As I mentioned in my previous post, I had the opportunity to go to Kyoto this past weekend. Since I was going alone and didn’t have to worry about dragging anyone with me to a lame tourist attraction that I desperately wanted to see, I decided to visit the Monkey Park in Arashiyama. I had read that it was definitely a touristy type place, but I love animals so I put it on my list of priorities for the weekend.
Arashiyama is on the outskirts of Kyoto. It is incredibly scenic and worth a look, but it has been described as a tourist spot. Sites to see in the Arashiyama area include: Monkey Park Iwatayama, Togetsukyo Bridge, the famous bamboo groves, and boats offering boat rides.
After getting off the bus, I started to follow signs with cheerful monkeys pointing towards the mountain. I knew that there was only one monkey park, so I started to head in that direction. I paid the 550 yen to enter the park and started on the trail. I was given a pamphlet in English that gave a number of rules and suggestions, one of them being, “Don’t look the monkey’s in the eyes.” I was familiar with this suggestion because I had seen it on a blog, but I didn’t realize just how serious they were about this precaution until I saw the 3rd or 4th sign! (And there were more than just 4!)
The path was very long and steep – I had read that it was a short 10 minute walk… this was a lie. The walk took me maybe 20 minutes and it was straight up hill.
I received a copy of this map and it was pretty deceiving – while it definitely looked long, I didn’t realize how steep it was! At one point a sign stated we were at 155 meters high, higher elevation than Kyoto Tower!
(Kyoto tower – view from Kyoto Station)
As I was finally making my way to the top of the mountain, I started to hear the monkeys. There were signs on the trail that provided facts about the monkeys, but all I kept thinking was, “Don’t look the monkeys in the eyes….”
When I finally almost had made it to the top of the mountain, I found a monkey sitting on the path. Here I was, face to face with a Japanese Macaque, one of the monkeys I wasn’t supposed to look in the eye. How was I going to get past this monkey?! What if it jumped at me?! After thinking these things through I decided to throw caution to the wind and move forward – and what do you know?! The monkey leisurely moved off of the path like it was no big deal.
The monkey viewing area is at the top of the mountain and offers spectacular views.
The monkeys just run around this open area and scourge for food. You can pay to feed them, but you are absolutely NOT allowed to touch them – oh and don’t look them in the eyes.
Doesn’t this thing look like it could eat your face off? I knew it was possible – I’d read an article about a chimp attacking a woman. I took special care to try not to look at the monkey’s eyes, but you would be surprised how hard it is!
There was what seemed to be a mom and baby playing together most of the time I was there. It was really endearing to watch. They would split up and then out of nowhere the baby would pounce on the mom.
The monkey park was a lot of fun to see and provided a couple of hours of entertainment. I’m sure the forest would be pretty in the fall when the leaves are changing or in the spring when the cherry blossoms are blooming – so there is more to this park than just the monkeys. Would I go back? Probably not – but I am glad I went!