When I visit Japan, my parents-in-law have a house located in Kanagawa Prefecture’s Sagamihara City. The first time I visited Japan, I was told that the city was quite different from the pictures of Tokyo. That was quite accurate as I was able to see trees and lots of grass (farms too!), which was quite different from building saturated towns located within Tokyo. Don’t get me wrong, Tokyo is still a wonderful place to visit, I just prefer to feel closer to nature, and Tokyo does not give that experience.
Knowing this, I wanted to see a lot of local attractions since Sagamihara is off of most tourist lists of where to visit first. I wanted to get an idea of what Japanese people really like to do, where they like to go, when they have free time. My wife suggested we visit a wonderful park within the bigger Sagamihara park area, which was known as Asamiso Kouen. We got in the car, made a few turns here and there, went up a steep hill, around some more curves in the road, and finally settled in the parking lot.
The park felt like any traditional one would, and didn’t appear to be all that special at first glance. Oh well, a park’s a park, I thought. We walked down the pathway on the right side a little bit, then my wife told me something strange. She said there was a petting zoo, and she wanted to pet the guinea pigs.
Cute, aren’t they? Apparently, in this park there is a mini zoo area that houses a variety of unusual animals you shouldn’t normally find in a park. The petting zoo area is one of the key attractions, that is completely free (YAY!), and is a great way to get children to visit the park. The only catch is you can’t bring in your own food to give the little guys if you felt inclined enough to feed them. Instead, you can buy some freshly cut carrot wedges they love eating. This was actually the first time I ever held a guinea pig in my hands, or touched them, so it was a fun new experience for me. We bought 2 cups of carrots at 100円 per cup, and started feeding them. The way they moved their little whiskers and mouths when they ate was really cute, and they were quite friendly to strangers since they are handled so much on a daily basis.
Those little things are quite chunky. They are pampered a lot, and don’t really get exercise, so they kind of plump up. Rest assured, they are well taken care of, and they love being on people’s laps. There are also 2 white roosters living in the shed connected to the petting zoo area, and you are allowed to pet them when they come out. My wife loves chickens since she used to own one when she was little, so she went and caught one to set on her lap while we sat. The chickens were really cute, closing their eyes when we pet them on the head, and sometimes they tried to hide their faces in our arms.
The area also has sheep and goats. What’s better than hand feeding a barn animal by giving him food little-by-little?
You guessed it, watching a sheep getting sheared live! This is such a funny summer time event to see (admittedly, this was a few years after my initial visit when I found out about it)! The sheep was in a disagreement with the zookeepers, and tried to fight back by rolling around the ground. The keepers had to eventually rest his head between their knees and take turns shaving him down until all that nasty, bulky fur was cut down to a summer suit.
After being satisfied with this scenery, we walked around the park area and saw a few of the other animals. These included some birds, miniature horses, raccoons, and… a peacock?
There were 2 females and 1 male peacock in the same cage. During the summer, the male tries to spark the females’ interest, so he spreads his tail out like a fan in his attempt at attraction. Unfortunately, he is really lousy at it somehow, and almost never gets the females to even look in his direction. On the contrary, it appears they are trying to ignore him completely.Poor guy, I used to be in that kind of situation a long time ago, so I know his pain ;( .
Walking around the park, we were able to see a variety of really nice sights. The trees were wonderful, the fountain was fun to walk by with its misty spray streaking across our faces to relieve us from the summer heat. There are many reasons to want to come back to this park, but there is one in particular that strongly attracts me back, no matter how different the park may change. Can you guess what that reason is? I’ll give you a hint; it’s related to the petting zoo, but it isn’t part of the zoo.
Cats. These adorable little creatures of comfort are abundant within the park. Many of them have been cruelly left behind by their owners, never to have the owners return. A lot of regular visitors to the park know this, and bring food for the cats on a daily basis, as well as water for drinking, and blankets for them during the winter. It breaks my heart knowing that these lovable little angels have been exiled from their houses and are forced to live outdoors where they must have been shocked on their first time going. The cats are very sweet and love to be petted by pretty much anyone they are willing to get close to.
If you look at the pictures, you can see one of them has a mickey mouse pattern on her backside, and the one next to her is nicknamed baby ball. During the winter, if you sit down, expect her to bolt like lightning and jump onto your lap to get comfortable and she will not leave until you force her off your lap. In the future, I want to donate a lot of money to the park to have them help support the cats that are there, and to make an effort to stop people from mercilessly leaving behind the pets they once loved.
Overall, this is a wonderful park that I want to be able to visit every day if I have the chance. There are so many fond memories I have going there. Many public events are held at the park as well, including flea markets, and festivals, so it always has something fun to do during the summer time. If you are ever in Sagamihara and want to refresh yourself in a bit of nature, I highly recommend going to Asamiso Kouen. There are surprises hiding around every corner……