Culture,  Tourism

Everything About Pandas in Japan

Pandas are very popular in Japan. Though few know how this furry, cute animal came to be one of Japan’s favorite symbols.

Pandas do live in Japan. However, you can only see pandas in Japanese zoos. Pandas are native to southern China. But ever since they were brought into Japan, the Japanese have loved this animal. Even today, people in Japan get excited over pandas.

If you want to see pandas in Japan, zoos are your only option. Tourists, as well as locals, throng the zoos in Japan to see pandas and line up for hours to see these adorable animals. When in Japan, where can you see pandas? Read on to find out.

A Panda eating. Photo by Bring Back Words (www.flickr.com)
A Panda eating. Photo by Bring Back Words (www.flickr.com)

When did pandas come to Japan?

In the year 1972, two pandas were gifted by the People’s Republic of China to Japan as part of diplomatic relations between the two countries. And the Japanese were quick to embrace this animal in their culture. The names of the first pandas to arrive in Japan were Kang Kang and Lan Lan.

In 1984, the situation on pandas was changed. They were included in the list of animals that cannot be commercially traded. This move, as part of panda conservation efforts, caused the pandas in Japan to be treated as being on a ‘loan’ from China. So, they need to be returned back to China after the ‘loan period’ ends.

‘Hello!’ panda in Adventure World, Shirahama, Japan (Photo by pelican, Flickr)

Where can you see pandas in Japan?

Pandas live in the wild only in China now. They are found in the bamboo forests of southwestern China. However, just like many other countries, you can see pandas in captivity in Japan.

Also, pandas are not allowed to be kept in private captivity. So, you can’t keep a panda as a pet no matter how cuddly it looks! After 1984, all pandas technically belong to China and are present in other countries including Japan, only on a lease.

Below are the places you can see pandas in.

Ueno Zoo, Tokyo

Ueno Zoo is the oldest zoo in Japan and is very well-known for its pandas. Earlier this zoo had old-fashioned cages to house animals. But in recent times, care has been taken to keep the environment as close to the animals’ natural habitat as possible.

Zoo open timings (regular): 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM – Ticket counter closes at 4:00 PM
Zoo open timings (current, due to Covid-19): 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM – Ticket counter closes at 3:00 PM

Closed days: Mondays. If Monday happens to be a public holiday, zoo is closed on Tuesday.

Ticket System: All visitors are currently required to reserve their ticket online. 

Fares:
Adults (16-64) – 600 yen
Seniors (65+) – 300 yen
Students (13-15) – 200 yen
Children (0-12) - Free

Parking: Ueno Zoo does not have a dedicated parking zone. Paid parking is available nearby.
Photo by Dan Mills (www.flickr.com)
Ueno Zoo, Tokyo. Photo by Dan Mills (www.flickr.com)

Additional information:

  • Sometimes, the zoo is open on both Monday and Tuesday even if there is a public holiday on Monday.
  • In summers, the zoo is open for longer hours.
  • Junior high school students who live and study in Tokyo are given free admission.
  • Free admission for differently-abled persons and one assistant for them.
  • Free admission on March 20 (Ueno Zoo Anniversary), May 4 (Greenery Day), and October 1 (Tokyo Day)

Ueno zoo is at central Tokyo easily accessible for visitors. Very good place for kids to visit and learn about world animals. Panda is the highlight of the zoo.

Tourist, March 2020

Here’s a video of Xiang Xiang, a baby panda born in the Ueno Zoo, as she turns one year old. It shows her one year journey. Major cuteness alert!

Adventure World, Wakayama

If you want to get up close and personal with the Pandas, Adventure World is the place to be. They organize a Panda Love Tour where you can see the pandas from close and even feed them their favorite apples! Adventure World currently houses the baby giant panda Yuihin, everybody’s favorite!

Pandas in Adventure World. Photo by nakashi (www.flickr.com)
Pandas in Adventure World. Photo by nakashi (www.flickr.com)

Adventure World has a large area known as the Safari World. Here, animals are kept in an environment closest to their natural habitat. The first pandas arrived at Adventure World in 1994. As many as 14 panda cubs were born in captivity at Adventure World until 2016. There are currently six pandas here.

Open timings: 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM – Timings subject to seasonal changes

Closed days: The closed days are not scheduled. The homepage of the website needs to be checked before you plan a visit.

