Neo Park is one of the places that I have driven past hundreds of times, fully aware that it is there but never visiting for one reason or another. However, this week during an on island vacation we decided that there was no better time than now to go on in and see what the park had to offer. For my husband and I the first step to enjoying a location is researching information ahead of time. Researching ahead of time not only gives you a clear understanding of what it is that you can expect from the attraction but can also give you a clear understanding of costs and how much of your day will be spent there. To be honest I would say that in general not researching before visiting attractions in Okinawa is putting yourself at a great disadvantage and you’re more likely to be disappointed with your visit. Taking just a few minutes to look at Neo Park’s website allowed us to see that general admission was ¥630 for adults, ¥315 for Juniors and ¥210 for children. There were also other options which would allow you to enhance your experience at the park such as a petting zoo (¥300 each) and a research center (¥300 each). There is also a train ride which is ¥600 for adults and 400¥ for children. If you plan on taking the train ride you can also buy a combination ticket which offers a slight discount and includes general admission as well as the train ride. This option for adults was ¥1000 but prices may be subject to change. I also found that on some blogs and review websites there were some negative comments. These mostly came from English speaking sites so I looked up some Japanese reviews and an entirely different picture was painted. I will briefly touch upon these negative reviews throughout the post when appropriate but overall it’s safe to say that most of them came from misunderstandings and unreasonable expectations as far as I could tell. We arrived at Neo Park around 11:00am which was just a few hours after opening (9:00am). Even though it was midday the park was relatively vacant most likely because it was a Monday during the off season. We purchased out tickets and it was off to the second floor where we would wait to take our train ride. The train ride takes about 30 minutes and will take you around the outer perimeter of the property which gives you a great chance to see what the park has to offer. The ride includes narration regarding the various animals throughout the park however it is in Japanese. Although this ride was a lot of fun (and knowing Japanese I had a basic understanding of what was being said) you could easily opt out of taking the train ride and save a significant amount of money especially if you are traveling with a large group of family. Because of our timing we were able to get on the train with minimal wait, however, the area outside the train offered a variety of opportunities to keep yourself entertained while waiting for the next train. A small display area featured images and information regarding Okinawa’s train which was destroyed in WWII. There was also various other train related items to include two large models, tickets and stamps. For the little ones there were also a number of small amusement type rides which could be enjoyed for ¥100 to ¥200 each. Turtles, flowers and tables were also available for those just wanting to enjoy their short wait. Once arriving back at the train station we took a moment to use the restrooms and then we were off to the area which was covered by general admission. Before entering this area there was a small station where you could purchase bird food for ¥200. I imagine that this is not necessary because the birds were friendly enough but who doesn’t want to feed the birds? Once entering this area you will find yourself surrounded by birds of all shapes and sizes. When I say surrounded I want to be absolutely clear. . . you are inside a huge area which with a netted “ceiling”. The birds are free to roam and fly around you. Chances are unless you are in some type of specialized career field or have the opportunity to travel to strange and exotic places this is the closest you will ever get to these beautiful species. We found the birds to be very friendly. Even though I didn’t have food I was able to walk straight up to the birds and take photos. We spent a lot of time in this part of the park because it was just so much fun to feed the birds and to get a close up look at them. I also found it amazing to see the details that would have otherwise been lost if you were looking from afar. Finally we decided to move on to the next part of the park. As we continued to move down the path way, birds following close behind, we had a new perspective on the large wetland area. You could see scores of birds nesting in the trees above and even more resting along the side of the water. We also saw a variety of fruit trees which lined the pathway leading to a caged area with double doors. This is the way of ensuring that animals say in their designated areas. We continued on and found ourselves walking down a tree lined path leading to more beautiful birds. Being that it is still spring there are not a lot of flowers in bloom but during the summer months I imagine that this path would be lush with plant life and flowers. One thing that visitors should take into consideration when at Neo Park is that the animals are free to wonder which means you may see them up closer or you may see them from a far. This beautiful bright colored bird was one of those that we didn’t get a chance to