Friday, March 9, 2012

kyoto: iwatayama monkey park

The highlight of the day was the Iwatayama Monkey Park in the Arashiyama area. When you climb up the steps you'll immediately notice a small shrine setup and then to the left of that is the entrance to the monkey park. Even though there is an attendant sitting at the window, you'll need to purchase the park ticket from the vending machine and then take the three steps to the attendant and give her the ticket. I'm not sure how this makes sense but I guess during busy times the line would form in front of the vending machine and not block the entrance way (even though they are so close to each other I don't think that would necessarily work). The park is located on Mt. Arashiyama so there were a lot of stairs to climb. While climbing up the mountain you'll start seeing monkeys climbing trees and walking on the roads around you. I was going pretty crazy at the sight and kept taking pictures of them. I even managed to spot some deer but they were fast and quite a distance away.
It's pretty cool to see wild monkeys crossing the road right next to you or climbing the trees over your head but it's also pretty nerve wracking because there wasn't anything to prevent these monkeys from fanging me to death or going berserk and attacking me. It wasn't like I had anything to protect myself with or even slightly prepared to protect myself. Sad moment for realizing how weak I really am. The monkeys at the park are the Japanese macaque and are also known as the snow monkeys because they live in areas where snow covers the ground for most of the year. Apparently Japanese macaques are the most northern living primates, besides humans. At the peak is a hut where you can buy bags of food for 100 yen to feed the monkeys. You have to stay inside the hut and feed the monkeys through the screens. It was raining harder at this point so this arrangement was perfect for me. I was the only one there so I could take as many pictures as I wanted and got to choose who I wanted to feed and take pictures with. I loved the screen because it prevented the monkeys from snatching my food away before I had gotten my pictures. Remember the deer from Nara?
I really wanted to feed the smaller monkeys because they were so cute but there was this one monkey that if she got onto the screens all the other monkeys fled so I had to feed her too. She's the head monkey of the place and so I guess all the other monkeys are scared of her. There was a lot of information posted on the trails and inside the hut about the monkeys and they were in English so that was even better.
This monkey was my favorite. Even though I had run out of apples this little guy just stayed perched near me and would grab my fingers even though I had no food in it. I even got to touch his feet which flexed open and close. It was so amazing! I took really retarded videos of myself gushing and awwing like some fangirl but it was just so fantastic. Honestly seeing the monkeys at this park made it worth the fact that I had to come out to this area twice. I highly recommend anyone visiting Kyoto to check out this park. The monkeys give birth around April to July which means cute babies! Dang-it it seems monkeys and cherry blossoms are in season at the same time, should have booked my tickets for later. At the top there is also some pretty fabulous views of the surrounding area. Just imagine if all the trees were full of autumn leaves or cherry blossoms, the view would be even more awesome.

The Details
Iwatayama Monkey Park
8 Arashiyama Genrokuyama-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 616-0007, Japan
tel: 075-872-0950
hours: spring & summer: 9:00am-5:00pm, winter: 9:00am-4:00pm
entrance fee: adult: 550 yen, child: 250 yen, under 4 years old free
the website provides all the information you'll need to know concerning transportation, monkeys, etc

Access: Arashiyama Area - UPDATED APRIL 2014
Bus line # 11, #28, and #93 go to this area but only #28 goes all the way to the Kyoto Main Station. As of March 22nd 2014 the Kyoto One Day Bus Pass is also valid in the Arashiyama Area!

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