Friday, February 10, 2017

Japan trip Winter 2017 Part 5: Day 5 - Shizuoka Izu Cactus Park (Capybara onsen!) & Mount Omuro

After our slow Day 4, we were ready to get back out there and explore for Day 5, January 29! Our primary goal for this day was to get to Izu Shaboten Koen (Izu Cactus Park) by 10:30am to see Capybara in an "onsen"!

Like Day 3, the primary attraction was a bit of a way's away and we left Shibuya at around 07:40 to get to Shinagawa station.

On our way to the shinkansen tracks at Shinagawa, we stopped at this bakery in the station to pick up something for breakfast.

Then quickly found our track and car.

We caught a Kodama type shinkansen to get to Atami which took about 40 minutes and made every stop along the way.

At Atami, we transferred to a JR Ito line train which took us to Ito and then became a Izu Kyuko line (non-JR) train without transferring to get us to Izu Kogen station.

There's a nice view along the way!
Intermediate quick stop at Ito where the train changes from JR to private line. As a passenger you just need to stay put.
(For reference, another way to access the Izu Shaboten Koen is from Ito station by Tokai bus which takes approximately 41 minutes and costs 720yen/person. You get off the bus at the base of the hill and need to get to the top to access the park. We did the reverse of this when we were returning to Atami/Ito, but thought it would be too much trouble in the morning because of the bus timetable which is why we went all the way to Izu Kogen instead.)

Since we were exiting at a non-JR station, we had to pay the difference for the fare between Ito and Izu Kogen (660yen). It's a pretty small and simple station, but since I knew we'd have to pay an additional fare, I knew immediately to go to the window and show our Rail Passes to explain what happened. There were also some signs on the window so it must be a fairly common occurrence. Instead of catching the bus to Izu Shaboten Koen, we decided to try and catch a taxi because it would get us there sooner and more directly, and we wanted to be at the park at a certain time.

We waited at the taxi stop and it took about 10 minutes for a taxi to show up for us. (There was someone else who was on our train that caught the first taxi that came within minutes of arrival, but without him we definitely would have been picked up quickly.)

I told the taxi driver we wanted to go to Shaboten Koen and he knew exactly where to go.

The total cost was 2220yen from Izu Kogen station and the taxi driver dropped us off right at the entrance to the park. (For reference, the cost to catch the Tokai bus from Izu Kogen to the Shaboten Koen stop is 360yen/person and you are dropped off at the base of the hill, not near the entrance to the park. Also note that the bus may have a more limited timetable compared to a taxi. Since we had a specific time we wanted to be at the park, the taxi was a better option for us.)

We paid for admission to the park which was 2300yen (and I somehow found an online coupon for 250yen off admission per person - download the pdf from here if you're interested) and quickly headed in.

We stopped for a photo at the entrance but then quickly continued to the Capybara section called "カピバラの露天風呂". In the map here, it's on the left, section 8/M. I did my best to research the park before the trip and understood that there was a "capybara onsen event" at 10:30 and 13:30 on Jan 28 and 29 which is why we specifically picked this day to visit.
When we got to the exhibit, it was around 10:20 and there were already quite a few people gathered around.

My mom quickly noticed that you were allowed to feed the capybara with food provided for 200yen so she purchased some herself. The animals seemed super friendly and eager to eat!

At 10:30, a staff member started making some announcements and I have to admit that I didn't really try to understand any of it lmao, but it clearly had something to do with the event starting.

We found the best spotd that we could (which wasn't very good tbh but not horrible) and watched and waited as he turned the water on. Without any prompting, the capybara immediately went to the pool area where the water was just barely starting to trickle in. They certainly know what's up and seem to enjoy it! The staff member continued narrating and telling the audience more about the capybara as the water continued to fill. I believe they were a family but the only words I could really pick up on were Otou-san and Okaa-san lol.

He added a scent (soap?) to the water which made all of the capybara move to the opposite side of the pond lol.  

And then he brought out a bunch of leaves and threw those into the water too which they eagerly gobbled up, even diving for it under the water and joggling each other for a bite to eat. 

At one point, one of the capybara children got out of the pond and rolled all around in the mud. Everyone gasped and squealed a little when he decided he wanted to get back in the water and made everything all muddy and brown lol.

It was really fun to see them interact and hang out in the water. I wasn't able to get the best pictures and I can tell you that it was certainly better in person than the pictures make it seem if you like capybara or seeing animals swimming around in water lol. You were able to get pretty close to them if you have a "front row" vantage point and the people in front of me got some great unobstructed pictures! I would definitely advise getting to the exhibit early and holding your place if you want to do the same.
What the staff member added to the water

Once we had our fill of watching the capybara, we started on a route around the park.
It was really interesting that many of the exhibits were big and open and didn't have a lot of fencing. Most of the monkeys seemed to be isolated from visitors by a body of water but had their own "private island"!