Fares:
Adults (18+) – 4800 yen
Seniors (65+) – 4300 yen
Junior and senior high school students – 3,800 yen
Children (4-11) – 2,800 yen

Additional information: The park is only admitting a limited number of people right now to prevent crowding. Sales for tickets for the period from July 23, 2020, to August 31, 2020, have started from July 1, 2020. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket counter. The panda love tour costs 7000 yen per person and the duration is 50 minutes. Tour is limited to only 15 people per day.

I have never seen a real panda in my life and I had never imagined how cute they can be. I went there with my relatives to see the 6th month birthday of the newest additional baby panda. All pandas are just too lovable.

Tourist, May 2019

Look at this adorable video of panda cub Saihin, born at Adventure World.

Kobe Oji Zoo, Kobe – Home to Panda until recently

Kobe Oji Zoo has housed pandas for many years. However, recently, on June 1, 2020, the lease from China for the panda Tan Tan ended. Tan Tan, who was the last panda in the zoo, was sent back to China. Now, it remains to be seen if the Kobe Oji Zoo will get another panda in the near future.

Tan Tan in 2011. Photo by TaoTaoPanda (www.flickr.com)
Tan Tan in 2011. Photo by TaoTaoPanda (www.flickr.com)

We were able to see panda leaning against a tree eating without obstructions and at pretty close range.

Tourist, May 2018

How many pandas are there in Japan?

Until recently there were ten pandas in Japan. But with Tan Tan from the Kobe Oji zoo being sent back to China, only nine remain. Out of these, three are housed at the Ueno Zoo and five are at Adventure World.

The Pandas in Japan Currently

According to various sources below table shows which pandas currently live in Japan.

Name of the pandaGenderCurrent Location
Ei MeiMAdventure World
Rau HinFAdventure World
Ou HinFAdventure World
Tou HinFAdventure World
Sai HinFAdventure World
Yui HinFAdventure World
Ri RiMUeno Zoo
Shin ShinFUeno Zoo
Xiang XiangFUeno Zoo
List of pandas in Japan

When is the best time to see pandas?

Pandas are lazy animals who eat and sleep a lot. Usually, there is no fixed routine that they follow. However, your best bet is to visit the zoos in the morning. This is when pandas are most likely to be active. You can even see them munch on some bamboos. And don’t they look absolutely adorable as they hold the bamboo with their front paws?

At Adventure World, the guided Panda Love Tours are also organized in the morning hours.

Some interesting facts about Pandas in Japan

  • Ueno Zoo was the first to house Kang Kang and Lan Lan in 1972.
  • Since 1972, Ueno Zoo has housed pandas continuously until in 2008, when the giant panda Ling Ling passed away and the zoo did not have a panda for about three years.
  • In 2011, two new pandas were brought in from China. The male was renamed Lee Lee and the female was called Shin Shin.
  • A female panda Rauhin was born in Adventure World on November 6, 2000. This was the first panda birth in twelve years in Japan.
  • Rauhin also became the first panda that was born in Japan and gave birth to cubs. She had twins need Meihin and Eihin in 2008.
  • The first panda cub to be shown in a Japan Zoo was Xiang Xiang, born in 2017 in Ueno Zoo.
  • Xiang Xiang is likely to be returned back to China by the end of 2020.
  • Pandas are a symbol of friendship between Japan and China.

Related Questions

Are there red pandas in Japan?

Red pandas are not natives of Japan. But you can see red pandas in zoos in Japan. Some of the zoos you can see them in include:

  • Nishiyama Zoo
  • Nagano Chausuyama Zoo
  • Nogeyama Zoo
  • Ueno Zoo
  • Kobe Oji Zoo

What is a panda called in Japan?

A panda is usually called panda in Japan. It is written as  “パンダ“. Another word for panda is kumaneko. It is written as  熊猫“.

Conclusion

Japan loves Pandas. But what happens if eventually all pandas of breeding age die or need to be returned to China at the end of their lease period? In that case, there is a probability that there will no longer be any pandas in Japan. It is a sad reality.

However, looking at the enthusiasm of the Japanese in pandas and also the breeding efforts in progress, it remains to be seen how things pan out for pandas in Japan.

Japan sure has a taste in cuteness. Here are some cute mascots that Japanese love. But before you go, here’s another reminder of why pandas are so loved!

Eli Civil

A software engineer, entrepreneur, and Japanese culture enthusiast. I travel the world while working from my laptop and try to visit Japan as often as I can. About Eli Civil

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