When we visit relatives in Okazaki, our children beg to go to Okazaki City’s Higashi Park and Zoo (東公園). Though we have been here literally hundreds of times, our kids often beg a visit to see the animals and run around.
Higashi Park and Zoo is a free public facility located only five minutes from the Okazaki Interchange of the Tomei Expressway and Highway Route 1 as well as with regular bus service to Higashi Okazaki on the Meitetsu line and Okazaki station on the JR line.
The first stop on almost any visit to Okazaki Higashi Park and Zoo is the duck pond where for 100 yen you can feed the ducks (and pigeons). Though my daughter gets nervous due to the ever approaching over-agressive pigeons, feeding the ducks is one of those activities that is passed down through generations all over the world. Besides feeding ducks, in the main Zoo area, we dropped another 300 yen to feed carrots to the deer, food pellets to the monkeys and sweet potatoes to Fujiko the Elephant. My kids get a kick out of feeding Fujiko. You buy a tray of food for 100 yen, take it to a conveyor and drop the contents on. Fujiko does the rest by rotating the conveyor with her trunk. The zoo is not large but has Llamas, various birds, Japanese Snow monkeys, ground hogs, meerkats, and miniature horses which are available for riding on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
After feeding the animals, we went over to the “Fureai zoo” or petting zoo. They have ground hogs, sheep, goats and guinea pigs. My kids wanted to hold guinea pigs. The lady said, “wash your hands before you enter.” Upon doing so, we were guided to some places to sit. Towels were placed upon our laps and then some very cute guinea pigs. My three-year-old son was a little nervous and this was evident in the guinea pig’s shaking body. Our daughter’s was calm and seemed to relish the attention.
Just outside the zoo area is the Animo Learning center and a play area. The Animo center consists of administrative offices, a library, classrooms and small animal shelter for cats and dogs. The play area has slides and jungle gym-like equipment. On a nice sunny day, families are often seen having picnics on the seating area that surrounds.
If you don’t bring food with you but get a little hungry, there is an open space with a small snack bar in the center of the park operated by nice old ladies which serves frankfurters, yaki soba, mitarashi dangos (soy sauce and sugar coated mochi balls), and other Japanese delights.
Besides these main features, paths wind all over the park leading through forests, and around ponds. On the opposite corner of the park from the zoo is smaller play area with swings, seesaw and a plastic jungle gym. I like this play area because there are fewer children which allows for some quality bonding time.
Though Okazaki city is usually considered a bedroom town, Higashi park and zoo is a great little place to take the family for a day out and picnic.