14 Animal Attractions, Parks and Islands to Visit in Japan

14 Animal Attractions, Parks and Islands to Visit in Japan

Discover some of Japan’s best spots for animal lovers, from the deer at Nara Park to its many cat islands, a bird paradise and more!

Ready for a huge dose of kawaii? Japan is home to a wide array of places of interests that allow you to get up close and personal with adorable creatures. From the famous cracker-loving deer of Nara Park to the nationally-protected red-crowned cranes of Ito Tancho Sanctuary, read on to find a comprehensive list of animal attractions that we guarantee you’ll have a whale of a time at!

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1. Feed crackers to the deer at Nara Park

Image credit: Terence Lim

Located in the city centre of Nara, the picturesque Nara Park attracts around 13 million visitors annually. You can buy some deer crackers at the park to coax some of the 1,200-strong deer population into taking a traditional Japanese bow before feeding them!

If you’ve been to Nara Park, then put Miyajima on your list. While tame Sika deer are also one of the popular lures of Miyajima, this island offers a different experience altogether in terms of other attractions. Hiroshima is also home to the Itsukushima shrine, one of Japan’s most holy temples, as well as its iconic floating Torii Gate that you can walk up to during low tide.

Pet a couple of deer and snap away at the beautiful sights. Remember to give their famous oyster dishes (we recommend the oyster curry buns and grilled oysters) a try! If you have time, an overnight ryokan stay on the island is another amazing experience.

2. Celebrate the annual cow festival with Kuroshima’s locals

Image credit: rurinoshima (left), Kentaro Ohno (right)

Kuroshima means “Black Island”, and is curiously shaped like a heart. The island is often marketed for its unique shape and as the “Island of Cows”. Soak in the calm and quiet mood that spreads all over the island, watch the cows go by while cycling around the village or greet them on the pristine shores of the beach after returning from a rejuvenating swim.

Kuroshima is home to thousands of cows as a result of active cattle raising, where its population far outnumbers that of its human population. The residents even hold an annual cow festival in February packed with music, dancing, food, and games, making for a one-of-a-kind celebratory event that you must attend. Who knows, you might even win your own cow (worth about S$2,450)!

3. Be smothered by friendly rabbits in Okunoshima

Image credit: jj-walshspot

Located in Japan’s Inland Sea and reachable by a short ferry ride from Hiroshima, the popular Okunoshima is home to these cuddly furballs. You will find rabbits of all colours and sizes as they roam freely around the island. They are a sociable bunch who will not hesitate to get close if you have some food on hand.

Alfalfa pellets are available for purchase on the island, but we suggest that you arm yourself with additional carrots to get the maximum experience, especially in winter where food is less readily available!  

4. Watch monkeys at play all year round

Image credit: Douglas Sprott

Looking for somewhere to enjoy the last dregs of summer? Arashiyama’s famous mountaintop monkey park in Kyoto is steeped in both traditional ambience and scenic landscapes, along with their star attractions. Meet them on your hike up to the top of Iwatayama, and be treated to a gorgeous bird’s eye of the city down below.

If you’re heading to Japan in the winter, then we’ve got even better news for you. Trudge to Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, where a population of snow monkeys resides. After discovering that a dip in a hot spring was a good way to stay warm, these macaques are now regulars at the open-air hot spring bath specially made in recent years to accommodate them. Keep an eye out for precious moments of interactions between the macaques, especially the little ones who’re venturing into the hot springs for the first time!

5. Pet these lovely felines at Japan’s many cat islands

Image credit: かがみ~ (left, top right), Shingu Omotenashi Association (bottom left)

Japan offers not one, not two, but a whopping eleven cat islands that attract droves of tourists to their grounds. For starters, Tashirojima is a small rural island in the Miyagi Prefecture that is home to these lovely felines. The cats were first introduced to the island by the fishermen as a means of mice control for their silkworm farms, but have since increased in population to outnumber the ageing human population. Your new feline friends are mostly easy going and approachable, especially if you have a treat for them.

After visiting the cat shrine on Tashirojima itself, the rest of your time in the feline-loving Miyagi prefecture can also feature a hunt for its ten-odd cat shrines. You can also spot the 51 stone cat-shaped monuments concentrated around where silkworms are cultivated. Talk about an adoration for these cuties!

6. Take flight with the birds at Kakegawa Kachoen

Image credit: Takashi Hososhima (left), Tanaka Juuyoh (right)

Marvel at the vibrant hues of these feathered friends at Kakegawa Kachoen in the Shizuoka Prefecture. Enter the paradise devoted mainly to birds and flora and be enthralled by the wash of colours sweeping across the air as the birds fly freely from one exhibit space to another. Take your time to admire each and every species, from everyday ducks to emus and other fancy exotic breeds.

Feel free to feed any of them with food you can purchase at the park. Alternatively, look forward to direct contact with them and snag a photograph with the owls or feed the penguins. And if you still believe in the expression of “bird-brain”, let the live performances between the feathered creatures and their handlers convince you otherwise.

7. Roam amongst alpacas

Image credit: hirotaka hatayama

Attention alpaca maniacs! It’s time to take a step up from your life-size plushies and various alpaca paraphernalia to see the real thing. We’ve caught wind of two locations where you can spend a delightful afternoon.

For extensive fluffiness, visit the ever-popular Nasu Alpaca Farm in the Tochigi Prefecture, known for its stunning mountains and heavenly hot springs. Bred for their luxurious wool, don’t be surprised that some alpacas may appear shaven or perhaps slightly thinned out depending on the season. With over 400 of them inhabiting the premises, it’s really easy to come within reach of these sweet-natured creatures.  

