Western Tokyo has Hello Kitty Land and the city's biggest zoo.
Located on Tokyo’s western outskirts, the city of Tama is one of the suburbs you will pass through on your way to Mount Takao. Local spots like Sanrio Puroland (aka Hello Kitty Land) and the sprawling Tama Zoo make this a worthwhile destination in and of itself.
The indoor theme park of Sanrio Puroland is Tama’s biggest draw. Inside, Sanrio characters like Hello Kitty and My Melody star in their own attractions, including a boat ride reminiscent of It’s a Small World at Tokyo DisneyLand.
Photo by: Tomohiro Ohtake
While it’s mostly in Japanese and understandably caters to kids, Sanrio Puroland is a mecca for those who want to immerse themselves in the culture of kawaii (cuteness) in Japan. If you’re bound for its rainbow entrance, you’ll know you’re on the right track when you see the stained-glass Hello Kitty ceiling in Tama-Center station.
A short walk from the station is the tree-lined and red-brick promenade of Parthenon Avenue, which is known for its beautiful lights illuminations. Follow the avenue and go up some steep steps which will reveal the Parthenon Tama within Tama Central Park. The structure along with a hilltop pond that gives off reflections of the pillars encircling it gives a commanding view of the whole avenue, making you feel a bit like you’re at the real Parthenon in Greece. Behind the pond lies the greenery of the park. While in the area, shop for English books at Maruzen or catch a movie at Aeon Cinema Tama Center.
Spread out over 130 acres, Tama Zoo (technically located in neighboring Hino), is almost four times as big as the Ueno Zoo. That means the zoo (also known as Tama Zoological Park) involves more walking for visitors, but the animals have a more open habitat to roam around in.
The zoo is divided into an African, Australian and Asian Zone, the latter of which contains an orangutan skywalk. There is also an insectarium and koala house. This is the only zoo in Japan — and one of the only zoos in the world — with king cheetahs, a rare genetic mutation of the African cheetah with blotchy, striped spots on its fur.
Last, if you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli movies — and your feet aren’t too tired after leaving the zoo — don’t miss out on visiting the nearby town Seiseki Sakuragaoka. The scenery may seem familiar if you’ve ever seen the Hayao Miyazaki film Whisper of the Heart because the anime was modeled after this town. Relive scenes from the movie as you walk down the winding roads and hills, and be sure to stop by Seiseki Sakuragaoka station first to get a map of local spots that were used as animation models.