Forget the snow monkeys of Nagano or the deer of Nara. You can get up close and personal with an array of cuddly (and not so cuddly), critters right here in Nagasaki! Whether you want to pet a capybara, waddle with penguins, gallop through the waves or simply sit and watch the native fish, you're bound to find something to satisfy your creature craving. Let the Nagazasshi show you where!
Originally a small fishing and farming community, Portuguese merchants arrived in the town of Sasebo in 1570, invigorating local commerce. Consequently trade flourished, but it was not until 1883 that the town earned its place in history when it was chosen as the location for a new naval base. Today the city is a bustling metropolitan hub, but also attracts tourists thanks to the spectacular natural environment of the surrounding kujukushima ('99 islands') and Saikai National Park.
In Japanese the term 'kujuku' (ninety-nine) is used to describe something boundless or vast in number. In reality there are 208 shima, or small islets, scattered off the Sasebo coast - the most concentrated area of islands in Japan.
Should you wish to experience the stunning archipelago of kujukushima, Saikai Pearl Sea Resort offers numerous cruises around the islands. For something a little different, opt for the pirate ship Mirai, Japan's first electric-powered pleasure boat. Strikingly decorated in red, black and yellow, the Mirai provides panoramic views of the islands and their surroundings.
Gaze out through the large windows as the local Tasaki pearl and fish farms bob in the current. At the ship's bow, a golden hawk clutches a pearl in its talons evoking the resort's close relationship with the surrounding natural environments.
Umi-kirara, Kujukushima Aquarium
After disembarking, pay a visit to the nearby Kujukushima Aquarium, Umi-kirara. Tinted glass enclosures transport visitors to the underwater world thriving beneath the waves, where schools of native fish and colossal rays dance among the beautiful coral reefs. The aquarium houses an array of animals, ranging from luminescent jellyfish to adorable sea turtles, and offers daily shows and hands-on experiences.
During your visit, stroll through the enclosures lead by the futuristic Aqua Scope. The multilingual audio guide takes visitors on an underwater trek around the islands and offers unique information about the resident animals. The guide is available in English, Japanese, Korean and Standard Chinese. With built-in interactive activities such as quizzes and trivia, the guide automatically changes to keep up with your location. Pick one up for free at the entrance.
If you are looking for something more hands-on, try feeling your way through the rock pools or harvesting your very own pearl. Pearl extraction is quick and easy - choose your own oyster and crack it open to see what is inside! There are five colors available, however size, shape, and luster are determined by sheer luck.
Have your pearl set into an accessory, or take it home as it is.
Mori-kirara, Zoological and Botanical Garden
Only a short drive from the resort, the Zoological and Botanical Garden Mori-kirara sits part way up Mt. Ishidake and houses plants and animals from all corners of the globe. Informative signposts scattered throughout the gardens help visitors learn about both flora and fauna, with fun facts in Japanese hand-written by the gardens' keepers.
Visitors can spend their day hanging around with lemurs and cuddling up to guinea pigs, goats and ponies at the small animal petting area. For the more adventurous, animal feeding shows are held throughout the day. Please note that some experiences require pre-booking. Ensure your place at the ticket gate for children's pony rides and meetings with the gardens' resident superstar, Hanako the elephant. Venture behind-the-scenes to prepare her food and try having her eat from your hand! But be quick - both experiences are limited to 20 people daily and cost 300 yen.
The gardens' expansive grounds provide the perfect place for a picnic lunch. Seasonal flowers bloom for the majority of the year, so you will always be surrounded by flares of color. Be sure to also visit the penguin house, Japan's largest glass roofed penguin aquarium. Take in the view as penguins swim overhead and dart around the 80m2 tank to catch live fish during feeding time.
Whether you're keen to get up close and personal with the area's flora and fauna or simply want to unwind while cruising the waves, Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort has the perfect balance of interactive and relaxing attractions for all nature enthusiasts.
Check out Visit Nagasaki's official page and the resort's English website
Visitors to Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort can take the free shuttle bus between Umi-kirara and Mori-kirara. This is super useful as the Mori-kirara car park fills up quickly.
Also, don't forget to show your ticket from Umi-kirara or Kujukushima Cruise to receive a discount on your entry price at Mori-kirara.
Whether you're planning a trip to Nagasaki or are already here, you've probably heard about the Nagasaki Bio Park, a zoo and wildlife preserve famous throughout the prefecture, Japan, and the world.
Known for its emphasis on hands-on interaction and animal comfort, the Saikai-based park has recently achieved worldwide prominence with a triple-threat of social media hits.
First came an unofficial Youtube video, "Guinea Pig Bridge at the Nagasaki Bio Park," posted by user ParryGripp. A musical number set to footage of feeding time at the Nagasaki Bio Park's PAW (Pet Animal World), this video has over 1 million views to date.
