Machida Squirrel Garden is one of those places.
At my university in the US, friends used to joke about accidentally kicking squirrels because there were so many on campus. I don’t think I’ve seen a single squirrel in the wild in Japan, though. All the more reason to have a park completely dedicated to squirrels!
Bunnies, Guinea Pigs, and More!
Upon walking into the park, you’ll probably be overwhelmed by all the cute furry creatures in one space. Right ahead of you, you’ll see the American Red Squirrel enclosure. They were very angry critters, chirping aggressively at each other even with their mouths full of nuts.
A little further in are the guinea pigs, and there are over 200 of them! And it gets better: for just 100 yen, you can buy a plate of lettuce and other veggies with which to tempt the guinea pigs. I found a cute black and white one that reminded me of my childhood pet Skunky so you can bet he got the most of that lettuce.
In the same general area, you can find a prairie dog enclosure, the bird area, the rabbit space (you can feed them too!), and the turtle space. On Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, the Machida Squirrel Garden also holds a rabbit “meet and greet” where you can hold the bunnies!
The Squirrel Garden
In a separate area, you’ll find the main attraction: the squirrel garden. When you go through the doors of the squirrel garden, you have to be careful not to let any of the critters out. Inside, you’ll see tons and tons of squirrel houses, painted by children at the squirrel park. Sometimes the park holds events where you can paint your own squirrel house to put in the garden.
The best part of the squirrel garden is that you can actually feed the free-roaming squirrels. First, you’ll have to grab a glove and then you buy sunflower seeds (100 yen for 1 small bag). Then, place some of the seeds on your gloved hand, stick your hand out near some houses or branches, and then wait. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a squirrel come up to you right away. It’s amazingly cute to see them come up tentatively, jump on your hand to grab the seed, and then scuttle a short distance away to devour their prize.
If the squirrels tire you, take a look around for the resident African spurred tortoises, Junko and Sachiko.
On your way out, you’ll pass through a gift shop, which has a lot of postcards and items specific to the park, as well as some generic (but very cute) stuffed animals.
Machida Squirrel Garden was a ton of fun and is only one of several such parks in Japan! Have you ever been to a squirrel park?
Machida Squirrel Garden Details
Open: Year-round, 10:00-16:00 (From April to September, open 10:00-17:00 on Sunday and holidays)
Closed: Every Tuesday (or Wednesday if Tuesday is a holiday), first Tuesday through Friday of June, September, and December (Sometimes closed other holidays, etc., so please check)
Entrance Fee: 200 yen (children), 400 yen (adults/middle school and up)
Address: 733-1 Kanai-machi Machida-shi, Tokyo 195-0071
Access by bus: Exit from Machida Station (Odakyu Line) North Gate. Go to Bus Stop #21, which is about 50 meters from the first railroad crossing. Ride either the bus towards Nozutamachi via Honmachida (Route 55) (本町田経由野津田車庫行（55系統）) or towards Tsurukawa Station (Route 53) (鶴川駅行（53系統）). After about 20 minutes, you can get off at Yakushi-ike (薬師池). Machida Squirrel Garden will be ahead and on the right side.
Website: Official Machida Squirrel Garden Website [in Japanese]