this, they were able to successfully recover. The first behavior exhibition was completed in 1997 and it is the Totori Village near the main gate.

▲Totori Village is a huge bird cage, almost like a net placed over a forest.

The entire facility with trees is covered with a net, so water birds can flying around freely. When you enter the zone, it feels like you are walking around a river in the forest! It resembles being out and nature and it doesn’t feel like you are in a huge bird cage.

▲Does this look like the inside of a bird cage?
▲Still in the cage, it’s like walking around a garden
▲Swans, ducks and geese get really close
▲Watching the water birds relax

After Totori Village opened, new facilities were established, such as the Penguin House and Seal House, and it slowly increased the number of visitors. Now it is a very popular sightseeing spot in Hokkaido attracting people from all over the world.

We were only able to share just a part of the zoo. There are many lively animals and even newborn babies.
Japan’s northernmost zoo that attracts people from around the world. Make sure to check the mogumogu time and have fun!

Written by : Nobuhiro Kawashima

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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