Tama Zoological Park is a massive zoo (52 ha—compare that to the 3 ha of NYC’s Central Park Zoo) located in Hino, a suburb of Tokyo about one hour’s train ride from Shinjuku. It has three ecological areas: African, Asian and Australian. Some of the must-see animals include: tapirs, snow leopards, red pandas, wild African horses, koalas and kangaroos. There’s also a lion bus where you drive into the enclosure and, if they’re interested, the lions will climb onto a wooden platform and have a stare down with you through the window. This face-to-face experience will set you back 350 yen if you’re an adult and 100 yen if you’re a child (15 and under) or a senior (over 65). Note that the lion bus operates only until 4:00 pm even though the rest of the zoo is still open.
Other highlights include the bird dome (where you can walk among storks, cranes, peacocks and other exotic birds) and the Butterfly House in the Insectarium, where hundreds, if not thousands, of butterflies fly around you in serene indoor garden.
Entrance Fee: Adults (16-64) – 600 yen; Seniors (65+) – 30 yen; Students (13-15) 200 yen; Children (0-12) – free
Opening Hours: 9:30 am. to 5:00 pm (tickets sold until 4:00 pm) and closes every Wednesday (closes Thursday if Wednesday is a public holiday).
Access: The cheapest option from Shinjuku Station—340 yen—is taking the Keio Line (towards Keiohachioji) and then transfer to the Keio Dobutsuen Line (you’ll know you’re on the right train since it’s covered in animal cartoons) and get off at Tamadobutsukoen Station (last stop).