Even some of the birds just appeared to be roaming around free on the sides of the sidewalk. For the animals that you could interact with, there were signs or other indications that it was OK!
They have the open outdoor exhibits and then some indoor ones where I think the animals need a bit better temperature/weather control.

Also in the indoor space we went into was a greenhouse with all kinds of plants found in that part of the world. (Animals and plants were generally grouped by region, but unfortunately I can't remember them all. I believe the first section was Africa, then forest, Madagascar and Mexico but unfortunately I wasn't keeping track of each of these as I was photo-ing.)

There were a number of these indoor animals that you could feed for a fee!
My mom particularly enjoyed feeding the otters because the instructions had you put the food in your open palm so they could grab it themselves! Super cute.

The cactus exhibits were also very interesting!

They also had these super cute little cactus plants!

After you go through the greenhouses, there's a "workshop"/store space where you can buy a little cactus arrangement or pick a pot and however many little cacti that you want and then they help you plant it, so you can take it home! If this was something we could have done (importing plants into Hawaii is a big issue that we weren't going to try and deal with), we definitely would have!
There are chopsticks available for you to pluck out the exact plant of your choice. So easy, even this little girl could do it :)

Me with one of the cactus mascots lol.

The plant exhibits were all very well laid out and so aesthetically pleasing!

This bird was just hanging out in the middle area between the indoor exhibits.

Next on the route, we went through the gift shop! We had just started exploring the park so we looked at a few things that we would come back for later.

Just outside the gift shop towards the bathrooms is an area ideal for viewing/photo taking with Mt. Fuji! It was a bit overcast when we were there, but you can still see it! On the left side of the right photo, you can see the Mt. Omuro ropeway as well.

After checking out the alpaca,

there's another section with free roaming capybara called "Capybara Rainbow Plaza" lol. Again, you can buy food for 200yen to feed them and they're all so eager to eat! You can get pretty close and pet them too. There are also some giant rabbits and a few other animals in the area as well. This exhibit is good for children.
Staff member preparing more vegatables

After we had our fill, we continued past the rock garden,

to see this other capybara :D!

We fed him too lol. It was a lot less crowded over here and he seemed a little lonely. I wonder if there's a reason he's seemingly solo (maybe he's not that good up close with people?) or if they rotate them. But he seemed okay with us!

Another view along the route. There are animals in the open "outdoor exhibits" to the left

like this peacock

and on the right side is this river with "islands" with different kinds of monkeys on them!
For an additional fee, you can get on a small boat tour to get an up close look at the monkeys and even get off the boat explore some of the islands yourself!

We wanted to feed these kangaroos but I think they were already content since their food was already "sold out" haha.

This is giant creature with all the birds on it is the entrance to the Takahara Dragon Greenhouse (you can see the top part of it just behind)! It's really quite massive and something you see immediately when you enter the park.
I didn't end up taking any pictures inside because it was a bit dark (I think?) or the animals moved too fast for me and I didn't want a bunch of blurry photos.

When we exited that greenhouse, we went back over to the gift shop area where there are about 4 different restaurants. One of them had ramen, another had BBQ and another had Japanese-type food which included a couple capybara themed items. Despite that, we ended up picking this curry place!
We each got a different kind of curry lol. It was expectedly priced as you'd expect for a park/zoo but pretty good. We saw a lot of families bringing their own food and eating on the benches outside as well.

We still hadn't seen all of the park, so after lunch we continued on!
This is a bad picture but there was a group of pigs hanging out in the shade that my mom wanted to feed. I think they weren't hungry or just really wanted to be lazy because only one got up and ate a little lol.

This llama, on the other hand, definitely didn't mind a snack!

We fed the donkeys as well so they wouldn't feel left out and they seemed really appreciative lol.

More llamas!
My mom had actually wanted to feed the other animal in this exhibit (I think it's called a mara?) but the llamas were definitely more interested in eating lol. There was a whole group of mara on the other side and the sign said they loved vegetables but they really didn't seem hungry at all!

Out last exhibit was the Bird Paradise indoor exhibit which is huge! Lots of open space for different kinds of birds to interact and laze around.

