Maruyama Zoo is located within Maruyama Park just west of Sapporo’s downtown, and is easily accessed by subway from the Maruyama Koen Subway Station. It spans an area of 22.5 hectares and has over 730 animals with more than 160 distinct species. Animals native to Hokkaido can be viewed, some of them rare and endangered, as well as animals from around the world. Highlights are the polar bear exhibit, Monkey Mountain, Bear Exhibit and petting zoo. The zoo makes for a great day trip as you can also enjoy visiting Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine, also located within the park.
Since the zoo is located just a 10 minute drive from downtown Sapporo it’s easily accessed by taxi. It’s aslo close enough to ride there by bicycle from Odori Park, which will take about 30 minutes. You can also take the Tozai line subway from Sapporo Station or Odori Station and get off at Maruyama Koen Subway Station, from which it’s just a 10 minute walk through the park along easily traversed trails. Bus access is available from the bus terminal at Maruyama Koen Subway Station. Take either the Nishi (West) 15 Dobutsuen line and get off at the Dobutsuen Mae Station (5 min. walk), or the Nishi (West) 14 Araiyama line and get off at the Sogo Ground Mae Station (5 min. walk).
Maruyama Zoo was established in 1951, on May 5th (Children’s Day) as the 1st zoo in Hokkaido. The zoo is intended to allow several chances to interact with animals. For example, you can try feeding squirrel monkeys or petting guinea pigs, rabbits, wallabies and kangaroos. In front of the outdoor stage you can also watch kites fly in close proximity or see the traditional art of falconry (takasho). Be forewarned that the zoo was built over 50 years ago and although the enclosures are in the process of being upgraded, the facilities are not as expansive and the habitats not as natural as most modern zoos. As such some international visitors have left feeling sorry for the animals. This should be remedied as the zoo expands and updates, and hopefully all the needs of the animals will be well met in future. As part of the ongoing expansion environmentally friendly considerations have been incorporated, including solar heating in winter and snow cooling in summer.
Maruyama Zoo is best enjoyed by families, especially those with small children. It’s open year round, and during the Sapporo Snow Festival there are ice slides and other activities for children. The night zoo is also a popular date for couples. However as information on the exhibits is only available in Japanese international visitors are recommended to visit with a Japanese speaking friend or guide. The zoo makes for a nice day trip if you take in Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine as well.