Tennoji Zoo: A Jewel of Wildlife and Nature in the Heart of Osaka

Discover Tennoji Zoo and its Fusion of Wildlife, Education, and Urban Culture in Osaka

In the dynamic city of Osaka, Tennoji Zoo has been a fixture since 1915, marking its place as one of Japan’s oldest zoological parks. Spread over 11 hectares, it houses an impressive range of species, totaling over 1,000 animals from approximately 180 different species.

This zoo, nestled within the urban landscape, offers a window into the animal kingdom for city dwellers and tourists alike. Throughout its existence, Tennoji Zoo has undergone numerous transformations, adapting to new standards in animal care and habitat design. These changes are part of a larger trend in zoo management that has evolved globally over the years. 

While it provides an opportunity to observe a diverse array of species, the zoo also faces the ongoing challenge of balancing space constraints with modern standards of animal welfare. Serving as a place for education and insight into wildlife, Tennoji Zoo remains a key component of Osaka’s cultural and recreational landscape.

What is Osaka Tennoji Zoo?

Tennoji Zoo EntranceOsaka Tennoji Zoo, established over a century ago in 1915, is not just one of the oldest zoos in Japan, but also a significant part of Osaka’s urban heritage. This zoo provides a window into the world of wildlife, nestled amidst the city’s hustle and bustle.

Spanning roughly 11 hectares, Tennoji Zoo is notable for its diverse collection of wildlife. It houses a wide range of animals, from local fauna to exotic creatures, making it a destination of curiosity and learning. The zoo’s collection includes both popular and rare species, contributing to its status as a must-visit attraction in Osaka.

Aerial View of Osaka Tennoji ZooHowever, the zoo’s role extends beyond just displaying animals. It is also a center for education about wildlife and environmental conservation. This educational aspect is crucial in urban settings, where interactions with diverse ecosystems are limited. By bringing a slice of the wild into the city, Tennoji Zoo helps foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the natural world among its visitors.

What to do at Osaka Tennoji Zoo


Polar bear at Osaka Tennoji ZooWhen visiting Osaka Tennoji Zoo, there are several key attractions that shouldn’t be missed. The zoo is known for its diverse range of exhibits, providing visitors with an opportunity to see animals from different habitats.

  • African Savanna Zone: This exhibit mimics the African continent’s environment, allowing visitors to observe both carnivores and herbivores like lions, tigers, hyenas, giraffes, and zebras in a shared space. The zone offers a glimpse into the dynamics of the African savanna ecosystem.
  • Underwater Viewing Pool: A notable feature of Tennoji Zoo is Japan’s first-ever underwater viewing pool in the Hippopotamus House, offering a unique perspective on how hippos interact with their aquatic environment.
  • Asian Tropical Rainforest Zone: Modeled on a South-East Asian Rainforest, this zone is home to a variety of species, including Asian elephants, which are a highlight. The zoo has made efforts to provide spacious enclosures for these large mammals.
  • Nocturnal Zone and Koala House: Here, visitors can step into a world that mimics a night environment, housing animals active during the night, including the rare kiwi bird, one of the few places outside New Zealand where this bird can be seen.
  • Chimpanzee, Monkey, and Baboon House: This exhibit houses a wide variety of primates, offering insights into their diverse lifestyles and behaviors.
  • Aviary Zone: The Aviary Zone focuses on a variety of bird species, from storks and ducks to pelicans and swans. Additionally, the popular polar bear exhibit is located nearby, providing a look at one of the zoo’s most beloved animals.
  • Petting Zoo at Friendship Square: Ideal for younger visitors, this area allows close interaction with animals like sheep, goats, and rabbits. There’s even an opportunity to feed some of these animals.
  • Reptile House: For those interested in reptiles, this exhibit based on field surveys of natural habitats is a must-visit.

How to get to Osaka Tennoji Zoo

Osaka Tennoji Zoo Shinsekai Entrance
Bridge to Shinsekai Gate

The zoo is easily accessible by public transportation, primarily by train and subway, thanks to its central location in Osaka. 

By Train/Subway

The closest train stations are Dobutsuen-mae Station on the Osaka Metro Sakaisuji Line and Midosuji Line, and Ebisucho Station on the Osaka Metro Sakaisuji Line. Both stations are a mere 5-minute walk from the zoo. Another option is the JR Tennoji Station on the Osaka Metro Midosuji Line and Tanimachi Line, which is about a 10-minute walk to the zoo.

By Other Means

The closest tram stations are Tennojiekimae Station on the Hankaidenki-Uemachi Line and Shin-Imamiya-Ekimae on the Hankaidenki-Hankai Line. There are several local bus stops surrounding the park and zoo premises as well.

Tourist attractions near Osaka Tennoji Zoo


A vibrant and nostalgic district right next to Tennoji Zoo, Shinsekai (新世界) is renowned for its retro charm and the iconic Tsutenkaku Tower. This area is a delightful mix of old Osaka atmosphere, unique eateries, and lively shops. It’s famous for kushikatsu, skewered and breaded meats and vegetables, a must-try local delicacy.


ShitennojiOne of Japan’s oldest temples, Shitennoji (四天王寺), founded in 593 AD, is a significant cultural landmark. This temple complex embodies ancient Japanese temple architecture and is known for its tranquil atmosphere, providing a stark contrast to the bustling city. It’s a place of historical significance and spiritual serenity.

Spa World

Roman Onsen at Spa World
© Spa World

For a relaxing experience, Spa World is an ideal destination. This extensive bathing facility is a local favorite for residents and tourists alike, as it offers themed public baths from various world cultures, saunas, and a water park, besides traditional Japanese onsen. It’s a perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring.

Osaka Tennoji Zoo, established in 1915, is a significant piece of Osaka’s historical and cultural fabric. Its existence for over a century in one of Japan’s most dynamic cities speaks volumes about its importance and the role it has played in urban recreation and wildlife education. 

The zoo, home to a diverse range of species, continues to be a favorite destination for both locals and tourists, offering a unique experience amid city life. As an integral part of Osaka, the zoo provides an opportunity for visitors to connect with nature while being close to the urban hustle and bustle. 

Its ongoing presence is a testament to Osaka’s commitment to preserving a space where wildlife and human society can intersect, offering a rare and valuable experience for all who visit.

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Written by

Photographer, journalist, and avid urban cyclist, making sense of Japan since 2017. I was born in Caracas and lived for 14 years in Barcelona before moving to Tokyo. Currently working towards my goal of visiting every prefecture in Japan, I hope to share with readers the everlasting joy of discovery and the neverending urge to keep exploring.