Even though we didn't get to every single exhibit (we may have missed one or two at the most), we definitely had our fill by that point, so we decided to move on. I asked the staff how to get down the hill (since we had come up by cab) and she said there was a shuttle to take you down. Luckily, we only had to wait about 5 minutes before it showed up! It's free and has lots of capybara theming!
The shuttle basically takes you down to where the Tokai bus would drop you off. If we had taken the bus from either Ito or Izu Kogen station in the morning, this is where it would have let us off. There's a rest station-type building which has all the bus information and a few items for sale. Tbh, I'm still glad we didn't catch the bus in the morning and caught the cab instead because I didn't know there was a free shuttle up the hill to the park despite all the research I tried to do (one website just mentioned an 8 minute walk which is a huge under-exaggeration imo considering how steep the hill is). Anyway, I'm letting you know now, if you do decide to catch the bus to the Shaboten Koen station, be sure to wait for the free shuttle to take you to the park instead of walking unless you think you're really going to enjoy the hike.

Instead of immediately catching the bus back, we crossed the street and bought tickets for the Mt. Omuro ropeway (which we had seen from the Cactus Park earlier). You can get a 100yen discount for the ropeway admission (usually 500yen for adults) if you show your Izu Shaboten Koen admission ticket which we had fully intended on doing but forgot -__-.

There wasn't much of a line when we went, so after we made sure we secured all of our belongings, we were able to just show our ticket and off we went!

There's a trail all the way around on the top which is supposed to take around 20 minutes to walk, but we had already done so much walking in the park and with the placement of the sun, the best place was nearest to the ropeway access anyway, so we just stayed in the areas to the left and the right of it.
Sadly our view of Fuji was pretty cloudy.
But I still have to take a Fuji selfie lol
Archery grounds in the middle of the crater!
Fuji from the opposite side
You can see Izu Shaboten Koen from here! The pyramid looking things are the tops of the greenhouses.
Fuji selfie from the opposite side!

There's a concrete path all the way around the top of the crater which is easy to walk but there are some parts that are quite steep.

We took our pictures and then decided to head back down and hopefully catch a bus back to one of the train stations.

Somehow we had great timing and both buses (one going to Izu Kogen and one going to Ito station) were waiting at the bus stop when we got off the ropeway. We did have to run across the street to make sure we got on, but it was definitely worth it because the buses don't run very often after a certain time. We decided to take the more direct bus which went to Ito station. We were the last passengers to get on the bus before it left!

About 45 minutes later, we got to Ito station. I was worried that the bus would be full of regulars and we would hold up the line trying to pay, but the bus driver was pretty patient since Ito station was the terminal stop anyway. (We did end up holding up some people but we actually made it more complicated than it needed to be so it was our fault.)

We had some time at Ito station before the next train would arrive, so I got our reserved shinkansen tickets back to Shinagawa for later that night and then we got on a local JR train to get back to Atami.

At Atami, we hustled a bit to make sure we could get on a Hikari type shinkansen for Shizuoka.

We didn't have reserved tickets for this train, so we were all separate and actually my mom bypassed some empty middle seats and decided to just stand between the cars, but we just needed to go one stop anyway which took around 25 minutes. Initially, our plan was to go from Atami to Mishima and visit a park nearby the station which also had bathing capybara, but my mom said it wasn't necessary, and she felt like her Izu Shaboten Park visit had fulfilled that quota, so we decided to skip it.

We got off the shinkansen in Shizuoka and exited towards the north using the underground passageway.

After looking at the map, we popped out of the passageway at the correct exit and Shizuoka 109 was straight ahead!

Liz Lisa is on the first floor.

This was the second to the last day of the trip and I hadn't been making as many purchases as I had anticipated, so I wanted to take my time and try on a few things before making a few decisions. I really wanted these pants but they didn't fit as well on me as I would have liked for the price although I did like the stretchy material! I love the lace up details on the back of the ankles and at the back of the waist but this definitely isn't an item that everyone can wear, myself obviously included. Especially liked it paired with the top too, but in the end, I knew this wasn't right for me.
The store wasn't very busy and the shop staff (I believe it was @lizlisa_yui1230) who was helping me in the dressing room was helpful but not too pushy (which is great for me because I get nervous if I have to interact too much), and I actually ended up trying on a few other items at the same time which I usually never try to do. I know that sounds super stupid, but I just get too nervous to try to ask about it. Thankfully this staff was really accommodating, and I think she said she's seen my Instagram posts as well!

While I was browsing in Liz Lisa, my dad had walked around in the area to scout for a restaurant to eat dinner. He decided on Pizza Bar DaDa which was just outside of 109. He's been making his own brick oven type pizza at home, so he likes to try it at other places too and compare lol.

There was quite a variety of pizza types - from traditional to Japanese and then "New York" style and also a number of pastas as well. We ended up with a salad, margherita pizza, bacon and tarako pasta and my dad's request which was a white fish topped pizza wtf.
The service was quick and nice, and I'd say it was an enjoyable meal. I think if you're going to get something a little more unusual like my dad, definitely give it a try!

