With all the cat, dog, pig, squirrel and bird cafes dotted around Tokyo, it is easy to see that Japan has a little bit of an obsession with animals. Take a trip out of the big concrete jungles of Japan and head out to Yamaguchi Prefecture, and the cutesy cat cafes will suddenly turn into a safari park ride with the real-life royal family of Pride Rock.
No, there aren’t any cat cafes where you can hug, feed and play with lions in Yamaguchi. There is, however, the Akiyoshidai Safari Land where you can get up real close and personal to some lions, tigers, and elephants, all behind the wheel of your own car.
Tucked away in the luscious green forests of central Yamaguchi Prefecture, you will find the city of Mine. Perhaps the most famous sightseeing place inside the cities boundary is the plateau and caves of Akiyoshidai Quasi National park, which spreads over an area of 45 square kilometers. However, just a short 17-minute drive north from the entrance to Akiyoshido limestone Cave is the Akiyoshidai Safari Land.
At Akiyoshidai Safari Land there are over 700 different animals of 70 different species roaming the naturally diverse landscape and environment. With the wide-open enclosures at the park, the majority of animals seem satisfied and can live in a semi-natural state with more freedom than they would be given in a regular zoo.
The park, which is of quite a large size, is split into four different zones: the safari zone, kids safari, petting square, and an amusement park. The safari zone is where, as the name suggests, you can take a safari ride tour around the park through the enclosures of the animals. In the safari zone, you will be traveling through different enclosures which are sectioned according to which continent the animals come from. There is a herbivore African zone with elephants, zebras, rhinos, ostriches, and hippos. The carnivorous African enclosures include a pride of lions, cheetahs, hyenas and African wild dog. A north American enclosure houses grizzly bears and beavers. And the Asian section is home to a small streak of tigers. Don’t go thinking that these animals are so out of place in the area, however, there have been fossilised remains found of Japanese rhinoceros, elephants and tigers found in the Akiyoshido plateau.
The kids' safari zone offers the chance for children to explore the senses and environments of some of the creatures of the animal kingdom. With a monkey climbing jungle gym, hawkeye telescope, child-size meerkat burrow and a race track for children with cheetah speed, there are plenty of fun experiences to keep the kids busy.
If you want to feed some of the animals at Safari Land, then head on over to the petting square. Here, under the supervision of a keeper, you will be able to feed and stroke some of the animals such as elephants in the park or, if you prefer smaller cuddly animals, give some snacks to the park’s resident red pandas. In addition to gaining access to close contact with regular farm animals, such as ducks, sheep, and goats, there is also a pen you can enter which will put you right in the middle of a kangaroo troop. The roos are very chilled out and will even let you take a selfie with them, whilst the kids run loose and play chase with some of the young joeys. You are sure to find it a very exciting enclosure! At the far end of the Petting Square, you can feed the park’s ponies some crunchy apples and carrots. Pony rides are offered in the enclosed area for a fee of 500 yen.
Just beyond the petting square is where you can gain access to the Akiyoshidai Safari Land amusement park. The amusement park area has a cat and mouse themed roller coaster, go-karts and a Ferris wheel as well as access to some snack shops and restaurants.
Safari options and price structures
All in all, Akiyoshidai Safari Land offers a wild day out for the whole family. Assuming you have your own car, or you’ve at least hired one (make sure you get the all-clear for taking the car into a lion enclosure when you get the keys) you will be able to drive around the safari zone for the price of 2,400 yen per person (children in the car will be charged 1,400 yen each). A tablet will be provided to each car at the park entrance for 600 yen, which can be changed to English and acts as an audible guide using GPS to recognize your location as you drive through the safari.
Alternatively, the park offers a safari park ride on the animal tour bus for 3,500 yen per person (2,500 yen for children), included in that fee, is the chance to feed some of the animals from the safety of the bus.
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