I kid you not. Somehow for 2 years I have resisted going. Perhaps it was the cost, or the fact that I didn't know where it was, or perhaps it was the fact that I thought - ' A Safari Park in cold Iwate? Now that is ridiculous!'
today I had an offer from a friend here to go with his family to the Safari Park, and as some sort of initiative the Safari Park was allowing free admission to everyone living in Ichinoseki. So off we went!
What can one expect from a 'Safari Park' in Northern Honshu, Japan? Well, we piled into a bus cunningly disguised as a giant tiger. Bit gates opened to let us in, shut behind us too. We were in a large enclosure with a tiger. Just the one. There was another in a separate area. A little further on there were some cheetahs. I think. Or leopards. Am I a moron for not being able to tell the difference? Neither can change their spots, I know that much!
The area right now, indeed in Ichinoseki too, is just recovering, very slowly, from winter. So everything is brown, it looks a little like Victoria at the end of a long, dry summer. It's the lack of sunlight combined with having a bit of snow of course making it seem that way. But today you could almost be forgiven for thinking spring was thinking of arriving. Temperature was pushing ten degrees and it was sunny.
There's nothing that amazing about the Safari Park. The normal cost is 3000 yen entry. There are quite a few animals in there including giraffes, zebra and lions. The zebras and giraffes along with lamas and deer and similar creatures come right up to the bus and the kids can feed them biscuits sold for a rather expensive 1000 yen. But the kids LOVED it, especially the giraffe - I never realised just how big a giraffe head was until it came up to the open window of the bus.
The lions paid the bus almost no attention. They sat stoic and proud in their pride. The change from winter to spring made some of the animals look dirty - there was a bit of mud around. After the safari ride in the bus - around 45 minutes - was done, there were elephant rides to be had.
I imagine winter must be hell for the poor creatures not used to this climate. The summer is probably pretty nice although it would be nicer for them to have their freedom. To be honest though, I was pleasantly surprised at the conditions - they were better than I expected, and there certainly was a wider range of animals to see than I expected as well.
If you are in Ichinoseki, you'll probably need a car to see the Safari Park - and a decent map. It's not very Japanese but for local families it's a decent day out. It was a nice day out for me too!
For my ebook on Japan, go here - Short Journeys: Japan