We recently purchased a couple of Grutt Passes (ぐるっとパス or gurutto pasu in Japanese). Included with the pass is free admission to the Ueno Zoo. The Ueno Zoo is wonderfully peaceful on a Sunday morning. On a Sunday afternoon it turns into what you see below.
The zoo opens at 9:30. We didn’t arrive until a bit after 11. Had we been there at 9:30 I think we could have seen everything before the crowds arrived. As it was, we spent more time watching Japanese people, after noon, than we did the animals. The Japanese people were on the same page; I think the Japanese people spent as much time looking at us as they did the animals.
See if you can spot my daughter in the above photo. She sticks out a bit more among Japanese people than Waldo does on the pages of “Where’s Waldo?” books.
The Grutt Pass is really a super deal if you live in Tokyo or if you plan on visiting for more than a few days and plan to visit more than about four museums, art galleries, or zoos. The Tokyo Sea Life Park is included too. Most museums, zoos, etc. in Tokyo cost between 500 and 1,300 yen each. The Grutt Pass makes most of them free. For some of the more expensive ones, like the Mori Art Museum in the Mori Tower, you get 300 yen off admission. Here is a full list of places.
Supposedly you can purchase the passes at convenience stores. The Sunkus near our apartment knew nothing about them. Nor did their machine, which I’ve purchased concert tickets from, list the Grutt Pass. You are probably best off just going to one of the places listed on the above link and purchasing the pass there when you use it for the first time.
The pass is good for 2 months. I’m guessing they will come out with a 2010 version in February.
Grutt means absolutely nothing. ぐるっと (which grutt is sort of an English abbreviation for) means something like going all around a circle. They should have called it something like the “Tokyo Circle Pass” in English.
Once you have gone to at least 10 places in at least 7 different areas you are eligible for a prize. I’ll let you know what that is if we win one.
As you can see from the above stamping of our 10 places, we have used our pass 7 times so far. Had we paid admission for those 7 places the total cost would have been 3,700 yen. The pass was only 2,000 yen and we have 59 more places to potentially visit for free or a reduced cost in the next month.
The pass comes with a handy map that shows all 66 locations. With the map in hand and an early start you can sometimes visit three places in a single day.