Tag Archives: 上野動物園

Mr. Panda Postman

1 Aug

To celebrate the new pandas that came to 上野動物園 (Ueno Zoo) in Tokyo last February, the design of the public mailbox just outside the zoo has been changed to resemble a panda starting today.

The mailbox even has "panda ears" and a "panda tail".

To publicize the new 「パンダポスト」 (panda mailbox), the zoo had a ceremony with children from a nearby 幼稚園 (pre-school) drop postcards into the mailbox after which a “panda postman” came to collect the cards.

The "Panda Postman".

Many Tokyo TV stations had news crews there to film the ceremony.
Here is Tokyo Broadcasting Station (TBS)‘s news report about the 「パンダポスト」 (Panda mailbox):

You can see the kids from the pre-school putting their postcards into the mailbox. But, as is Japanese manners, the first child says 「パンダポストマンさんよろしくお願いします!」…which isn’t easy to translate into English, but it’s close to “Thank you, Mr. Panda Postman!“.

All mail deposited into this “panda mailbox” will be delivered with a special panda postal cancellation mark over the stamp.

The zoo is hoping that many people will make a special trip to mail letters from this mailbox…and then visit the zoo.
It is now summer vacation in Japan. Many people, especially families and couples, like to visit places such as amusement parks and zoos during this time. And also, many people in Japan send 「かもメール」 (summer postcards) to friends and relatives…and I’m sure many people will use the panda mailbox to send them from now.

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The zoo is free today

4 May

In Japan, April 29th, May 3rd, May 4th and May 5th are public holidays.  Collectively they are known as 「(ゴールデンウィーク」 (“Golden Week“).  Technically only those days are public holidays and therefore only the May 3-5 period is “Golden Week”, but many companies allow their employees to have a Golden Week holiday from 「昭和の日」 (“Showa Day”) on April 29th until 「子供の日」 (“Children’s Day”) on May 5th.

(Click here to read my FAQ that explains a bit about the Golden Week holidays.)

Today is May 4th…「みどりの日」 (“Greenery Day“) in Japan.

This is the day to appreciate nature.  Every year May 4th is one of three days that all of the public 動物園 (zoos) and 水族館 (aquariums) are open with no admission charge.

So you can go to the zoo or aquarium in Tokyo for free today…if you don’t mind the crowd.

Of the three days that Japan’s zoos are open for free, May 4th is the most crowded because it’s the day that is a national holiday.
Tokyo’s 「上野動物園」 (Ueno Zoo) will be particularly crowded because in addition to the zoo being open for free on a national holiday today…Ueno Zoo recently got new pandas.

The three days of the year that Japan’s public zoos and aquariums are open for free are May 4th (“Greenery Day”), 都/道/府/県民の日 (Prefecture Residents’ Day) (each prefecture’s “Residents Day” is a separate day), and the anniversary of the day that the zoo / aquarium first opened.

So, for Tokyo’s public zoos, the days that they’re open for free are as follows:
May 4th 「みどりの日」 (Greenery Day)…which is today.
October 1st 「都民の日」 (Tokyo Residents’ Day)…as for the Tokyo’s neighboring prefectures, 千葉県民の日 (Chiba Prefecture Residents’ Day) is on June 15th, 埼玉県民の日 (Saitama Prefecture Residents’ Day) is on November 14th, and 神奈川県民の日 (Kanagawa Prefecture Residents’ Day) is on March 19th—so Chiba Zoo, Tobu Zoo, Yokohama Zoo, etc. will be open for free on their respective prefecture’s Residents Day.
-And the other free day is the anniversary of the zoo’s grand opening…so, for each of Tokyo’s public zoos and aquariums, that day is:

Ueno Zoo...open for free every March 20th (first opened on 1882 March 20).

Tama Zoo is open for free on both (May 4) today and (May 5) tomorrow (both are national holidays). Tama Zoo first opened on 1958 May 5th.

Kasai Seaside Aquarium...open for free every October 10th (first opened on 1989 October 10).

Inokashira Zoo...open for free every May 17th (first opened on 1918 May 17).

Ooshima Zoo is always opened to the public for free.

Do you like zoos and aquariums? Which is your favorite zoo? Have you seen any of Japan’s zoo?

