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Ueno Zoo

Coordinates: 35°43′03″N 139°46′17″E / 35.71750°N 139.77139°E / 35.71750; 139.77139
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Ueno Zoo
Ueno Zoo entrance gate
35°43′03″N 139°46′17″E / 35.71750°N 139.77139°E / 35.71750; 139.77139
Date opened1882[1]
LocationTokyo, Japan
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 Ueno
G H Ueno
C Nezu
KS 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 served by Ueno Station, Keisei Ueno Station and Nezu Station, with convenient access from several public transportation networks (JR East, Tokyo Metro and Keisei Electric Railway). The Ueno Zoo Monorail, the first monorail in the country, connected the eastern and western parts of the grounds, however the line was suspended from 2019 onwards due to ageing infrastructure until being announced as closing permanently on 27 December 2023.[3]

The zoo is in Ueno Park, a large urban park that is 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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]

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, as Halloran later recalled "'the hated B-29 prisoner', naked, unwashed and covered with sores from fleas, lice and bed bug bites", so civilians could walk in front of the cage and view him.[7][8]

Recent renovations[edit]

The zoo provides animals an environment similar to the natural habitat. In recent years, some of 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.[9] Many of the animal's enclosures, such as that for the giraffe, hippopotamus, and rhinoceros are still the old style single stall concrete cages with very little room for the animals.


Polar bear at the Ueno Zoo
Tiger at the Ueno Zoo

The zoo is home to more than 2,600 individuals representing over 500 species.[1]

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.[10] 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).[11][12] The new names were based on a public poll. The final choices picked by the zoo were, however, not among top choices.[13] Reduplication is very common in panda names.

The zoo is split into two sections, connected by a bridge called the Aesop Bridge, built in 1961 and a monorail (now defunct).

The eastern garden houses giant pandas, sika deer, Japanese squirrels, Eurasian otters, green pheasants, snowy owls, Asian elephants, American bison, black-tailed prairie dogs, colobus monkeys, black-handed spider monkeys, Japanese macaques, African sacred ibises, Japanese black bears, sun bears, Ussuri brown bears, red-crowned cranes, South American tapirs, Sumatran tigers, western lowland gorillas, polar bears, California sea lions and harbor seals.

The western garden houses red pandas, western grey kangaroos, African penguins, Caribbean flamingos, shoebills, Barbary sheep, hippopotamus, pygmy hippopotamus, black rhinoceros, reticulated giraffes, okapis, Aldabra giant tortoises, saltwater crocodiles, green iguanas, Japanese pond turtles, aye-ayes, ring-tailed lemurs, black-and-white ruffed lemurs, gray gentle lemurs, cackling geese, great white pelicans, Oriental storks and Steller's sea eagles.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "About Ueno Zoo". tokyo-zoo.net. Tokyo Zoological Park Society. Archived from the original on 17 April 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  2. ^ "Member's List/zoo". jazga.or.jp. JAZA. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  3. ^ Baseel, Casey. "Japan's oldest monorail is permanently closing next month". SoraNews24. Retrieved 26 November 2023.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ Starving the Elephants - The Slaughter of Animals in Wartime Tokyo's Ueno Zoo, japanfocus.org. Accessed May 27, 2024.
  7. ^ War trauma leads to efforts to reconcile, japantimes.co.jp. April 30, 2008. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
  8. ^ The Autobiography of Raymond "Hap" Halloran haphalloran.com. Accessed May 27, 2024.
  9. ^ "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
  10. ^ Giant panda Ling Ling dies at Ueno Zoo, Kyodo News, Japan Times, 2008
  11. ^ (in Japanese) The Ueno Pandas' Profiles, Ueno Zoo, 2011
  12. ^ (in Chinese) PRC Embassy in Japan, 大熊貓"比力、仙女"抵東京 Archived 2011-07-28 at the Wayback Machine (Giant Pandas Bili & Xiannü Arrived at Tokyo)
  13. ^ (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)
  14. ^ "Animals | Ueno Zoological Gardens".

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