Photo By: isado
Region
Chugoku
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Yamaguchi
Population
1,528,107

Tokiwa Park

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.

Photo by: Wiki Around 90 art installations in the park!

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.

Photo by: そらみみ Shinkyo Bridge of Tokiwa Shrine.

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.

Photo by: isado Enjoy the park in spring with cherry blossoms.

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.

Tokiwa Zoo

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.

Photo by: isado Monkey at Tokiwa Zoo.

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.

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Things To Know

Fees and hours

Admission to the general park area is free. The park is open to the public at anytime, but the facilities such as the zoo, rides, and museums run from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Zoo: ¥500 for adult, ¥200 for child, and ¥250 for seniors. Closed on Tuesdays. Tickets for rides at the amusement park section are ¥300. Parking: ¥200-¥500.

How To Get There

Address

3 Chome-4-1 Norisada, Ube-shi, Yamaguchi-ken 755-0003, Japan

By train

Take the bullet train to Shin-yamaguchi city (4 hours), then take the JR line for Shimonoseki (20 minutes) and get off at Ube station.

By car

About an 11-hour drive from Tokyo station. Drive west, through the Chugoku region of Japan. Once in Yamaguchi take the Sanyo Expressway to  the Yamaguchi minami exit and follow the Oguri highway through route 2 to Ube.

By plane

You can take a plane from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Yamaguchi Ube Airport (1 hour and 40 minutes) from here it only a 20-minute walk to the park.

Where To Stay

Hotel New Gaea Ube
  • Matsushimacho 3-15 Ube-Shi, Yamaguchi 755-0042
  • 7.9/10
  • 3.5 km
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ANA Crowne Plaza Ube
  • Aioi-cho 8-1 755-8588
  • 8/10
  • 3.7 km
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International Hotel Ube
  • Shima 1-7-1 Ube-Shi, Yamaguchi 755-0047
  • 8.1/10
  • 3.8 km
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  • 〒759-0204 YamaguchiUbe-Shi
  • 8.4/10
  • 8.0 km
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