Japan's white pelicans have a home at this lakeside gem.
If you head to the bottom tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu, you’ll find the unique and, frankly, underrated prefecture of Yamaguchi. This area is filled with sightseeing and a whole lot of beauty, especially in the quirky little city of Ube.
Ube is known for its strong connection to nature showcased by Tokiwa Park, situated along the scenic Lake Tokiwa. The lake has a shrine that’s easily reachable by walking even though it is located on a small island. Just go through the torii gate and walk across the bridge. Plus, there is a whole range of activities around the shore: a zoo, amusement rides, swan boat rides, local history museums and art installations.
Gardens and more
Tokiwa Park stretches across 2 kilometers of coastline. The botanical gardens, full of plants from all over the world, is one of the park’s biggest draws, as well as the 3,500 sakura (cherry blossom) trees along the lake side that enchant visitors in spring. This beautiful selection of plants has named Tokiwa park one of the “Top 100 Cherry Blossom” spots in Japan.
While at the park, you might see unusual art sculptures dotting the landscape. These are installed as part of an international arts competition that is held every two years, so if you visit the park a second time you might find a whole new collection of about 90 sculptures to marvel at.
The park also has more fast-paced activities like the Tokiwa Zoo and amusement park.
At the friendly Tokiwa Zoo, all of the animals are rescue animals, so there is no need for any pangs of guilt about visiting. The zoo has monkeys, capybaras, rare birds and more, plus behind the scenes they also house stray cats and dogs.
The most famous animal of this zoo by far is Katta-kun, the friendly white pelican. Katta-kun was a rescue pelican who became the zoo’s unofficial mascot after he started to regularly escape and visit locals schools during the day. He would always return and never endangered any residence so the zoo decided to give him free reign of the city. Japanese people use to travel just to see the friendly bird, and he even had his own animated film “Katta-kun Monogatari.” Katta-kun unfortunately passed away in 2008, but his memory lives on in memorials and merchandise found at the zoo.
You can also see other white pelicans that the zoo continues to look after today. They are most active around 4 p.m. when they get fed. On top of all this, the park has amusement rides, too. There are roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, dodgems and even a ferris wheel named after Katta-kun.