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Release | nobu Kawashima

2017 is the 50th anniversary of Asahiyama Zoo, which revived from the crisis of close down


Asahiyama Zoo is famous for unique exhibitions such as the seals swimming in a cylinder shaped water tank, and penguins walk on the snow. There was once a crisis of close down due to the decrease in the number of the visitors, but the number revived when they adopted the exhibition style to show the animal life as it is. The zoo has become one of the most attractive tourist spots in Asahikawa, attracting visitors from all over the world.

旭山動物園の東門からの眺め▲Asahiyama Zoo is located on the slope of Mt. Asahiyama where you can get a sight of Asahikawa City. 

Asahiyama Zoo became a famous zoo to attract visitors from all over the world with its unique exhibition style to show the animal life as it is. 

“Asahiyama Zoo” opened on July 1st, 1967 as the northernmost zoo in Japan. There were various attractions such as roller coasters at one time, and many people in Asahikawa lined up for the zoo.
However, the number of visitors started to decrease since 1983, and rumors of close down spread. 
So zookeepers and the principal talked about a lot of ideas to revive the zoo. After many discussions, they decided to adopt an exhibition style to show the animal life as it is. It is a way to show natural strength and habits that animals have. 
旭山動物園のオオハクチョウ▲The first exhibition adopted such style was swans in “Totori No Mura”. (Photo provided by Asahikawa City Photo Library) 

“Totori No Mura” finished developing in 1997. It is a facility which wrapped around the trees and ponds with fences; just like a birdcage. Visitors can be on the fence and watch the waterbirds fly freely.
This way of the exhibition, which was came up by a zookeeper who knew about the animals’ habits very well, was a huge success! The number of visitors started to increase, and the zoo decided to renovate old exhibitions one by one to the new style. 
As a result of that, Asahiyama Zoo has become a popular tourist attraction gaining visitors from all over the world. 
旭山動物園のペンギンの水槽▲Water tunnel which penguins swim inside. (Photo provided by Asahikawa City Photo Library) 

You can see the lively animals very closely!

The attraction of Asahiyama Zoo is that you can watch lively animals in the exhibitions to show the animal life as it is. 
One of the most famous exhibitions is Marin Way (cylinder water tank) in “Azarashi-Kan (Seal House)”. This is the exhibition to show seal’s habit to swim vertically. Visitors can watch seals swim up and down very closely. 
旭山動物園のアザラシ▲Every time seals pass, visitors’ cheers arise. Seals passed in front of us pretty often. 

There are many facilities which show animal’s habits and abilities! 
For example, wild polar bears have a habit to hunt seals come up on the water surface at the Arctic Ocean. 

旭山動物園のホッキョクグマ▲The polar bear over the glass! Is he looking at us? 

Therefore, at “Hokkyokuguma-Kan (Polar Bear House)” in Asahiyama Zoo, the surface of the pool to mimic ocean is about the same height as the visitor’s eyes. Visitors can watch both inside the water and water surface. 
To the polar bear walking on the rock mountain outside of the pool, heads of visitors look like heads of seals come up on the water surface. The polar bear thinks visitors are seals and dives into the pool! 
旭山動物園のほっきょくぐま館内▲We waited to capture the moment which the polar bear dive into the pool, but it did not dive in finally…

The famous “penguin walk” limited in winter is not a show event which trained penguins to impress visitors. This is also an exhibition to show natural habits of penguins. 

旭山動物園のぺんぎんの散歩▲Penguins walk on the path surrounded by visitors! 

Wild penguins have habits to form a group and walk to the ocean to catch food at the islands around Antarctica. Also, when there are snow or ice mountains around, they walk straight on the path between the mountains. 
旭山動物園のぺんぎんの散歩▲Penguins are walking freely. Sometimes they slip on the snow. 

So the penguin walk started as a workout for penguins and an exhibition to visitors. Ten some penguins walk in a group for about 500 meters of the snowy path from “Penguin-Kan (Penguin House)”. 
Visitors lining up on the sides of the path look like snow or ice mountains to penguins. The reason why penguins walk straight is not because they are trained to do so, they are just following their habits.


“Mogu Mogu Time”, feeding time is a must-see!

旭山動物園のアザラシのもぐもぐタイム▲Seal’s “Mogu Mogu Time”. At “Azarashi-Kan (Seal House)”, not only the exhibition to show the animal life as it is, but also symbiotic exhibition is adopted. Seagulls which live together with seals in the wild is put together.

When you visit Asahiyama Zoo, one of the must-sees is “Mogu Mogu Time”. This is a feeding time with explanations from zookeepers about animals’ habits and characteristics. You can see more lively figures of the animals during their feeding time. 
旭山動物園のもぐもぐタイムの案内板▲The animals and schedule of “Mogu Mogu Time” change daily, and it will be announced on their website or bulletin board in the zoo every morning. 

Going to the zoo will be much fun if you check the time of “Mogu Mogu Time”! 
旭山動物園のキリンのもぐもぐタイム▲The giraffe being fed with its long tongue. You can see it so closely like this! 

The animals, exhibitions, events in this article are just a few parts. There are many more lively animals and fun events throughout the year. There is an anniversary event planned in July 2017 to celebrate the zoo’s anniversary of 50 years! 
Asahiyama Zoo almost being closed down has changed to the attractive zoo with visitors from all around the world. The zoo has lots of tricks and attractions to attract people’s heart. 
  • 2017 is the 50th anniversary of Asahiyama Zoo, which revived from the crisis of close down