In the middle of a prefecture often voted as Japan’s least attractive is the country’s largest ostrich farm. Located around 90 minutes from central Tokyo in Ibaraki Prefecture, hundreds of the flightless birds at Ostrich Kingdom Ishioka Farm will welcome you with curious stares and squawks. The most amusing thing is that after you’ve had your fun, you can enjoy a range of ostrich dishes including skewered meat, stew and curry.
If you ever wanted to surround yourself with ostriches, this is probably the best place in Japan to do it. The farm boasts the most number of ostriches in the country, although the actual number remains a mystery. You can feed them by hand after purchasing feed from the store, but be careful as their pecks can draw blood.
If you come during the right season, you may even be able to see the ostriches laying eggs in the evening. As the world’s largest living bird, they also lay the largest eggs of any living land animal.
This sprawling farm offers more than ostriches, with visitors also able to get up close and personal with around 80 other different kind of animals, including alpacas, capybaras and goats. Kids can even ride ponies.
We actually had more fun in here than with the ostriches, although I did feel sorry for a roped ring-tailed coati which was pacing frantically on its ledge, probably due to having too much energy. It was the first time I have seen a coati, so I had to Google the Japanese find out what it was.
Coatis seem to be rather considerate though, as when I leaned on its ledge to film it, it adjusted the length of its pacing so as to not bump into me. But as soon as I left, it returned to pacing the ledge’s full length. Cute.
After purchasing a bucket of raw cabbage and carrots, you can pretty much feed any of the animals wandering in enclosures on the farm. The alpacas and capybaras were particularly fun.
Inside a hut, there are also smaller animals you can pet, like guinea pigs, rabbits, chicks and turtles. There is even a small room for birds with a cockatoo, galah and owls, but I always feel sorry for birds that are chained to posts.
There are also a few dogs outside, including an adorable papillon. But you aren’t supposed to feed them, as I found out after being stopped by a staff member for giving the dog a piece of cabbage.
On the way out, you can moisturise your hands with cream featuring ostrich oil.
Souvenir time! Get your ostrich meat
The souvenir shop offers a range of dishes featuring ostrich meat as an ingredient that you can eat there and then, as well as frozen sausages and patties to take home and cook yourself. There is also ice cream, and other farm-themed products like plushies and accessories.
I was just too curious about whether ostrich meat would taste like chicken, so I ordered a skewer for 500 yen. Surprisingly, it tastes and feels more like beef. But it wasn’t gamey or anything, so not difficult to get down.
We also got ice cream made with ostrich eggs. While it was creamier than normal ice cream, there was no big difference in terms of taste.
While you do not need to purchase a ticket to see the ostriches, you do need one to enter the farm and interact with the other animals. Tickets are 1,000 yen for junior high students and above, with an annual passport costing 2,800 yen. You can buy feed for the farm animals (raw cabbage and carrots) for 700 yen per bucket. Feed for the ostriches (some ball-looking things) start at 200 yen per bag.
From June to August, you can also enjoy blueberry picking at the farm for 600 yen an hour. If you plan to do both, the set ticket for 1,300 yen is more value for money.
Getting to the Ishioka Ostrich Farm
Ishioka Ostrich Farm is a 5-minute taxi ride away from JR Hatori Station, with the fare costing around 1,000 yen. Alternatively, you can walk from the station in around 30 minutes.
Hannoki 14052, Ishioka city, Ibaraki Prefecture
The farm is open from 10am to 4:30pm (4pm from October to February). It is closed on the second Wednesday of every month, excluding August and holidays.
If you’re in Ibaraki, another interesting thing to do is stay in a shipping container hotel.