If you’re craving for a little more solitude, how about a more intimate experience at Yamakoshi Alpaca Farm? The small herd of around twenty started at a size of three, donated by Colorado US as a gift after an earthquake took place around this area in 2009. Stroke the alpaca’s magnificent fleece coats and spend as much time there as you want. Do leave a donation to support these creatures if you can since admission to this farm is free.

8. Turn your luck around with koi at Nishikoi Village

Image credit: C. K. Koay

Koi has long been a famous highlight of traditional Japanese culture for its symbolism of fortune, luck, perseverance in adversity and strength of purpose. As such, it is no wonder that these creatures are often well-taken care of. If the striking blend of gold, orange, black and silvery scales intrigue you, Nishikoi Village provides you with the best atmosphere to lose yourself in for the next few hours.

Watch the koi community swim peacefully through the waters as you indulge in the informative bulletins and posters put up all around the compound. You’ll also be pleased to know that the koi are available for visiting all year round, even in winter as they thrive beneath the surface of their heavily-frozen bodies of water.

9. Let the capybara cuteness take over your senses

Image credit: Bong Grit

Skip the small creatures and go big with the capybara, also known as the largest rodent in the world. At Izu Shaboten Park, catch the highly-sociable capybara with their smooth golden-brown coats, stubby limbs, and tailless bodies. You’ll see them mostly lazing around their open-air hot spring arrangements between December to the beginning of April.

Be careful not to blink – these charming rodents will be eating out of your hand in minutes, even nudging your fingers in a bid for you to get on with more of that good head-scratching. The capybara, however, is just one of the numerous attractions at the zoo. With over 1,500 types of cacti and 120 types of animals that you can interact with, get ready to set aside a whole day of fun for this zoological and botanical garden.

10. Graze with the horses on Cape Shiriyazaki

Image credit: Soica2001 (left), Angaurits (right)

Always harboured that little princess dream of riding away on your trusty stallion towards Prince Charming? Well, you’ll get pretty cool encounters with such horses on Cape Shiriyazaki in the Aomori Prefecture.

These horses, known as Kandachime, are also famous for their short legs, stout frames and stoical ability to withstand the chilly Aomori winter. Don’t worry about them shying away from you or getting aggressive. As long as you don’t aggravate them, many of them will come up to you to greet you without much coaxing. Return their good manners with goodies like carrots and you’re all set!

11. Wave to the bears at Noboribetsu Bear Park

Image credit: Jason

Looking for a more universal childhood memory? Indulge yourself in a peaceful cable car ride up the top of the hill to arrive at the Noboribetsu Bear Park. Explore the park and its chubby fuzzy community at its best, whether splayed out on the floor for a nap or enjoying a water jet massage. In addition, a myriad of bear performances and a duck race are also on deck to keep you entertained and marvelling at the intelligence of these otherwise-fearsome creatures.

Cookie treats which can be easily bought from the park to reward the bears for waving to you. However, be wary of the gigantic crows camping around the perimeter of the enclosure. They’re poised at the ready to snatch food from the bears in the event of a bad throw!

12. Put the beauties of Hokkaido Island on your bucket list

Image credit: m*kotta (top left), pakku (top right), harum.koh (bottom left), Alastair Rae (bottom right)

Beyond Hokkaido Island’s inexplicable beauty lies its abundant animal paradise. Check out the Hokkaido Sika Deer and raccoon dogs for starters,  or the captivating little Pika, hidden among boulders on talus slopes in the mountainous regions such as in Daisetsu Mountain National Park.

If you’re into foxes, these cheeky little creatures can be found on Ezo Red Fox Farm, where you can watch them as they roam freely. And for those who’re interested in coming up close with the only known population of red-crowned cranes, visit Ito Tancho Sanctuary – Japan’s largest wetland and marsh habitat – between October and March.

13. Squeal at squirrels in Machida Risu-en

Image credit: choi&makko

Home to over 200 squirrels, Machida Risu-en in Tokyo is also host to a plethora of other lovable animals, such as tortoises, rabbits, chipmunks, guinea pigs and prairie dogs.

14. Embrace dog paradise at Tsukuba Wanwan Land

Image credit: つくばわんわんランド (left, right)

It can be a little difficult to get to Ibaraki, but we promise that Tsukuba Wanwan Land is a paradise for dog lovers that is more than worth the effort.

The grounds comprise an enormous stadium and a stage and houses more than 400 dogs of over 80 different breeds under its care. Dog owners are free to bring along their fur-babies to mingle with the other friendly ones here. Don’t own a pup? Fret not, you can rent one from the wide selection that they have. Go on, have fun!

Animal Parks and Attractions Galore

For anyone who doesn’t have their own animal companion, these opportunities of close encounters with various lovely creatures while on holiday could very well be the highlights of your trip. So go on and take your pick – no matter which part of Japan you choose to land on, an animal paradise is never too far away!

Raring to visit these adorable wildlife creatures in Japan? To aid your trip planning, why not book your accommodation in Japan via KAYAK? This one-stop website for all your travel needs consolidates the best hotel deals across websites such as Booking.com, HotelsCombined, Expedia, and more. So all you have to do is input your desired destination and travel dates, and voila! 

Browse with KAYAK today and get your accommodation in Japan settled easily within minutes!

About Author

Alvina Chan
Alvina Chan

Alvina wishes she got a tan from lazing around the beach with a book and mango juice, but instead she’s got it from hours of outdoor sports without sunscreen. Since she's currently low on the dough, she scratches the travel itch by stalking travel vlogs and fantasising about meeting her European online pals in person. Other times, she’s just trying not to accidentally die yet again in Overwatch.

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