You don’t have to hold a degree in Ornithology to appreciate Matsue’s Vogel Park, aka “Bird Park”. Spread out over a large expanse of Shimane’s beautiful natural landscape, Vogel Park is situated just north of Lake Shinji, about fifteen minutes West of Matsue City. With birds from all over the world, plan on spending at least two hours exploring the grounds. You can walk through a range of habitats, taking in all the sights and smells of these little creatures.
Made famous not only in Japan, but in the international arena, too, are Vogel Park’s family of penguins! I know what you’re thinking, “It’s too hot for penguins!” But in fact, most penguins do live in more temperate climates. These penguins wore Japan football jerseys during World Cup and adorn Santa stalkings every winter. They really do steal the show, no matter what season you visit. But the penguins, you see, are just the tip of the iceberg.
As you wind your way over the grounds, you will pass by tiptoeing pink flamingos, a number of quirky owls and gaggles of other avian species. My personal favorite at Vogel Park is the Toucan exhibit. For a nominal 100yen, you can feed an adorable little Toucan like the one pictured! Definitely worthwhile, since how often do you stumble across a Toucan?
There is also a tower, complete with elevator, which will give you a 360º treetop view of Vogel Park. And as your eyes gravitate South, you’ll have an impressive view of Lake Shinji, encircled by a number of dramatic mountain peaks. This experience was a pleasant surprise, one normally reserved for the birds. So take a rest, have a seat and watch as planes make their approach to Izumo airport.
After making my way down from the tower, I came across a small pond, overflowing with birds and fish, a real malay of activity. Another hundred yen gets you a handful of corn and even as an adult, I had a great time feeding our hosts. This is also where my group sat down for a meal, each opting for a delicious bowl of cold soba, a local favorite. Set meals of soup, rice, a few other sides and noodles came in at just about 1,000yen.
As Vogel Park’s own website states, you can also find one of the world’s best indoor gardens here. Not to be overshadowed by all of our winged friends, the gardens are filled with thousands of beautiful and aromatic blossoms. They’ll be hanging from the rafters and floating down the waterways. Blossoming plants everywhere! Nearing the end of your journey, you can sit among the flowers and grab one final drink. Be sure to pick up some omiyage (gifts) at this final stop, before heading off.
Vogel Park can easily accommodate large groups, but I wouldn’t say the grounds ever felt crowded. That being said, wear comfortable shoes. You will do lots of walking! So if the weather is right for spending a few hours out of doors, why not travel beyond Matsue proper and have a delightful time at Vogel Park, with all its inhabitants.