Jigokudani Onsen in Nagoya Prefecture is a well-known spot for seeing the monkeys that bathe in the hot spring, but in fact there are places all over Japan where you can see wild monkeys outside of a zoo. The place we’d like to introduce this time is the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama, located in Kyoto’s region of Arashiyama.
Let’s go to Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
The entrance to Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama is located at the foot of the mountain. You have to climb a little way up the mountain in order to reach the viewing area for the monkeys. You can leave any large luggage you may have in the reception center at the park entrance, but we recommend you wear clothes that are light and easy to walk and move around in.
We ascended up the mountain road for about 20 minutes, and finally reached the summit where we could see all of Kyoto! But where are the monkeys…?
Oh, there they are!
Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama is home to a group of monkeys.
It’s said that there are about 120 monkeys living here right now.
The cabin at the top of the mountain is the feeding area for the monkeys, where you can feed the monkeys yourself. You go inside the cabin and then feed the monkeys through a wire screen.
For 100 yen you can buy apples or peanuts for that you can feed the monkeys with.
When you’re feeding the monkeys, put the food in the palm of your hand and hold it in front of the wire screen. When you do this the monkeys will reach out to you, take the food, and eat it.
If you hold the food like this it’s hard for the monkeys to take it from you. For people who want to touch the monkeys a little more, try putting the food near your wrist. Please be careful not to put your hand through the wire screen.
A little introduction to the monkeys!
While we were spending time feeding the monkeys we discovered a gentleman who was calling one of the monkeys by name. He seemed to be doing research on the monkeys, jotting down memos in his notebook.
The monkey he was talking to was a male monkey named “Shirayuki.” The average lifespan of the monkeys on Arashiyama is about 30 years, and Shirayuki who is 32 years of age is quite old for one of these monkeys. The man was concerned about whether Shirayuki would survive the harsh winter and had come to see him.
※By the way, the monkey in this picture isn’t Shirayuki, haha.
The group of monkeys contains both old and young monkeys. In 2015 there were a total of 7 baby monkeys born.
The baby monkeys watch the bigger monkeys and approach to get some food.
When the other monkeys are gone they snatch the food away quickly!
That was good, huh.
Although you can feed the monkeys from inside the cabin here, the monkeys at Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama are all wild monkeys. There is nothing but the cabin between you and the monkeys so some people might be afraid of them, but if you carefully follow all the rules there is no danger whatsoever.
How can I safely observe the monkeys?
First of all, don’t take any food or drinks outside of the cabin, or at least don’t show them to the monkeys if you have them. The same rules apply on the road leading up to the mountaintop. A monkey could appear in front of you at any time. Human food may be unhealthy for the monkeys so for people who may be thinking of feeding the monkeys with other food, we firmly request that you do NOT feed the monkeys any human food.
One last rule: Do not touch the monkeys or stare directly into the monkeys’ eyes. If you surprise or scare a monkey it may get angry and jump on you or try to threaten you.
If you follow the rules outlined above you can enjoy a safe and fun visit with the monkeys.
One of the most popular natural tourist spots in all of Kyoto, Arashiyama has beautiful fall foliage in November and gorgeous blooming cherry trees in April. Why not pay a visit to the monkeys while you’re enjoying the sights of Kyoto?