If you have seen Walt Disney’s movie “Turning Red” you might be curious if red pandas live in Japan. And what better way to spend your day than finding Mei Lee’s relatives in Japan to see if they are the cute little fuzzies you think they are before visiting Nikko or Hakone?
If you want to know if red pandas live in Japan, where you can find them, and if you can interact with them, read on.
Do red pandas live in Japan?
You can find red pandas in Japan. But don’t expect them to be running in the wild or be in great numbers like other animals native to Japan.
To be clear, although red pandas are endemic in Asia, they are not indigenous to Japan. Red pandas are native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China and are also found in Bhutan, India, Myanmar, and Nepal.
The ones you can find in Japan are living in captivity and are offspring of the red pandas originally donated by the Beijing Zoo and loaned between zoos and are bred in captivity.
Where can you find red pandas?
Thanks to the efforts of the Japanese government and communities that stepped up to preserve these raccoon-like reddish-brown furred extinct species, locals and tourists can now visit and interact with red pandas in zoos and conservatories.
You can visit the following zoos if you wish to see red pandas in real life:
The small zoo is located in the city of Sabae, which is part of the Fukui Prefecture. Although small and only features a few animals, the Nishiyama Zoo is home to 1 red pandas – the highest population of red pandas in a zoo in Japan.
What’s great about this zoo, besides seeing a lot of red pandas inside separate viewing enclosures, is you can visit for free.
The zoo is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, from 9 AM until 4:30 PM.
To learn more, visit their website.
Nasu Animal Kingdom
Want to have an up close and personal encounter with red pandas? Then the Nasu Animal Kingdom is for you. Besides red pandas, this zoo is home to about 600 other animals.
The Nasu Animal Kingdom is located in Tochigi Prefecture and is a perfect day tour if you are visiting the countryside.
This zoo allows visitors to pet and feed red pandas so you’ll definitely enjoy the interactive experience. Just make sure to stop yourself when you feel the strong urge to hug these cute Red Cat-bears.
The zoo is open from Thursdays to Tuesdays, from 10 AM to 4:30 PM (operating hours vary depending on season). It is closed on Wednesdays.
The admission fee for adults is ¥2000, while children that are 3 to 12 years old are charged ¥1000 for children.
Visit the nasu-oukoku website for information about tours.
Sapporo City Maruyama Zoo
If you are visiting Hokkaido, the nearest zoo where you can see red pandas is Sapporo City Maruyama Zoo, located in Chūō-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido.
This is a nature-oriented zoo that allows visitors to get into the indoor area and watch red pandas eat, play, and wander around an enclosure that is similar to their natural habitat.
The zoo is open from 9 AM and closes at 4 PM daily, except on Wednesdays when it is closed.
The admission fee for adults is ¥600 and is free for children below 15 years old.
Visit the zoo’s website for more information.
Nogeyama Zoological Gardens
Located in the center of Yokohama City, the Nogeyama Zoological Gardens is a free zoo that is home to 1400 animals of 100 different species, including red pandas.
Unlike other zoos that allow visitors to be in close contact with the animals, the Nogeyama Zoological Gardens does not allow the petting or feeding of red pandas.
The good news is that the red panda enclosure is close to the main entrance of the zoo; so, the cute furry animals will be the first and last you see when you enter and leave the premises.
Moreover, although you cannot touch the red pandas, the enclosure is designed for visitors to see everything the red pandas are doing.
The zoo is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, from 9:30 AM to 4 PM. It is closed on Mondays.