If you want any information about these zoos and aquariums in Tokyo (or the ones in the neighboring prefectures), feel free to ask in this post’s comments or e-mail me…I’ve been to them all.

(Images in this post are from the Tokyo Zoological Park Society website).

World’s oldest orangutan died in Tokyo

1 May

In 1955, 上野動物園 (Ueno Zoo) in Tokyo was given a three-year-old オランウータン (orangutan) named 「モリー」 (“Molly“).

We first saw her at that zoo in the ’90s, when Molly was in her forties. For an orangutan, that age is already elderly.
By the time we first saw Molly she had gone blind in her left eye and she had to use her hand to hold her right eye open in order to see.

My family and I really liked Molly and we visited her every time that we went to the zoo.

But then in 2005 when we went to Ueno Zoo, we were sad to find that Molly‘s cage was empty. As Molly was quite old for an orangutan at that point, we suspected the worst and thought that she had passed away…until we noticed a sign that said Molly had been transferred to 「多摩動物公園」 (“Tama Zoo”).

Tama Zoo is also in Tokyo but it’s in rural western Tokyo where there’s more room, so Tama Zoo is much larger that metropolitan Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo.

We hadn’t been to Tama Zoo for awhile and we like that zoo a lot. So during 2005’s Golden Week (which, coincidentally, is the week-long holiday period in Japan that happens to started two days ago) we went to Tama Zoo and saw Molly looking happy in the zoo’s large orangutan enclosure.

Well, it was announced in the news that Molly, who was the world’s oldest orangutan, died yesterday (2011 March 30) from old age (she was 59 years and 4 months old).

Rest in peace, Molly.

Here are some photos that I took of her at Tama Zoo in May 2005:

A visitor to my site named Jean Adams emailed me this wonderful picture of Molly that she drew after seeing a photo of Molly in her local newspaper in England:

Since Molly has passed away, now the current oldest orangutan in the world is now a 57 year old female named “Gypsy” who also lives at Tama Zoo in Tokyo.
She likes to look through fashion magazines! 🙂

Pandas: goodwill ambassadors

23 Feb

I wrote a post just over a year ago about Tokyo’s plan to get new ジャイアントパンダ (“Giant pandas”) to replace the one that died in 2008.

Well, now after nearly three years without a panda, Tokyo’s 上野動物園 (Ueno Zoo) has two five-year-old pandas.
Japan welcomed the male 「比力」 (Bili) and female 「仙女」 (Xiannu) the day before yesterday (Monday, 21 February). Those names, by the way, are the pandas’ Chinese names…Ueno Zoo will rename them shortly from a long list of potential new names submitted by people all around Japan.

 

Photos of the new pandas' "publicity shots" and the "welcome ceremony". (These photos: ©Tokyo Metropolitan Zoo)

The pandas were flown to Tokyo from China via Japan’s “All Nippon Airways” on a special “Panda plane”.

©ANA

This plane actually wasn’t painted to look like a panda for this occasion…All Nippon Airways (ANA) had this plane designed like this to commemorate the carrier’s twentieth anniversary from it’s first flight connecting Japan and China.

It took so long for Ueno Zoo to get new pandas after the previous panda died because initially Tokyo declined China’s offer for new pandas because of the steep rental that China charges zoos around the world for a panda.
But there are a number of zoos in the Tokyo area and each one has a signature animal that is a major draw for visitors. Ueno Zoo has been well-known for the panda since it first acquired one in the ’70s.
Without a panda the zoo was losing money…so Tokyo agreed to pay the ¥80,000,000 per year (about US$966,000) for the pair of pandas.

In addition to attracting more visitors to Ueno Zoo, it is expected that the arrival of the new pandas from China will help improve the image of China among Japanese people…and thus help improve Japan-China relations. So, in a way, they are unofficial ambassadors to China in Japan.

It was announced that the two pandas have recovered fine from the stress of their trip. They will be given time to get accustomed to their new surroundings before they make a debut for the public in Japan…which is expected sometime in March (2011).

(“Giant Panda“, by the way, is written as 「大熊猫」 in Chinese…which would translate literally to “Big (or ‘giant’) bear-cat”. But in Japanese, it’s written as 「ジャイアントパンダ」 (simply “Giant panda”), or more commonly as just 「パンダ」 (“Panda”).)

