If you’re an animal lover and prefer seeing furry friends in a natural environment, there’s a place you shouldn’t miss if you’re headed to Kyoto. The town of Arashiyama (嵐山) is located a short train trip away from Kyoto proper, and has many worthy reasons for a visit – one of which is the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama (嵐山モンキーパークいわたやま).
The park is situated about a 15-minute walk up a mountain – it’s nothing too strenuous, so don’t be deterred! However, comfortable footwear is a must since there are a number of stairs and also some uneven ground on the unpaved portions of the route.
A chance to get up close to Japanese macaques
When you’re at the top of the mountain you’ll get some fantastic views of the Kyoto area, as well as a chance to see these majestic Japanese macaques close up. Japanese macaques are also often referred to as “snow monkeys” – they’re the ones you may have seen bathing in hot springs at the Jigokudani (地獄谷) Monkey Park in Nagano, which is another place well worth a visit if you’re headed that way.
There are about 130 monkeys that frequent the mountaintop here at the Iwatayama Monkey Park, and their website has some of the regular visitors listed. Even though you can get quite close to the monkeys at the park, they are still wild animals and there are signs at the premises warning you of this. Be sure to follow the instructions! It’s wise to avoid looking them in the eye for instance, since this can be interpreted as a sign of aggression.
One of the most memorable things about a trip to the Iwatayama Monkey Park is that you’re able to hand-feed the monkeys through a wire mesh wall. The park sells bags of monkey-friendly eats, including sliced apples and you guessed it, bananas, for a small additional fee. The monkeys really are quite patient and will gently take the food from your hand. If you’re not game to try feeding them yourself, you can watch the staff at the monkey park feed the group at around 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily. They scatter food on the ground and the monkeys flock to it!
If you want to experience Japanese macaques up close in a gorgeous natural setting, the Iwatayama Monkey Park is well worth a visit. It has certainly left me with memories that will last a lifetime.
Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama Information
- Official Website (in English): http://www.monkeypark.jp/english/index.html
- Address: 8 Arashiyama Genrokuyama-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto Prefecture 616-0007
- They are open every day of the year, but their opening hours differ slightly depending on the season.
- During spring and summer, the park allows admission from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
- In winter, admission hours are reduced to 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
- In autumn as they transition to their shorter opening hours, admission hours are gradually decreased by 15 minutes at a time.
- Adult (over 15 years): 550 yen
- Children (4-15 years): 250 yen
- Children under 4 years: Free
- The Iwatayama Monkey Park is located within walking distance from the Hankyu Arashiyama, JR Saga-Arashiyama, and Randen Arashiyama Stations.
- The closest bus station to the Monkey Park is Arashiyama Koen. The Number 28 Kyoto City Bus which you can board from Kyoto Station stops here.
- Alternatively, bus routes 11 and 93 stop at the nearby Arashiyama stop which is still in walking distance from the park.