Entering Capybara Heaven at Izu Shaboten Zoo (Shizuoka, Japan)

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Capybara freely bathe in an orange-filled hotspring at Izu Shaboten Zoo.

Last weekend on my backpacking journey through Shizuoka prefecture to see Carpainter perform in Hammamatsu, I decided to stop in Izu to see the infamous hotspring-loving capybara of Japan.  Izu Shaboten Zoo is one of the few places in the world where you can get up close with these large adorable rodents and see them bathe in a natural hotspring filled with oranges (which are a specialty of this prefecture).  Native to South America, capybaras are mammals with webbed-feet that are quite well-mannered around humans and other animals.  Like platypuses, capybaras enjoy being both on land and in water with a diet consisting of mostly grass and dried plants.  The ones at Izu Shaboten are easy to approach and very entertaining to watch in the bath!

Exploring Izu Shaboten Zoo

In addition to capybaras, there are also a number of other rare animals housed here including red pandas, kangaroos, unique species of birds, and reptiles.  I’ve been to a lot of zoos in Asia, but I highly recommend this one because it’s less like a zoo and more like a wildlife conservation area.  The natural habitat of each animal is preserved as much as possible and they all seem to be in great health.  Being up close to kangaroos reminded me of my trip to Australia last summer!  This place truly didn’t feel like Japan because other zoos in this country are comparably small in size.

I spent the most time in the Capybara Rainbow Pen (an area separate from the bath) feeding and petting the ones that wanted attention.  You can purchase capybara grass for 200 yen and they will be eternally grateful for your kindness!

Outside from the capyabaras, I enjoyed watching the red panda diligently march on its tree branch.  A Japanese couple beside me describe its movements as “ゴロゴロ” (I love accidentally overhearing people so I am able to learn new words everyday).

Another of my favorite places was the cactus garden, because you can purchase cheap capybara pots and customize your favorite cacti to take home.  Just all of the detail that was put into this attraction amazes me:

You can also take a boat ride around the park because it has a small river that runs through it and leads to other areas, but I chose to explore most of the park on-foot so I could capture more angles with my GoPro.  I would recommend spending at least 3 hours here because there is a lot to see and do━especially if you are a photographer.

Eating a Capybara Burger

At the Gibbon restaurant found near the entrance of the zoo, no one eats alone!!  That’s because there is a huge stuffed capybara sitting at every table to keep you company.  I came here on Valentine’s Day, so this cabybara date made it the most memorable one of my life.  Getting back to the food—the burger was made of fresh bread and was delicious (I customized mine to be vegetarian).  If I had more room for food I would have tried the omelet rice duck because it looked pretty aesthetic from the menu picture.  For a full list of restaurants, please see the official site.

Buying Capybara Souvenirs

My apartment in Tokyo is already full of stuffed animals that friends have won for me, but I could not pass up the chance to buy an adorable stuffed capybara holding an orange here.  I also bought some chocolat baumkuchen (cake) for my friend.  Everything here was extremely well-priced compared to other zoos because I only payed around 1200 yen for the plushie and 800 yen for the cake.  I already want to come back in the summer to buy more capybara merch!  Also, the restaurant signs here made me laugh:

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Mt. Omuro

Right beside the Izu Shaboten Zoo stands Mt. Omuro, which is an inactive volcano you can take a lift up for 700 yen.  Since I decided to go to the ropeway in Atami, I skipped this attraction, but it is worth seeing if you have time.  There are cute little shops you can look at while you’re waiting for the bus too.

Getting to Izu Shaboten Zoo

From Tokyo Station I took the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Atami, then the Ito Line to Ito Station, and finally a local bus to the zoo.  This costs around 5000 yen and takes 2.5 hours.  You can easily do this as a day trip, but I spent 3 days in this prefecture because there are a number of things to see besides the capybara (which I will get into in my next articles).

Entrance to the zoo is 2300 which may seem expensive, but with the diverse number of animals they have here I think the price is fair.

Address

Izu Shaboten Zoo, 1317-13 Futo, Itō, Shizuoka 413-0231

Final Remarks

Izu Shaboten Zoo was by far my best experience with animals in Japan because I got the chance to pet capaybaras in addition to seeing other rare species.  The zoo has a adorable theme with the hotspring and petting zoos which makes it a suitable attraction for all ages.  Since it’s more remote from the major cities of Japan that means it’s less crowded.  If I decide to go again, I will combine this with a trip to Shirahama Beach which is a little further south of here.  I will be writing more about my adventures in Shizuoka Prefecture over the next coming days, so please look forward to them because this is only the beginning!

Exploring Koh Samui Island on New Year’s Day

On the first morning of 2019, I took the very first ferry that departed from from the Full Moon Party Island (Koh Phangan), and traveled to my neon pink hut on Koh Samui.  Koh Samui is my favorite island in Thailand because not only is it conveniently located, but it also has a myriad of activities and places to explore.  What better way to kick off the new year than on a beach!

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Sunset on Lamai Beach in Koh Samui, Thailand.

After doing some swimming and photography, I took a taxi to see the Hin Ta and Hin Yai, also known as the Grandmother and Granfather rocks.  They are extremely famous due to their uncanny resemblance to human genitalia, and are definitely worth checking out for the view of the beach as well.

Next I had my taxi driver take me to the Secret Buddha Garden on top of  Pom Mountain.  This is a relaxing outdoor sculpture park surrounded by lush jungle and waterfalls.  There are also some nearby temples and buildings you can walk to on foot.  It is one of the most relaxing places in Koh Samui due to it being away from the beaches and center of the city.

I had originally planned to see the pink dolphins on this trip, but due to a severe storm that hit Thailand, I had to come back and do this on my 2nd trip.  Instead, Koh Samui Tours rescheduled me to a Samui Aquarium & Tiger Zoo where I got to meet tigers, see birds race on bicycles, and get kissed on the cheek by an otter! 

Though I’ve been to more zoos than I can count in Asia, I had fun seeing the wildlife here that is unique to this island.  The double-beaked bird and the long-necked turtles were animals that I had never seen before.  The otters were some of the friendliest I had ever met and could do a lot of neat tricks!

You could easily spend a week on Koh Samui Island relaxing and enjoying the scenery, but I recommend staying for at least 3 days.  You can book ferries to other surrounding areas through 12go like Krabi, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao.  Each hotel usually has their own restaurant, and the island food is always fresh and delicious!  Be sure to try the mangos and any fruit that you can find.  My favorite dish was the glass noodles with shrimp.

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Delicious seafood glass noodles made at New Hut Bungalows.

Be sure to be outside during the sunset you so can look at the beautiful magenta sky!

I loved swimming under it every day!  Though the weather during this trip was a bit stormy, I fortunately was able to a lot of fun things.  Please come here if you get the chance.