Friday, January 19, 2018

Japan 2017 | Capybara Onsen @ Saitama Children's Zoo {埼玉県こども動物自然公園のカピバラ温泉}

The highlight of our Japan trip last year for Lil Pumpkin was to Tokyo Disneyland, but for the boy {ok, and for me too haha!} it was definitely to see the kawaii capybaras at Saitama Children's Zoo!!

Standing about 60cm tall at the shoulder, 120cm in length and weighing around 2kg, capabaras are the world's largest rodents... and probably the only ones I find cute haha. The semi-aquatic animals are native to Central and South America and live near ponds, marshes, rivers etc. for food and to keep its dry skin healthy.

Fun Fact: Capybaras are so trainable that in Surinam a blind man once used a capybara as a guide animal.

In Japan, they are arguably the country's favourite animal and became wildly popular in recent years thanks to the cute cartoon character Kapibara-san {カピバラさん} that's known to carry its smaller siblings / friends on its head.

You can find Kapibara-san in most departmental stores and can buy his products ranging from stationary, to lunchboxes, socks, towels, snacks, cups, notebooks etc.

Most importantly though, just like the Japanese, they looooove to soak in the onsen during the cold winter months!! Best if there's yuzu added in so that they leave feeling clean and lemony-fresh!

Early 2017, a "capybara onsen competition" {yes, that's a thing!!} was held to promote the interest and popularity of the capybaras in Japan. The first animal to enter the onsen for the day was timed and the winner, Umi from Nasu Animal Kingdom in Tochigi, actually stayed in the park's onsen for nearly 5 hours!!! 

One fine day, we decided to take a road trip from Tokyo to Saitama Children's Zoo to see the capybaras.

It takes about 1.5hrs via train and bus to get there.. so we literally spent 3hrs on the road just to see the cute animals.

BUT IT WAS WELL WORTH IT, I tell ya!! haha

Even if you're not there to see the capybaras {what's wrong with you..?? haha}, Saitama Children's Zoo is still an amazing zoo to visit and you should definitely make a day's trip there with the family if you can.

Located in Higashimatsuyama, there are over 230 species of animals spread out over a vast, forested hill and there is so much to explore and do.

Don't expect a super modern zoo with high-tech facilities as Saitama Children's Zoo is rather dated. However, the rustic features make it even more charming and it's so nice just to get out of the city and breathe in the crisp, fresh air while admiring the animals at this suburban zoo.

Other than the animal enclosures and petting areas, the gorgeous free space available gives rise to a number of playgrounds, Dinosaur Corner {about 20 "life-size" dinosaur statues}, "mini amusement park" with rides, outdoor waterplay area, and even a Children's Castle {100yen/entry} with a talking tree, indoor play area, library, bar pool, cinema room and slides!

Lil Pumpkin definitely enjoyed her visit there!!

There are also mini kiosks selling chicken karaage and crepes dotted around the zoo for a quick snack, and quaint Japanese restaurants selling food like udon, soba, fried rice, omu-rice etc. to satsify hungry tummies that need more filling meals.

We had katsu-don and curry katsu rice which were both pretty good.

One thing I really love about Saitama Children's Zoo is how close to nature we were.

Even though it was the beginning of winter, the autumn leaves were still in full force there and it was just gorgeous walking underneath all the fall foliage!

I wish we were better prepared for momiji-gari {紅葉狩り, autumn leaves viewing}... mmmm, perhaps should have brought a mat or some snacks for a picnic??!

Anyway, back to the capybaras.

Saitama Children's Zoo has seasonal attractions and lucky for us while we were there, it was time for their Annual Capybara Onsen that's held every day from 18 Nov 2017 to 31 Mar 2018, 2.30pm - 4pm!! Too cute!!

You feel happy just watching them waddle in and soak to their heart's content but if you want, you can also get up close and personal with them. For 500 yen, you can soak your feet with them in the onsen for 15 mins and also walk away with a limited edition towel & certificate as memorabilia for your unique experience! It takes place 2.30pm - 3.30pm {tickets start selling from 2.15pm} to the first 12 pax only and is not available on rainy days.

The capybara enclosure is pretty easy to find...

Just about 10 mins walk from the main entrance {refer to the map above, and see a bigger Saitama Children's Zoo map here} past the park water fountain feature and up a small slope on the left.

The whole zoo is pram-friendly and there's a zoo train {200yen/ ride or 300yen/day I think} that goes around but I reckon it's really nice to trek around the whole park, especially when the weather was as cool as that day as you can go through the boardwalks in the forest that takes you amongst the trees.

Ahhh... I wish I could just chillax like these capybaras now...

Saitama Children's Zoo {埼玉県こども動物自然公園}
554 Iwadono, Higashimatsuyama, Saitama Prefecture {埼玉県東松山市岩殿554}
Opening hours: 9.30am - 5pm {last entry at 4pm}, 9.30am - 4.30pm {last entry at 3.30pm} for 15 Nov - 10 Feb
Closed on Mondays {except PHs} and 29 Dec - 1 Jan for New Year holidays
Entrance fee:  510 yen {adult}, 210 yen {child}
Tel: +81 0493 35 1234

Other things to do in Japan:

Useful info for Japan travel:


Unknown said...

It looks like the Capybaras have a better life than us! An onsen for them indeed! I do know that in certain islands, Guinea pigs are actually used as good (hence the word "pigs") but I don't think Capybaras are.... Or maybe I haven't read that yet. Looks like you guys had a great time!

mail4rosey said...

Winter coats? It's unusually cold here too, and I don't like it, but it's better than snow and ice. We are taking a zoo trip soon.

Theresa Mahoney said...

What a beautiful zoo! I don't think I've ever been to a zoo that has capybaras, so that would have been a real treat to get a peek!

KarMie's blog said...

Yes cutest, cleanest n biggest rodent I've seen!
Their laid back relaxing lifestyle is definitely a reminder for us...
Nice pics taken against the fall trees!!!

Jamie chaw

Shub said...

How cute these rodents look! It must be an absolute delight to watch and play with them. I loved the colors of the trees and leaves too. So refreshing indeed. This place looks rustic and charming at the same time.

Shub from <a href = "></a>

Unknown said...

I had to do a double-take on your post! Capybara Onsen! How novel! Trust the Japanese to come up with this sort of quirky concepts! Unique indeed. Hope to visit it one day when we return to Tokyo! Thanks for sharing!

Pooja Kawatra said...

What a colourful zoo it is and surely kids will enjoy so close to nature. Loved that relaxed feel out there.

Stacy said...

Cute! Err and they're very BIG rodents.

An Apel a Day said...

I still love to go to the zoo. We have one of the world's best zoos right here. People travel to see it. I love the capybaras! That photo of Little Pumpkin standing on the bridge or pathway is so pretty! The sunlight is perfect.

Indah Nuria Savitri said...

A lovely zoo! I haven’t been to Japan and would love to!