In July 2019, I went to Inokashira zoo in Kichijoji on a sweltering hot summer day. While it was fun, the photography wasn’t. It was too hot. I put that down as a learning experience and was happy with that. Well, I repeated the mistake at Tama Zoological Park in Hino City, in Tokyo’s west.
In all honesty, I knew I shouldn’t have gone there in such hot summer weather, but I wanted to photograph some animals. It had been far too long since I had shot any, except my dog and he’s family, so he doesn’t count. As I had already done Inokashira, I didn’t want to go there again. And Ueno Zoo? From what I understood, you needed to purchase those in advance. I didn’t want to do that, in case it rained. So that was out too.
And that left a long train ride out to Tama Zoological Park. It was a nice ride, so that wasn’t a problem. I like taking the Keio line out to areas in suburban Tokyo. Anyway, I was ready. On the web, I found only good things written about the place.
Well, I was surprised upon arrival. The reality was a little different. In many areas, the zoo looked pretty old. Some of the cages seemed rather rusty?
And the hills? On a hot summer day? Tama Zoo is a big place. But foolish me, I decided to walk everywhere.
The day’s photography was quite hard, much harder than at Inokashira zoo. Many cages had bars that were close together. People walking by must have wondered what I was doing. I was poking my camera here and there, trying to find a space to get a clear shot.
Another problem was the enclosures. In some cases, the animals were a particular color, and the background was the same.
And the dirt on all the windows! Some of them were filthy. But then again, I could understand few volunteers would want to enter the tiger’s cage. Still, I would have appreciated something clear to shoot through.
Of course, there were the other typical “zoo” problems. I had a hard time trying to balance the shadows and highlights. For example, there was a sliver of shade in some enclosures for its occupant to rest in, with concrete or sand open to the sun just a few centimeters away. So an animal was in deep shade with a blazing point of light almost right next to it. For me, that wasn’t easy to photograph.
And talking about shade, I pitied the elephant in its concrete enclosure, which didn’t seem to offer it much relief from the heat. The poor thing seemed to be dancing to keep the heat off its feet. But, no one at the zoo seemed to think anything wrong with that.
I thought the zoo was very 70s or 80s. It didn’t appear very modern in some places. At least they had an abundance of toilets. If you had any sudden need for one, you wouldn’t have had any worries!
I’ve only photographed at two zoos in Japan, Tama and Inokashira. Tama is much harder to shoot, in my opinion. But it is a much bigger place with a much greater range of animals. Out of all the problems I’ve written, the worst three (in my “photographer’s” opinion) were:
- The bars on some cages make it hard to photograph.
- Some cages look really old and unattractive.
- The way some of the animals were displayed was very poor.
Now I’m left with Ueno Zoo as my final place to shoot animals. I haven’t been there in many, many years. And the last time I went there I wasn’t even interested in photography.
Tama Zoological Park would rate pretty low if I gave it a score. That is only my opinion, of course. But when I visited it in 2020, it should have given its visitors a lot more. It should also have given its animals more too. But entry was ¥600, which is inexpensive.
Maybe the best thing about the day was realizing my Fujifilm X-T2 hasn’t lost anything. Released in 2016 (is that right?), the camera was still going strong. I wonder how much life it’s got left?
And I’d love to hear opinions about Tama Zoological Park. Anyway, I’ll put down this visit there as a test run. Hopefully, I’ll get some better pictures next time. You can see its website here.
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