Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Maruyama Zoo... Sole-searching in Sapporo

10th April, 2009 - I have a confession to make... I get very uncomfortable around zoos. Not because I dislike animals. I love animals... and it's because of that I always find the moral dilemma to be difficult to get past. On one hand, it's wonderful to be in the presence of our earthly co-inhabitants, and I think that people that enjoy animals generally are happier, saner people. So there's a little bit of soul-searching for me, everytime I go to a zoo... but at the end of the day, I generally do as these boys (above) are famous for doing - see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. In other words, I tend to suck up my fuzzy moral objections for the sake of sharing things with my son... and just enjoy it for what it is. A day out to the zoo... and the soul-searching will need to be put on hold. Which is exactly what we did. Maruyama Zoo in Sapporo.

Maruyama is not only a Zoo, but also doubles as a bit of an amusement-park known as Kid Land (though it was still in Winter-shut-down mode when we went in mid April) [NOTE - it would seem that Kid Land has gone much the way of many amusement places in Sapporo in the current economic climate.... EXTINCT... at least that's my understanding in Feb 2011]. I can't believe the difference in costs in going to zoos in Japan and here in Adelaide. Adult tickets cost 600yen, or about $7AUD for Maruyama Zoo, whereas they cost around $28AUD here in Adelaide.

Anyway - back to my point about zoos. The first "enclosure" we came across was the Japanese Monkey Mountain. I'm not sure about whether concrete qualifies as mountain-like, but it definitely didn't lack for monkeys. In fact - it was pretty amazing just how many monkeys they had managed to fit in their 20m x20m (approx) enclosure. Especially when the feeding started.... it got awfully noisy and painfully busy.

Now along with the monkey's there was a fairly typical selection of animals. The giraffe (kirin) was by itself, and made a fairly stark portrait.

The Lesser Panda (or more generously known as the Red Panda) was much more interesting... though you have to wonder what sort of inferiority complex you're setting up with a name like that. I get the feeling that he was in a slightly bad mood too... or does he just have beady eyes? I'm not sure if it's just my eyes, but I can't see the Lesser Panda on the current map of the zoo. I wonder if they're no more....

There was also a lot of very large eagles and other birds of prey housed in large cages. They're impressive, but I can't help but feel they should be allowed to fly... I feel a Bette Midler song coming on.

One of my favourites animals were the Tanuki...there's something so cozy about seeing them all cuddling up together. Tanuki hold a special place in Japanese life - like foxes, they are said to possess magical powers of illusion. They are more properly called Raccoon Dogs.... with the emphasis on dogs, not raccoon.

Either that, or it just makes you think how cold the Spring can be in Sapporo.

Now I'm not sure why there was a statue of a Panda in Maruyama Zoo. There almost certainly was never (as far as I, T-chan, or her family can tell) any Panda in Sapporo. Unlike Adelaide - which as two very much alive Panda (gratuitous plug for Adelaide). Well - if you've only got the Lesser Panda I suppose you have to make do with alternatives....

They most definitely have more flamingo than in Adelaide (which has a paltry two birds). This enclosure is quite amazing... as flamingo are crazy birds that defy common sense. Still, the Japanese don't quite seem to know when to stop. All things in moderation they say... just not here.

The Japanese do know about baths and bathing however - and that seems to have extended to the seals. This one in particular has an amazing resemblance to an onsen-ojiisan IMO. All he needs is a towel on his head, and he'd be a perfect reflection (not of me, of course). The reason, if you're wondering, he looks like he's in heaven is that they were pumping in warm water into the seal pool. It doesn't take a higher mammal to realise that it's nice to sit on the warm spot. Unless of course - you're the one that's making the warm spot. Then it's just wrong.

A different twist on the red-riding hood story... or is that the three little pigs?

Now - they may not have Pandas in Maruyama, but they have the next best thing. Polar bears. By far and away, these are my favourite animals... especially when you can see them under water. Unfortunately, there was no such viewing window when we went (perhaps as there was no water). Still, there's something about polar bears that makes me want to give them a big old hug. There's most probably something about me that would make them want to give me a big old bite.  I think I'm happy watching from a distance.

Awww.... bear cubs. Is there anything cuter?

Bear cub feet. Sugoi kawaii!

My soul-searching was over at least for today. At last I had found my "soles"! And what cute ones they were. I guess it really is nice to be able to go to the zoo and enjoy watching the animals.

You know, parenting - no matter what your species - can be hard work. Especially when you have twins (their names are Ikor and Kiroru who have become quite the celebrities in Sapporo). I have to say, the polar bear enclosure must have undergone a huge refurbishment since we went in 2009 (from what I've seen on the web) which is great, because it looked pretty tired when we were there.

Then again - it's still hard work, even when you don't have children. It isn't made easier when you're a sloth bear. And the indignity doesn't end there... it seems that these guys aren't really sloth bears at all, but are rather "bear" sloths. Still, I think I'll leave this debate for someone that knows somehow about something.

Now - I won't ask you to pick out L-kun. That would rude, and totally inappropriate. He'd be the one wearing clothes, and not made of concrete (just in case you needed help).

But we've now reached the Great Apes... well, in this case, Chimpanzee, who by the looks of it, is not having a good day, and certainly doesn't look like he feels so great at all. You don't need to be an animal body-language expert to tell when you've got a serious Sunday afternoon funk.

And there's something so similar in their faces (er... maybe I'll re-phrase that shall I)... there's a familiarity in the expression that makes it hard not to think of them as human-like- and hence makes their captivity that little harder to accept. Thankfully, he didn't give me one of those look-down-the-camera-lens-stares....

Oh..... there it is.

Ah - now we're on safer ground. Lions. I definitely wouldn't want these to be released... well, not here anyway. Actually, not sure that this girl is all she's made out to be. She looks a little spotted to me... perhaps a leopard can change it spots after all.... and end up being a lioness.

Macho man-lion looks all MANLY, and struts his stuff. Scowl... growl... and prowl. That's the Lion's Way.

After all that strutting however, he just needs a good old lie down...

Next door, someone has got itchy feet. Apparently feeding time is just a wee bit late, and he must have been getting peckish. 

Our friend the hippopotamus was not getting edgy over anything. He had had a long day, and was going to have a nap.

He wasn't the only one either. L-kun, was out for the count. And Daddy was given cartage duties. It was a long, long way home that afternoon, and Daddy was pretty well exhausted after carrying L-kun home on the subway and then walking back to T-chan's house.

So... my overall impression is still mixed about Maruyama Zoo. On one hand, there's some moments there where I was definitely wincing on the inside when I saw how small some of the enclosures were. On the other hand, I know that L-kun had a great time. I don't want to moralise too much on this blog - especially when I've not worked out where I stand. A little later on, I'll write up about our trip to Arashiyama Zoo... that was a much better experience. Still, Maruyama is very convenient and most probably worth a trip if you're in Sapporo for any length of time. Don't expect too much, and you won't be disappointed... and if you're lucky you might even get a little soul-searching done as a bonus. 

Check out my comparative post on Adelaide's Zoo while your at it... 


  1. loves all the photos^_^, especially the smiling seal. KAWAIIIIII~~~

  2. The seal did look like he was having a good time... I could have done with an onsen as well!