see up close until just one of them happened to notice us and came over. The rest were resting up in a tree. I imagine that if you did not take the time to carefully examine the area as we did you might miss out completely. After going through a tunnel and seeing some fish it was time to visit the petting zoo area. As I mentioned above the petting zoo is not included in general admission and costs ¥300 each to visit. Here you can spend some time with dogs, a pony, goats, Guinea pigs, bunnies, capybara and tortoises. Food can be purchased for the dogs, bunnies and Guinea pigs but it’s not necessary. You can also feed the tortoises and capybara for no charge. The petting zoo was very much worth the price of admission and we had a great time. The animals were well kept, the area was well kept and everyone was well fed as far as we could see despite some negative reviews. Unfortunately I feel that these types of negative reviews come from those who make quick judgements and don’t fully understand the situation. For example the dogs are stationed on stakes in various locations all of which offer shade throughout parts of the day. They are not actually tied down to each stake and the leash can be removed and the dog walked. The same case was true for a small goat. Also it’s important for visitors to understand that dogs are not all young forever. A few of the dogs at the park were getting up there in age and although they were in good condition weren’t as bubbly as a younger puppy might be. It’s also important for visitors to understand that just because the animal isn’t necessarily cared for at the moment that you are there doesn’t mean that they aren’t cared for at all. We happened to be there during a lull after a few families had left and the woman running the area took the dogs for a quick walk around, refilled water, cleaned the goats area and checked on the little bunnies and Guineas. After washing our hands at the bathroom located in the petting zoo area and receiving a spray of disinfectant on our hands before leaving it was off to see the rest of what the park had to offer. This is where you will have the opportunity to grab a quick snack and maybe even ride on a swan boat! This small snack shack has drinks, shaved ice and some other snack items which can be enjoyed during the remainder of your trip. There are benches and small areas to relax for a moment as well. Continue on and you’ll find yourself among some more beautiful animals. This area is also where you can see some bats but unfortunately during our visit they were not around, again a hazard or being in an open air attraction such as this. Last but not least we visited the research center. This is a large building which has been mistaken by a number of non Japanese speaking visitors as the “cafe” because inside it has some tables and drinks for sale. Visiting the research center will cost you ¥300 each which is not the cost to eat here in fact they don’t even serve food as far as I can tell. I imagine that if you wanted to purchase a drink you could have simply explained that you wanted something but did not want to see the exhibit but then again I didn’t ask. In this area you can see various species which are being cared for as a conservation effort. One of these is the Okinawa Rail which I have yet to see in the wild and so I was very interested in seeing one even if it was in captivity for the purpose of research and conservation. There were three rails in this area all of which were very beautiful. One thing to keep in mind about this area is that as it is a conservation research area the animals are kept in cages rather than allowed to roam free. There are a few exceptions but for the most part this is the case. There are two ways to view the animals, from the outside where you can see them through the cage or from the inside where you can see them unobstructed by a window. I chose to view both ways because I had a better opportunity to enjoy them from all sides. Overall we had an absolutely great time at Neo Park and recommend it to anyone who is coming here to Okinawa and wants to have a unique experience unlike any other. There are some things I would recommend, however: – Avoid Summer Months: Everyone wants to do these types of things during the summer but they rarely take heat into consideration. The summer months can be hot here in Okinawa not just for the visitors to the park but also for the animals. Birds may lost some feathers and in some cases animals may even be shaved to help them stay cool. This does not mean that they animals are sick or diseased. – Easy On The Food Bags: This one is mostly for parents who are taking kids. The bags of food are pricy if you’ve got a few kids who all want to toss some handfuls to the birds. Consider bringing small containers for each of your kids and dividing one bag of food among them. This will also avoid the impulse of your kiddle to toss the entire bad out in one shot and you will have a longer experience. – Skip The Train: Although it’s fun to take a ride on the train if you’re looking for a good time but to save some cash skip the train. With the combo ticket the train ride costed us about ¥400 which would have been ¥600 if we had purchased them separately. Although it was fun because we understood the narration for the most part (in Japanese) all of the areas we saw in the train were areas we walked through later. Simply skipping this area gives you and your family plenty of cash for an ice cream on the way home!