Ueno Zoo

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Ueno Zoo
Ueno Zoo 2012.JPG
Ueno Zoo entrance gate
Date opened1882[1]
LocationTokyo, Japan
Coordinates35°43′03″N 139°46′17″E / 35.71750°N 139.77139°E / 35.71750; 139.77139Coordinates: 35°43′03″N 139°46′17″E / 35.71750°N 139.77139°E / 35.71750; 139.77139
Land area14.3 ha (35 acres)[1]
No. of animals2600[1]
No. of species464[1]
Major exhibitsgiant panda, Sumatran tiger, western lowland gorilla
Public transit accessEast Japan Railway Company JK JY JU JJ at Ueno
Tokyo Metro logo.svg G H at Ueno
Tokyo Metro logo.svg C at Nezu
Number prefix Keisei.PNG at Keisei Ueno

The Ueno Zoo (恩賜上野動物園, Onshi Ueno Dōbutsuen) is a 14.3-hectare (35-acre) zoo, managed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and located in Taitō, Tokyo, Japan. It is Japan's oldest zoo, opened on March 20, 1882. It is a five-minute walk from the Park Exit of Ueno Station, with convenient access from Tokyo's public-transportation network. The Ueno Zoo Monorail, the first monorail in the country, connects the eastern and western parts of the grounds.

The zoo is in Ueno Park, a large urban park that is from home to museums, a small amusement park, and other attractions. The zoo is closed on Mondays (Tuesday if Monday is a holiday).


The zoo started life as a menagerie attached to the National Museum of Natural History. In 1881, responsibility for this menagerie was handed to naturalist and civil servant Tanaka Yoshio, who oversaw its transition into a public zoo.[3] The ground was originally estate of the imperial family, but was bestowed (恩賜, onshi, forming the first part of the name in Japanese, untranslated officially) to the municipal government in 1924 — along with Ueno Park — on the occasion of crown prince Hirohito's wedding.[4]

World War II[edit]

In August 1943, the administrator of Tokyo, Shigeo Ōdachi, ordered that all "wild and dangerous animals" at the zoo be killed, claiming that bombs could hit the zoo and escaped animals would wreak havoc in the streets of Tokyo. Requests by the staff at the zoo for a reprieve, or to evacuate the animals elsewhere, were refused. The animals were executed primarily by poisoning, strangulation or by simply placing the animals on starvation diets. A memorial service was held for the animals in September 1943 (while two of the elephants were still starving) and a permanent memorial (built anew in 1975) can be found in the Ueno Zoo.[5]

Shortly after the March 1945 bombings of Tokyo, the Japanese placed U.S. Army Air Force navigator and bombardier Ray "Hap" Halloran on display naked in a Ueno Zoo tiger cage so civilians could walk in front of the cage and view the B-29 prisoner.[6][7]

Recent renovations[edit]

The zoo provides animals an environment similar to the natural habitat. In recent years, the old-fashioned cages of the past have been replaced with modern habitats, such as the "Gorilla Woods," built after two well-publicized mishaps in 1999.[8]


Polar Bear at the Ueno Zoo
Tiger at the Ueno Zoo

The zoo is home to more than 3,000 individuals representing over 400 species.[1] The Sumatran tiger, and western lowland gorilla head the list of the zoo's population. Ueno has more species on exhibition than any other zoo in Japan.

At some point, redistribution of the animals among Tokyo's other zoos (including Tama Zoo and Inokashira Nature Park) left Ueno without a lion. However, in response to public demand, Ueno borrowed a female from the Yokohama Municipal Zoo.[citation needed]

Principal animals[edit]

Western lowland gorilla at the Ueno Zoo
Giant panda at Ueno Zoo

After the death of Giant panda Ling Ling in 2008, Ueno Zoo was without a member of this species for the first time since 1972.[9] Two new giant pandas arrived from the Chinese Wolong Nature Reserve in February 2011. The male panda, Billy (比力 ビーリー) was renamed in Ueno to Līlī (力力 リーリー) to emphasize his playful vitality. The female's name Siennyu (仙女 シィエンニュ ‘Fairy’) was changed to Shinshin (真真 シンシン), referring to purity (純真) and innocence (天真).[10][11] The new names were based on a public poll. The final choices picked by the zoo were, however, not among top choices.[12] Reduplication is very common in panda names.

Notable species[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "About Ueno Zoo". tokyo-zoo.net. Tokyo Zoological Park Society. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  2. ^ "Member's List/zoo". jazga.or.jp. JAZA. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  3. ^ Mayumi Itoh (15 November 2010). Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy: The Silent Victims of World War II. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-0-230-11744-0.
  4. ^ Kawata, Ken (2001), "Zoos of Japan", in Kisling, Vernon N. (ed.), Zoo and Aquarium History: Ancient Animal Collections to Zoological Gardens, CRC Press, p. 298, ISBN 978-0-8493-2100-9
  5. ^ Starving the Elephants - The Slaughter of Animals in Wartime Tokyo's Ueno Zoo
  6. ^ War trauma leads to efforts to reconcile | The Japan Times Online Article dated Wednesday, April 30, 2008 (Retrieved on June 28, 2009)
  7. ^ The Autobiography of Raymond "Hap" Halloran
  8. ^ "The Controversy over the Value of Zoo Animals: Two Stories about Gorillas in a Japanese Zoo and What They Mean", Kawasaki Journal of Medical Welfare Vol. 6, No.1, 20007-12
  9. ^ Giant panda Ling Ling dies at Ueno Zoo, Kyodo News, Japan Times, 2008
  10. ^ (in Japanese) The Ueno Pandas' Profiles, Ueno Zoo, 2011
  11. ^ (in Chinese) PRC Embassy in Japan, 大熊貓"比力、仙女"抵東京 (Giant Pandas Bili & Xiannü Arrived at Tokyo)
  12. ^ (in Japanese) ジャイアントパンダの名前が決まりました (Panda's Names Have Been Decided)

Further reading[edit]

  • Itoh, Mayumi (2010). Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy: The Silent Victims of World War II. Palgrave-MacMillan. ISBN 978-0230108943.
  • Miller, Ian Jared (2013). The Nature of the Beasts: Empire and Exhibition at the Tokyo Imperial Zoo. University of California Press.

External links[edit]

Media related to Ueno Zoo at Wikimedia Commons