Llamas and tortoises and birds, oh my!
Contributed by Amber J. Brace
Off County Road 16 in Uruma, sits a must-see Okinawan staple reminiscent of a roadside attraction you might find in Old Florida in the United States. At the Zukeran Egg Shop and Minimini Zoo, you can stop in for some farm fresh eggs and visit a menagerie that is surprisingly large for its location in the midst of a large city.
Less than a 10 minute drive from Kadena Air Force Base Gate 3, you are greeted on County Road 16 by lovely landscaping and water features housing several colorful statues, including some larger than life dinosaurs peering through the leaves. As you follow the driveway into the parking area, the egg shop and zoo are on the right-hand side. On the left is some café-style seating where you can relax and admire some blue-and-yellow macaws while you enjoy a fresh pastry or ice cream available inside the egg shop. Once parked, you can wander over to a pen off to the side before you come to the building to visit a llama that will meet you at the fence, likely in a never-ending search for handouts. Keeping the llama company in pens on either side are some indifferent emus and a mini horse that has no interest in sharing the llama’s meet-and-greet time. At the front of the building itself are some spots for fun photo opportunities, including a life-sized zebra bench against a backdrop of silk leaves and cherry blossoms.
Inside, the doors to egg shop are on the right, but more noticeable are the tables set up with small cages housing various reptiles and a beautiful barn owl leading down to the larger animal area on the left. Walking through the zoo, you will find a wide variety of creatures;
flop-eared rabbits, several species of medium- and large-sized tortoise, sugar gliders hiding in their hammocks, a chinchilla, and a solitary sheep. There are also several species of monkey spread throughout the animal exhibits. One of the most charismatic inhabitants you will find there is the putty-nosed or greater spot-nosed monkey housed on the main thoroughfare. These are some of the smallest Old World monkeys and are less commonly seen in animal exhibits in the United States than the better-known capuchins which also call the Minimini Zoo home. This putty-nosed monkey is a curious fellow that will readily meet you at the front or side
of its enclosure and pose for photos. A word of caution though, it can reach around and under the glass to grab at errant clothing, camera straps, or children, so keep your items and little ones close.
If primates, tortoises, and rabbits aren’t your thing, there is also a wide variety of birds housed at the Minimini Zoo. In addition to the blue-and-yellow macaws outside in the café area, there are stunning scarlet macaws, cockatoos, budgerigars of all colors, and many species of finch. They even have a couple of large, open aviaries with fancy pigeons and a couple of peacocks. If quiet reflection is what you
crave, take a moment to enjoy the large koi pond located toward the rear of the inside portion of the exhibits. Once you are sufficiently centered, be sure to head outside to visit with the donkeys, Asian wild pigs, and other mini horses; especially the very friendly white one at the back. This one, like the llama in the parking area seems to be on a tireless search for treats and will gladly trade a gentle face rub if he thinks you have something worthwhile in your hand. Following the lushly landscaped path, you will also find a children’s play area equipped with playhouses and benches for parents looking for a short reprieve.
Once you’ve had your fill of animals, be sure to head inside to admire some quirky statues and taxidermy scenes, pick up some fresh eggs and while you’re at it, don’t forget the cakes, pastries, and ice cream to enjoy with the macaws outside or on the way home.
When planning your visit:
All signs in the Minimini Zoo are in Japanese but the zoo is very easy to navigate and the animals are readily identifiable without translation, unless you are interested in specific species names (e.g., for the birds or monkeys). Keep in mind that the Minimini Zoo is not a traditional zoo or animal sanctuary. It is more akin to a petting zoo, but while some of the inhabitants are clearly of advanced age, they are all treated with respect and are well taken care of.
Afternoons and weekends are the busiest times, and it can get a little crowded. During peak times, parking spots may be difficult to find. Due to the volume of people (including small children) and cars, the main driveway can become congested, so take extra care when pulling into or out of the parking area.
Located at 660 Akimichi, Uruma-shi, Okinawa; Open 0830-1900 7 days a week