Among my most favorite places in Japan are natural parks where I have encountered various wild animals. I was amazed and excited to watch monkeys, deer, and many kinds of birds. To be honest, I’m not fond of zoos because I feel pity for the animals kept in small cages. However, at these Japanese parks, wild animals live free!
Jigokudani Yaen Koen (also known as the Snow Monkey Park) is located in Nagano Prefecture, close to Yudanaka Onsen. The group of Japanese macaques living there is lucky, as they occupy a comfortable area complete with hot springs, and good attention and support from people. The park staff give food to the monkeys all year round, and they are able to get warm in the onsen. Other groups of macaques have to survive through cold winters by themselves and sometimes are killed if they eat and ruin farmer's crops. In Jigokudani Yaen Koen, monkeys are quite tolerant towards people and just live their life while people watch. Staying in Yudanaka for 4 days I visited the monkeys twice and spent a few hours there, both times. It was interesting to watch the baby monkeys playing and the leisure time of the mothers, while the males kept their distance. There were a few fights between the monkeys, but on the whole, they were calm. I took a lot of photos at Jigokudani Yaen Koen and didn’t want to leave!
Another great animal area is Nara Park with a lot of deer walking free. The deer were friendlier than the monkeys and I saw people who approached and stroked them. At Nara Park, tourists can buy special treats for the deer and hand-feed them. Of course, I bought several packages and fed the deer. The cookies were gone in a few minutes! I also encountered deer on Miyajima Island, but there we couldn’t feed them and only saw them eating fallen sakura petals. In both of those places, the deer allowed us to come close and take photos. Besides the deer, there are many turtles at Nara Park, but they’re slow and not as interesting to watch as deer.
While visiting Mito, I was surprised by many different birds on the banks of the Sawatari River. While walking along the river I saw ducks, white and black swans with babies, and swift kingfishers. All those birds seemed quiet and not bothered by walking or jogging people. A swan sitting on a nest right on the path’s side was full of self-respect and allowed me to take a photo. I also watched many birds by the Kamo River in Kyoto. There were grey and white herons, ducks, and crows. Watching wild animals and birds in cities is really amazing to me!
In Japan, you can often find big colorful carp in garden ponds, and I enjoy watching them. I have never tried to feed them as I'm unsure about what kind of food is appropriate for them. Improper food can kill animals, so it’s better to be careful with feeding. The only one type of animal keeping that I like is at aquariums because I have no chance to watch fish and other ocean inhabitants in their natural environments. There are a great number of aquariums all over Japan and I never miss the chance to visit them. Though some say it’s not good to keep animals in captivity, in nature the life of every creature can be difficult since most animals have natural predators. I enjoy watching penguins, octopuses, jellyfish, huge stingrays, clownfish, and all other kinds of fish. I usually spend half a day at the aquarium!