Does your city’s zoo have pandas…or another unique animal?

Gorillas and cigarettes

2 Oct

Yesterday (October 1) was 「都民の日」 (“Tokyo Residents’ Day“).
So, schools in Tokyo were closed. My kids had the day off.
Also, 「都民の日」 (“Tokyo Residents’ Day“) is one of the three days every year that the zoos in Tokyo have free admission. So, since a new baby gorilla was recently born in 「上野動物園」 (Ueno Zoo), my wife and daughters went to that zoo yesterday.

They told me that the new baby gorilla (named “Komomo“) is very cute.

Gorillas at Ueno Zoo (top). Mother, Momoko, and new baby Komomo (bottom pic)

Also, yesterday a hefty new cigarette tax went into effect across Japan.
The price of cigarettes just went up 40%! They were ¥300 (about US $3.60) for a pack…now they’re ¥410 (about US $4.95) per pack.

From the day it was announced about a month ago that there would be a 40% increase on tobacco tax on October 1st until one day before the tax took effect, there was a huge increase on sales of cartons of cigarettes all across Japan as smokers stockpiled cigarettes while they were still (relatively) cheap.

The Japanese government’s idea behind this tax hike is to try to motivate more people to quit smoking.

I hope it works. I don’t like cigarettes at all.
If an adult decides to smoke, even with the health dangers being well-known (and warnings printed on cigarette packs), that’s their decision.
But I hate “second-hand smoke”. I don’t smoke so I don’t like inhaling someone else’s “exhaust fumes”.

What do you think? Do you smoke? Do many people smoke in your country? How much do cigarettes cost where you live?

うえのにパンダを!

12 Mar

I wrote a post last month that Tokyo will be getting two new pandas from China for 上野動物園 (Ueno Zoo) to replace the one that died about two years ago.
(Click here to read it.)

Well, I was in the Ueno area of Tokyo yesterday and I noticed the elevator to the underground parking area was decorated with Sakura flowers and a panda and it said 「うえのにパンダを!」 (translates to: “(We want) Pandas in Ueno!“).
So I took a photo of it with my cell-phone camera:

「うえのにパンダを!」 ("(We want) Pandas in Ueno!")

I guess the city’s trying to promote the arrival of the pandas so hopefully many people will visit the zoo to see them once they get here.
I’m sure there will be a huge crowd to see the pandas when they first arrive…and I’m sure they’ll continue to be popular for as long as they’re here. Pandas are always very popular in Japan’s zoos.

Have you ever seen a panda in a zoo? Are they popular in your country like they are in Japan?

New pandas coming to Tokyo

13 Feb

Anytime zoos around the world have a パンダ (panda), it’s almost certainly being rented from China.

China doesn’t usually give pandas to other countries for free…but charges huge annual fees to cities that want the animal in their city zoo.

Many cities agree to this because having exotic animals such as pandas draws visitors to the zoo.

「上野動物園」 (Ueno Zoo) in Tokyo get their first panda from China in 1972 and has had at least one panda at the zoo since then…that is, until 2008 April 30 when the single panda that was there died.

That panda’s name was 「リンリン」 (Ling-Ling). He died at the age of 22 almost two years ago.
Click here to see the post I wrote about it.

Ling-Ling (R.I.P.) resting at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo a few years ago.

After Ling-Ling died, China asked Tokyo if they’d like to rent a replacement. The Tokyo Governor Ishihara said the fee was way too steep and the zoos in Tokyo don’t need pandas to attract visitors. So he declined.

But it seems that visitor attendance at 「上野動物園」 (Ueno Zoo) has seen a sharp decline since it’s been “panda-less”, and many Japanese people have expressed a wish for pandas to return to the zoo.

So the governor of Tokyo agreed to pay China an annual fee of nearly 8千5百万円 (¥85 million)…which equals US$950,000 for two pandas beginning next year.

So if you will be in Tokyo in 2011, you’ll be able to see pandas at 「上野動物園」 (Ueno Zoo).

By the way, if you like zoos…there are a number of very nice zoos in the Tokyo area. Ueno Zoo is conveniently located downtown…but it’s not the best zoo in Tokyo.