Ueno Zoo

by Stefan Chiarantano, Mar 14, 2007 | Destinations: Japan

Today I visited Ueno zoo and was pleasantly surprised. I had gone mainly to see the star of the show, Ling Ling, a giant panda. I have never seen a panda before. She alone was worth the price of admission. She was charming. She was sprawled on a platform dozing. Sometimes, she would roll on her side and scratch her tummy. She was adorable. She was oblivious to all the gawking and ogling of the little children and grown ups that had lined up along her cage.

I hadn't expected to see such a diversity of animals on exhibit in such a small area. Although I sometimes wondered how the larger animals felt being caged in as they were in such tiny enclosures. There was a pair of polar bears, a mother and her cub (I think) that were pacing back and forth in a small enclosure. There wasn't much space for them to move about. Poor things. I suppose zoos have become now a means of protecting endangered species for posterity, which is a good thing when you come to think of it but should the animals be made a spectacle? It's food for thought anyway. Nevertheless, zoos serve an educational purpose especially where the young are concerned teaching them about the importance of protecting wildlife.

Other animals that caught my fancy included the Asiatic lions, the tiger, the gorillas, the Andean condor, the giraffes, the Galapagos Tortoise, the Komodo dragon, the dwarfed crocodile, the Hippos and the pygmy hippos, the giant Aardvark, the Asian elephants, the Okapi, the raccoon dogs, the Styan's Red Panda, and the flock of pink flamingos.

The penguins were adorable too. They were mainly standing about but a few were swimming in the pool. There were King Penguins, Macaroni Penguins, and Jackass Penguins. Why would anyone name a species of penguins "Jackass" I wondered. There enclosure was next to the sea lions, their natural predators. I hope this is an oversight.

I enjoyed having a peak at the various species of cranes on display. There was a pair of Red-Crowned Cranes (Crus Japonensis). One was asleep standing on one leg with her head tucked underneath her wing. There was a pair of white-naped cranes, a pair of black-necked cranes, a pair of wattled cranes, and a solitary secretary bird. How sad I thought to be without a mate. They all started to screech for some reason. It was quite funny. They would tilt their head, open their beaks, and belch out a screech. They were amusing.

Also, on exhibit were various species of bears. There was the Hokkaido Brown Bear, the Japanese Black Bear, and a Sun Bear.

The five-storied pagoda I soon discovered was enclosed within the confines of the Ueno Zoo. I got a chance to have a good look at it. It's quite beautiful. I was able to walk around it. A moat surrounds it filled with waterfowl.

Also, within the grounds of Ueno zoo, I came across what looks like a walled burial ground. There's nothing on the zoo map to indicate it but it's there. It's near the Toshogu shrine and wonder if it isn't the burial ground of the Tokugawa shoguns. There was an enclosed column of nine stupa like structures. And on the other side, there were two smaller enclosed areas, one having two of these stupa like structures and the other three of them. When I was peaking over the wall, I noticed the area was neglected and unkempt. It looked desolate and wondered why it was so.

I also came across "Takatora Todos Tea Ceremony House". Here's the description which I copied from the plaque.

Takatora Todo, a military commander, was ranked high by Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Ieyasu Tokugawa. This tea ceremony house was built about 350 years ago and used for the reception of shoguns who paid a visit to the the Toshogu Shrine for Worship. It was erected in memory of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the founder of the Tokugawas Shogunate. Now a trace of its former elegant appearance still remains.

Actually, it looked unkempt and neglected.

My aching feet were demanding I take a break so I stopped and had lunch at one of the many concessions located in various sections of the zoo. The food wasn't bad. It filled the spot and was reasonably priced.

So, if you have time on your hands and you want to do something different, why not visit the Ueno Zoo. Perhaps, you might be like me and be pleasantly surprised.