All About Japan

5 Great Things for Animal Fans to Do in Japan

Cafés Zoo Aquarium Islands Animals Hiroshima Nara

Japan offers menagerie of options for animal lovers. Want to sit in a café with your favorite furball? Watch monkeys play in hot springs? Feed semi-tame deer? Here are five great animal things you can do across the country!

5. Go to a Zoo, Aquarium or Safari Park

5. Go to a Zoo, Aquarium or Safari Park

While you might think of Japan's nature being confined to its mountains and oceans, the nation also boasts plentiful zoos and safari parks, as well as some of the best aquariums you'll find anywhere, featuring multi-story tanks filled with mantas and whale sharks, as well as shows from killer whales, dolphins and sea lions.

Top-class zoos can be found pretty from Hokkaido on down, with a number of famous entries right in the Tokyo area—as well as a wild bird park right by Haneda Airport. And if you like your critters smaller, there's even a zoo for squirrels!

4. Get Smothered in Fur on an Animal Island

Think you can handle tons of fuzz in a contained space? Why not check out the notorious rabbit island near Hiroshima, or visit one of Japan's 11 cat islands. If you're not up for an island, how about a fenced-in space like the adorable Fox Village in Miyagi?

3. Get Mugged by Deer in Hiroshima & Nara

Located just off the coast of Hiroshima, the island of Miyajima is famous for its "floating" torii gate, which rises out of the water when the tide comes in. The island is also roamed by hundreds of semi-tame deer, which tourists are generally discouraged from feeding—meaning they can be seen sticking their heads in garbage cans and may well nibble on the hem of your shirt if you sit still too long. If you stick around until dark, you're likely to see tanuki come out and wander the streets.

You're free to feed the deer in Nara, however, and they can be found aplenty on the approach to Todai-ji, home of the Great Buddha. However, the deer are quite accustomed to being fed shika senbei (deer crackers), and if they think you're taking too long, they may come right up and snatch them from your hands or pockets. Watch out if you're the only one in the area with deer snacks—you may become more popular than you'd like!

2. Watch Animals Soak up Heat in Winter

2. Watch Animals Soak up Heat in Winter

Nagano's Snow Monkeys may get all the attention as they lap it up in the hot springs of so-called Hell Valley, but they're not the only animals getting into hot water in the winter. A number of zoos across the country also let their cuddly capybara soak in the springs with yuzu citrus fruits, a traditional Japanese practice for good health on the winter solstice.

1. Chill at an Animal Café

Not only can you curl up in cat cafés from Kanto to Kansai, you can have a hoot at an owl café, hop along to a rabbit café, or sip by snakes and lizards in a reptile café. Not your kind of menagerie? How about a goat café or a hedgehog café? If you're expecting some harder drinks at your watering hole, why not try being served by a furry simian at a monkey tavern? Fur, feathers or scales, Japan's got your texture!