Date of Travel: February 27, 2016
To be honest, I originally had plans to visit Ryoan-Ji Temple to further contemplate the mysteries of its famous rock garden. However, I totally scrapped plans to go there the day before I left for Kyoto because I learned about Monkey Park in Arashiyama (west of Kyoto).
Like, a park of monkeys! How could I resist?
After visiting Nintendo, I subway’d to Kyoto Station and train’d to Arashiyama. Fortunately, it was not confusing as to what train I needed to take the 15 minute ride over to that part of town. After disembarking, I found that Arashiyama station is multiple blocks away from the entrance to Monkey Park, including a walk over this scenic bridge.
When I crossed the bridge, I wasn’t sure exactly what direction to go, but luckily I saw this sign.
When I finally arrived, I didn’t realize that Monkey Park is also on a low mountain like the Fushimi-Inari Shrine that I had visited earlier in the day. Also in my non-realizations was that the entrance to the Park is also another Inari shrine. More orange torii gates! I found the ticket booth nearby, and the attendant kindly offered me to hold on to my backpack in bag storage because it apparently looked heavy to her. I obliged and was relieved to not be carrying everything with me.
I made the hike up the mountain, but I was pretty tired already from having gone up and down the previous one. However, the mere notion of hanging out with monkeys this particular afternoon made it more motivating to press onward.
Upon reaching the very top, I first encountered this particular monkey by the pond. I didn’t want to disturb whatever haikus were being formulated in this moment of reflection so I didn’t get too close.
All the monkeys here at Monkey Park are Japanese macaques. Sometimes they’re known as the “snow monkeys”. They pretty much run around loose up on top of this mountain. The only rules are not to stare them in the eye, no touching them, and not crouching down. So to answer your burning question, I didn’t get to pet one.
However, in the middle of this top area is a hut where you can go inside and purchase monkey snacks. The windows of this hut are mesh so the monkeys are able to climb on them so you can feed them through the mesh. I witnessed a few fights for apples. Brutal. No monkeys turned green, however.
I stood around awkwardly watching everyone else feeding the monkeys. I was content and entertained just watching that from the sidelines. However, I noticed the counter where you can purchase bananas, apples, and some other snacks for 100 yen a bag. I then decided to buy a small bag of sliced apples so I, too, can feed ze monkeyz!
Oh yeah. They’re definitely trained to be fed this way. Sometimes they just stick their hands through the mesh expecting something. Apart from Jerry Springer-caliber battles for the next slice of fruit, it was a cool experience feeding the monkeys. I mostly fed just one monkey. This particular one was lucky in that they didn’t have to share the spoils of my 100 yen investment.
I hung out up top for a while, and I happenchanced to catch the 2:30PM feeding time. Basically one of the park rangers (not sure of what else I’d call ’em) runs around with a bucket of monkey food and scatters them throughout causing the monkeys to go crazy running around after the park ranger! Meanwhile, they’re playing silly circus-style music to further enhance the enjoyment and happiness of the occasion. Oh yes, it was silly indeed! Haha.
Besides the monkeys, another cool aspect of Monkey Part is the pretty awesome view of Kyoto below.
I sat on a bench by the looking point for a while just to soak that scene in. Yes, some curious monkeys stopped by, but pretty much left me alone. Then they proceeded for a solid groomin’ session.
Some other cool pics:
Monkey Park costs 500 yen to get in. It’s a good, solid 20 minute hike up the mountain to reach where they monkeys are, but there is a resting area near the top. The website is here, with more information.
After spending a good while at Monkey Park, I made the trek back down the mountain. I was kind of stressing out because my batteries were running out for both my camera and iPhone so once I picked up my backpack from bag storage, I used my portable charger to juice my iPhone back up. Then I switched out the battery on my camera and was ready to go.
Onward, to the next destination!
To be continued.