Japan is known for its unique animal encounters, whether its feeding the deer in Nara or catching squid in Hakodate. The traditional city of Kyoto also has an animal encounter: Iwatayama Monkey Park. At this park, you can interact with wild Japanese macaque monkeys (also known as Japanese snow monkeys)! Here’s everything you need to know about the park.
Where Is Iwatayama Monkey Park?
Iwatayama Monkey Park is located in Arashiyama, one of the districts of the famous city of Kyoto. To get to the park, you’ll have to take a train to Arashiyama station, and from there, it’s only about a six-minute walk.
When Should I Go the Park?
The park is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, they will not let anyone into the park after 4:30 p.m. So if Iwatayama Monkey Park is on your list of must-see activities in Kyoto, make sure to get there within at least an hour of closing.
How Much Does It Cost to Visit Iwatayama Monkey Park?
There is an entrance fee of 550 yen (about $5.50) per adult and 250 yen per child (about $2.50) to visit Iwatayama Monkey Park.
What Should I Know Before Heading to the Park?
There’s Quite a Climb
After the ticket booth but before the entrance of the park, there is a 15- to 20-minute hike that is necessary to reach the entrance. This hike is actually quite steep! As a matter of fact, Iwatayama Monkey Park provides several benches along the way for you to rest and catch your breath!
The hike also does not end at the entrance of the park. To reach the top of the park (where the vast majority of the monkeys are located), it takes another 10 to 15 minutes. If you do not feel that you are physically capable of doing this hike, do NOT buy tickets to the park! It would be a shame to expend all that energy attempting to reach the top, only to run out of energy.
Follow the Rules! (They are Wild Monkeys!)
When encountering the monkeys, it can be quite easy to forget that they are actually wild monkeys. In other words, they can be dangerous! In order to prevent inciting dangerous behavior, make sure to follow the rules of Iwatayama Monkey Park. While most are quite obvious (like don’t get too close to the monkeys), the one I kept forgetting was “don’t make eye contact with the monkeys.” That apparently triggers a natural attack instinct within the monkeys!
If you follow those rules, the monkeys are quite calm. There’s no need to be afraid of the monkeys. Just remember: if they feel safe, there is no reason for them to attack.
What Can I Do at Iwatayama Monkey Park?
Tackle the Hike
While the aforementioned hike is quite difficult, if you pace yourself and take your time, it is actually quite beautiful. Somehow, you go from tourist-filled shops to a greenery-filled mountain. So enjoy the greenery and the fresh air as you tackle the hike to the peak of the park.
Try to Spot the Monkeys on the Way Up
Once you enter the park, there’s a chance that you’ll see some of the monkeys! So keep your eyes peeled for monkeys swinging through the trees, sitting on the branches, or just simply crossing the path.
Check Out the Monkeys at the Top
If you’re looking for the jackpot of monkeys though, they’re all at the top. There is a caged area (where the humans are caged, not the monkeys), which the monkeys treat as their own personal jungle gym! Watch the monkeys play, wrestle, leap, and run right in front of your eyes!
Because most of the monkeys are at the top of Iwatayama Monkey Park, you also get the widest variety of monkeys. While all of the monkeys in the park are Japanese macaque monkeys (also known as Japanese snow monkeys), you will be able to see monkeys of different ages – from tiny baby monkeys to the monkey elders.
*Pro Tip: sometimes the baby monkeys will be latched onto their mother’s chests. So if you don’t see them swinging around on their own, check the chests of the other monkeys.
Check Out the View of Arashiyama
In case hanging out with a bunch of wild monkeys wasn’t cool enough, your hike up the mountain has a second bonus: the view. Because you climbed hundreds of feet (if not thousands), you get to be rewarded with a fantastic view of Arashiyama from the top of Iwatayama Monkey Park! So don’t forget to take a couple of pictures of that as well! (It’d be pretty cool if you could get a monkey WITH the view.)
Feed the Monkeys
While at the top of the park, you’ll also have the chance to feed the monkeys! For an additional 100 yen (about $1), you can purchase a small bag of shelled peanuts or cubed apples. Do note that there are also specific rules for feeding the monkeys. First, you have to be within the cage. Second, you must slide the food to the monkeys, not hand it to them. Please follow both of these rules for both your own safety and the safety of the monkeys.
*Pro Tip: the little baby monkeys seemed to enjoy the peanuts more than the apples.
Do you love animal encounters? Here are a couple of other animal encounters in Japan!
Have you ever been to Iwatayama Monkey Park? Tell me about your experience in the comments! (I promise I’ll respond!)
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