So the other day I went to the Higashiyama Zoo. It’s about a 40 minute subway ride from the Nanzan dormitories, and can be found at Higashiyama Koen Station.
In most regards, its a relatively average zoo, by which I mean that it has the regular lineup of animals you’d expect to see at any zoo (giraffes and elephants and lions and such).
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the average assortment of zoo animals (I loved playing with the goats in the petting zoo). It’s just that the Higashiyama Zoo also happens to have a very unique attraction that drew me to it
The Higashiyama Zoo is famous for being home to Shabani, the Ikemen (イケメン) Gorilla. Ikemen is a Japanese word used to refer to handsome men, and Shabani is genuinely a very good looking gorilla, even by human standards. There are currently tons of articles circling the web about Shabani (including a Buzzfeed article), and I knew I had to see him for myself while I was in Nagoya.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a great shot of him since the area surrounding his cage was incredibly crowded. I’ve included below a much better shot of him used in a BBC article so you can get a better idea of what he actually looks like.
The Higashiyama Zoo advertises their handsome gorilla shamelessly, and there are tons of Shabani souvenirs for sale at the zoo shops. Looking at all of the イケメンゴリラ themed snacks and goods was almost more fun than actually seeing the gorilla. Because Japan has a culture so strongly rooted in the ways of souvenir giving, almost any tourist attraction you go to will have specialized sweets or stationary or charms for sale, leading to some very interesting products.
There was a staggering assortment of Shabani cookies, Shabani Coffee, and Shabani Lollipops available in all of the zoo gift shops. However, the Shabani fandom spread past just sweets and beverages. There were Shabani folders, notebooks, and even a DVD featuring the handsome gorilla himself.
My favorite souvenir was a Shabani photo book, complete with inspirational quotes.
The bottom quote says “Don’t forget to love yourself.” I have to admit, the Shabani fandom was a bit over the top, but I had a ton of fun with it.
Other than the イケメンゴリラ, the Higashiyama Zoo also had a few other unique features that I loved. First, these adorable Koala ice cream cones that were almost too cute to eat (almost).
Next, the Higashiyama Zoo also has a botanical garden, which is quite beautiful. There are tons of flowers, including azaleas and roses, and in the spring time there are cherry blossom trees as well.
There was also a Japanese-style garden, complete with Koi fish and an old-fashioned bridge.
The zoo itself was tons of fun, but after the huge crowds and screaming children, getting away to the botanical garden was a welcome relief. There were hardly any people there when I went, despite it being a Saturday afternoon, and it was extremely peaceful. The botanical garden may have been my favorite part of the day :D.