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Sapporo City Maruyama Zoo: Visiting the Elephants Surrounded by Nature in Hokkaido!

Sapporo City Maruyama Zoo: Visiting the Elephants Surrounded by Nature in Hokkaido!

Date published: 9 July 2019

Maruyama Park is a place where you can relax in Sapporo City, the center of Hokkaido. It is a large natural park with the Nationally Designated Natural Monument Maruyama Primeval Forest and athletic facilities such as a baseball field. Also adjacent to the park is Hokkaido Jingu Shrine and Sapporo City Maruyama Zoo.

The history of Hokkaido Shrine is tied to the reclamation of Hokkaido and it is the sochinju, a central place of prayer for local deities. Sapporo City Maruyama Zoo is located at the border area by Maruyama Primeval Forest, there is about 2 hectares of Zoo Forest, which is probably the only zoo in Japan that is surrounded by so much nature. We will cover the charm of Sapporo Maruyama Zoo that has been cherished by all age groups. We are sure that you will have fun!

An Animal-First Zoo

An Animal-First Zoo

Sapporo City Maruyama Zoo opened in 1951 and was the first zoo in Hokkaido. In 1950 Sapporo City invited Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo as a traveling zoo. The traveling zoo was held at Maruyama Sakashita Ground, and that area of the park was filled with people. This started the movement to establish a zoo in Sapporo and lead to the creation of Sapporo City Maruyama Zoo.

When the zoo first opened it was established under as a children’s playground and only had 2 brown bears, 1 Ezo shika deer and 1 Steller’s sea eagle. Since then the zoo has undergone many enhancements and in 1974 they were having about 1.24 million guests annually, which was about the number of the total population of Sapporo City at the time. Currently Sapporo City Maruyama Zoo has 168 species and a total of 943 animals (as of March 30, 2019).

In 2050 Sapporo City Maruyama Zoo will reach their 100th anniversary. With this they have created their core plan and started to improve their facilities and exhibition methods. Their concept is “habitat exhibition,” where they enhance animal welfare to bring out the true nature of animals so guests can enjoy seeing the lively creatures and feeling the importance of conservation. So in order to ensure an optimal environment, they decided on a policy that animals that are difficult to exhibit in their original form will not be added. They are working at an animal first perspective. You can really see the results when looking at the newly added lively Asian elephants. Let’s take a closer look at Sapporo City Maruyama Zoo.

The Long-Awaited Elephant House!

The Long-Awaited Elephant House!

The hot topic of the zoo currently is the Elephant House that opened up for general viewing on March 12th 2019. Since Hanako, the popular Asian elephant, passed away in 2007, the zoo has been without an elephant for a while. The citizens of Sapporo City requested another elephant and in 2012 they gathered about 30,000 signatures. From there they spent 6 years to acquire 3 female elephants and 1 male elephant. The elephants made the journey to New Chitose Airport in November 2018, during a freezing winter, from Yangon International Airport in Myanmar, where was in the thick of summer.

Elephant House, a Comfortable Facility filled with Ideas for Elephants

Elephant House, a Comfortable Facility filled with Ideas for Elephants

The newly established Elephant House is the largest elephant facility in Japan. The facility was built with many ideas catered towards the elephant’s comfort, which leads to a better viewing experience for the customers. The facility is split in an outdoor and indoor area. To keep the elephants healthy, the outdoor section is 50cm deep with dirt so the elephants can search for their food and the indoor section is 1m deep with sand. Elephants will sleep while standing on concrete floors, but here the elephants will lie down for long periods of time. Also the facility has inclines to mimic the atmosphere of their natural forest habitat.

Just as important as throwing sand on themselves, they also have a watering space both in the indoor and outdoor area so they can shower themselves. The indoor water area has a glass wall and you can see the elephants in water. You can only see the indoor water area through a monitor, but if you are lucky you can see them bathing. The indoor area roof also as a mist device so the elephants can get rained on.

The elephants can freely roam both areas and eat, sleep and play as they want. You can see the lively elephants stretch their trunks to reach for food up high or search inside holes. It is rare to see the elephants enter the water area, but if you are lucky you might be able to see it. However the elephant house has limitations to viewing depending on the elephant’s condition and weather, so usually it is limited to 11:00 AM to 3:30 PM.

Animals Swimming Above

Animals Swimming Above

Another popular exhibit is the Polar Bear Exhibit. The two-story facility has a deep pool and an 18m long underwater tunnel. While standing inside the tunnel you can see the polar bears swimming above you. It’s quite amazing seeing these large animals swim elegantly.
Also, spotted seals and harbor seals are in this facility too. Of course they are in separate areas from the polar bears, however you can see the polar bears get excited at the seals from time to time. It’s also quite interesting seeing the seals swim without care while so close to their natural predators.

Native Animals of Hokkaido

Native Animals of Hokkaido

You can’t forget about the native animals of Hokkaido. At the Ezo Deer / Wolf Exhibit, you can see eastern wolfs and Ezo deer next to each other. In the popular anime Golden Kamui the extinct Ezo Wolf makes an appearance and with that the popularity of the Ezo Deer / Wolf Exhibit increased. Next to the Ezo Deer / Wolf Exhibit is the Brown Bear Exhibit with huge bears!

A Zoo You Can Enjoy Many Times

A Zoo You Can Enjoy Many Times

The red panda is one of the highlights of the Asian Zone / Alpine Exhibit. In the outdoor space you can see the red pandas going back and forth the towers and eating. In the indoor area you can see the red pandas cross the bridge set along the ceiling. Makes you wonder why they don’t go down and escape. Here you can enjoy your time viewing red pandas without objects blocking your view.

There are more facilities that you should check out. In the Asian Zone / Alpine Exhibit you can see snow leopards sleeping up top, as if they are sleeping in trees. In the Africa Zone Hippopotamus / Lion Exhibit, you can see the hippos in water through the glass and lions walking around.

At the Giraffe Exhibit you can see the giraffes eat and the food go down their long necks. Giraffes will regurgitate their food in their necks to help digest. At each exhibit and zone there are signs with interesting facts. Sapporo City Maruyama Zoo, not only enhances the life of the animals, but also ensures quality experience for the visitors. A zoo where you can spend an entire day and want to come back for more.

Hours: March 1st - October 31st 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM, November 1st - end of February 9:30AM - 4:00 PM *sales and entrance stop 30 minutes before closing time.
Fee: High school student and older 600 yen (annual passport 1,000 yen), junior high school students and younger free
Closed: 2nd and 4th Wednesday (the next day if it is a holiday), 2nd week from Monday - Friday for April and November, December 29th – 31st
Access: 15-minute walk from Sapporo Municipal Subway Maruyama-Koen Station

Text by : minna no kotoba sha

  • Sapporo Maruyama Zoo
    札幌市円山動物園
    • Address 〒064-0959 札幌市中央区宮ヶ丘3-1 / Miyagaoka 3-1, Chuo-ku,Sapporo 〒064-0959
*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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