Then a picture of a capybara, the park's most popular attraction, lounging on its back and exposing its salmon-hued belly was broadcast from the Bio Park's official Twitter. The post was retweeted over twenty-two thousand times.
The park's greatest social media claim to fame, however, is the official Nagasaki Bio Park Vine account. This is a collection of footage snapped and captioned by the zoo staff which is watched daily by animal lovers all over Japan—and some even further than that. With countless fans cheering them on left and right, Nagasaki Biopark has taken Japan by storm and its crew and critters have set their sights on the rest of the world.
The current brains behind the VINE account is PR Manager Shinpei Nakamura: a man whose past experience as a zookeeper has blended with his current position into a beautiful combination of animal knowledge, social media 'techspertise', and humor. In between showing us around the park and sharing animal trivia, Nakamura chatted with us about the Bio Park's Vine account, and its impact on the park's rise to global prominence.
Like many success stories, the beginning of the Bio Park's Vine account was humble. With the advent of Twitter, Instagram, and countless other social media services, the Bio Park was looking for the best way to share their animals with their longtime fans.
The Bio Park joined Twitter first, followed by Instagram and Pinterest, the latter two originally reserved for PAW (Pet Animal World) and its animal inhabitants. At the time Vine was a fledgling service and unpopular in Japan, but the Nagasaki Bio Park registered an account shortly after the app's creation in America.
Nakamura and the a small number of the Bio Park team used Vine regularly to record the park's animals and their antics, usually punctuating the video with comical captions in Japanese and eventually English.
Nakamura admitted that while translation of the captions was difficult at times (especially Japanese onomatopoeias), the goal was to share the experience with all of the park's fans both Japanese and international. The end result was something beautiful: footage of hippos gnashing watermelons, kangaroos brawling in the rain, and countless other moments captured by zoo staff, then shared among Bio Park fans everywhere.
Though a simple concept on paper, the Nagasaki Bio Park and its inhabitants have captured the hearts of countless people ranging from office workers in Nagasaki City to animal fans halfway across the globe. Charmed by footage of capybaras and hippos, new visitors quickly became regulars, sometimes to extreme proportions.
Nakamura recalled two specific incidents of note: the first when a fan from Tokyo who, having discovered the Bio Park's Vine account, made the trip to Saikai not once, not twice, but sixty-three times in one year. The second, when Lizz, a capybara enthusiast all the way from the United Kingdom, came to visit her furry friends every day for a month.
Given the fact that it is situated off the beaten path, Saikai and its biopark don't have the luxury of too much foot traffic. However, the Vine account allows fans to keep in touch with their favorite critters and also acts as a beacon for newcomers. Perhaps a factor in its success is the accessibility it provides to the animals. Viewers and guests can tune in to see what that the residents of the Bio Park are up to, and get a dose of feel-good fuzziness any time of the day. In this way, Nakamura likened the animals to celebrities.
While video footage of the Bio Park is fun, no app will ever be as good as the real thing. The Nagasaki Bio Park has struck the perfect balance between comfort and interaction, allowing guests to discover nature like no other zoo or wildlife preserve can.
So what exactly is there that you can't watch online? Boasting a veritable menagerie of mammals, marsupials, birds, fish, and more, Nagasaki Bio Park has something to impress everyone and there's always something new to try.
Get up close and personal with the park's residents by buying some food from a nearby capsule machine. Guests can share food with almost any animal either straight from their palm or via a slingshot outside the enclosure.
For a limited time you can even go crayfishing by the river. Stick some squid on the end of your line and see how many you can snag! Alternatively, drop by the hippo exhibit around 11:30 or 3:30 and throw a head of lettuce to Don, the park's largest hippo. You can also watch the professionals as they feed the otters, giraffes, and beavers by making your way around the park at 11am. Feeding times are subject to change. Check Bio Park's website for more information.
If you want to witness the lowering of the Youtube-famous Guinea Pig bridge, drop by Pet Animal World at 4:30 and watch the resident rodents rush home for supper and sleep.
Wandering around the park with Nakamura, it's clear that every consideration has been taken to maximize their animal's comfort including painstaking research of the animal's habitat and its local flora, temperature, and elevation. The end result is a cast of fuzzy and scaly characters who aren't just tolerant of human interaction—they thrive off of it. Overall, we ended our visit feeling that the Nagasaki Bio Park isn't an average zoo, its staff members aren't average staff members, and its residents aren't average animals.
So, head on up to Saikai and pay Nagasaki Bio Park a visit. Don't forget the camera! Your cute snap might be the zoo's next social media sensation!
The Nagazasshi is Nagasaki's No. 1 English language magazine. You can read it online at www.nagazasshi.com
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Collaboration Pages: May-June 2016 issue issue
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