On our way back to the station, we stopped in this Surugaya Specialty store which caught my mom's eye from across the street for some reason lol.
I think this kind of goods might be popular with some people, but aren't really things we necessarily need to buy.

Took the underground passage back to the core of the station and just explored the stores in that area.

There was a Can Do where we found a few things that we hadn't seen in any other 100yen shop.

And actually there was another 100yen store on the other side of the station as well lol.

As the time for our reserved train approached, we quickly just picked up a few more Shizuoka specific souvenirs,

And then made our way to the shinkansen tracks with just a few minutes to spare, and our train already waiting!

Reserved seats mean we all get to relax and sit next to each other instead of struggle to find seats in the same unreserved car lol.

It took just under an hour to get us back to Shinagawa where we stopped to look around the station for dessert or something similar.

And then we caught a JR Yamanote line train back to Shibuya!

My mom didn't get anything at Shinagawa, but had seen a cookies and creme drink at Krispy Kreme back on the first day, so we stopped to get one for her since this was our last night anyway!

I ended up with an ice cream bar from 7-Eleven when I stopped to also buy orange juice for the next day lol.

We got back to the apartment at around 21:30 and spent the rest of the night packing to prepare to leave Japan the next day! (And also check how much more room we had in our suitcases in case we wanted to make more purchases lol.)

The highlight of our day was definitely Izu Shaboten Koen, and it was certainly worth the long commute to get there for a day trip from Tokyo. I would definitely consider checking it out again. Although the admission price is a little steep (not including what you end up shelling out to feed the animals if you're my mom), the park has so much to offer in what really feels like an open and welcoming environment. It's certainly great for kids but also a cool place for adults as well because you can interact with many of the animals (and cactus as well to an extent lol). Even though we opted out of seeing the capybara in the park in Mishima, I still think we did a lot with our day, and I had a really good experience in Shizuoka 109's Liz Lisa! If it wasn't so far, I'd definitely want to visit again.

Sorry if some of the capybara photos were a little redundant or didn't seem to be in the correct order because of the water level. I did my best to incorporate photos from my phone, my mom's phone and my dad's phone because we were all at slightly different angles but then I'm not sure I have the timeline completely correct. Hope it's not too distracting!

Japan trip Winter 2017
    Part 1: Arrival and Day 1 - Tokyo errands, Ebony/Liz Lisa & Shiodome Caretta Illumination
    Part 2: Day 2 - Yokohama NOAH Inner City Zoo, Knot, Chinatown & Machida 109
    Part 3: Day 3 - Nagano Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park & Omiya
    Part 4: Day 4 - Tokyo shopping, Imperial Palace & dinner with Yuni
    Part 5: Day 5 - Shizuoka Izu Cactus Park (Capybara onsen!) & Mount Omuro
    Part 6: Day 6 - Last minute shopping, Ameyoko & Harajuku
    Part 7: Liz Lisa & Other shopping purchases/coordinates
    Part 8: Travel Notes - Airbnb, Pupuru pocket wifi & weather
    Part 9: What's in my bag - Japan trip edition

Japan trip Spring 2016 posts
Japan trip Autumn 2015 posts
Japan trip Summer 2015 posts
Japan trip Spring 2015 posts
Japan trip Summer 2014 posts


  1. I love the capybara onsen <3 Also, I'm glad that you had a chance to visit Shizuoka 109, I was meaning to do it on my Japan trip but due to our schedule I could not. :(

    DAMN I love those denim jeans & blouse *-*
    Are you sure these don't work out for you? They look amazing on you! I only wish I could fit in LL bottoms tho... :')

    Great entry as always ^^ ♥

    1. Haha truthfully, there isn't a lot of point in visiting every single Liz Lisa (especially considering so many of them have closed) store unless you're looking for a specific item, but it's usually pretty convenient because they're in really decent locations!

      Haha no one seemed to be overly fond of the denim on me (except shop staff who are clearly biased) but the material is extremely stretchy! I saw a girl who had a very different body shape than me try them on and looked really good. Since I don't have a real occasion to wear them (I hardly wear jeans in casual settings and if I did I would probably opt for something plain lol and I think they are too tight to wear for work) I had to pass at full retail price >,<

  2. Do you think it would be a good park to go to with a 4 year old? My partner is from Shizuoka so when we go to Japan that's where we stay, and it would be nice to check out a different attraction than the usual ones we go to. :)
    There's also a really sweet staff member who is there each year I go back to Shizuoka 109 but I've never asked for her name... I feel embarrassed but next time I go I should ask!

    1. If your child loves animals then this would be a great place for them! It's also pet friendly for the most part except for the spaces where you can get super close to the animals/where the animals are freely roaming.

  3. capybaras and cacti?! What a perfect day!

    1. I definitely think this is a park you would enjoy Ruth!