Izu Shaboten Koen: Izu

Cactus connoisseurs will certainly enjoy the attractions of "Cactus Park" in Izu, but the biggest draw seems to be the crew of gregarious capybaras inhabiting the park's animal-petting zone. Visitors can also pet the resident rabbits, tortoises and alpaca, but the capys - especially the babies - are definitely the crowd favorite. If you come at the right time of winter you can even see them bathing in specially constructed hot-spring pools; check the website for details.

Another popular feature here is the park's wild-bird zone, where you can observe flocks of flamingos, colorful ducks, a shoebill stork and other exotic birds. As far as plant life is concerned, you'll find a huge variety of cacti growing inside a series of large pyramidal greenhouses, which are connected to each other via underground passageways.

The last of the greenhouses is a giant plant shop, filled with potted cactus plants of all sizes and varieties that are ready to take home. Throughout the park you'll run across other animals - horses and sheep, peacocks, and lots of weird little monkeys. A non-stop soundtrack of traditional Mexican music plays in the background to set the mood.

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Izu Shaboten Koen
Izu / Animal park
Open 9am-5pm (Nov-Feb 9-4) daily.
Y2300 for adults; cash only
Average visit time: 1-2 hours
Shizuoka Ito-shi, Futo 1317-13.
45 minutes by Tokai bus from Ito station; 20 minutes by Tokai bus from Izu Kogen Station. Buses run every 30 minutes or so during the day. (Note that schedules are not currently listed on Google Maps.)