If you want to check out Japan’s famous monkeys, we strongly recommend this great little monkey park in Arashiyama. It’s a short walk from central Arashiyama and it’s great for the kids.
Arashiyama Monkey Park: Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Forget the so-called “Snow Monkeys,” which seem to feature in every tourist brochure and guidebook to Japan. Located in Jigoku-dani, in Nagano, it’s a pain to get there and there’s nothing natural about it. They’re man-made pools where attendants feed the monkeys to keep them hanging about. If you want to see Japan’s famous monkeys, you can easily do so at the Arashiyama Monkey Park in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district.
The monkeys at this park are semi-wild Japanese macaques, which live all across the main islands of Japan (you can sometimes see them on Kyoto’s Daimonji – hikers take note). The Arashiyama Monkey Park is located on a hillside on the south side of the Katsura-gawa River that flows through Arashiyama. The entrance and ticket gate are at the bottom of the hill and then it’s a fairly steep 20-minute walk through the forest to the place where the monkeys hang out. Take it slow on a hot day or you’ll be drenched with sweat.
Once at the park, you’ll find a clearing with a hut in the middle of it. First, admire the view – an eye-popping view over Kyoto – and then enter the hut. You can buy peanuts and bits of apple to feed the monkeys. There’s wire mesh instead of windows, so you can hand the food out to the monkeys, who clamor eagerly for the treats. It’s an interesting reversal of the usual zoo: here, the humans are in the cage and the animals roam free.
Tourist feeding a monkey at the park: Salvador Maniquiz / Shutterstock.com
You can always walk around outside the hut and “mingle” with the monkeys, but keep in mind that they are wild animals and rather territorial. Take the advice of the warning signs literally: do not get too close and do not look them in the eyes, which they take as a threat gesture.
There’s a small playground down the hill with some vending machines where the kids can play after they tire of the monkeys.
Arashiyama Monkey Park
61 Arashiyama-nakaoshita-cho, Nishikyo-ku
9am-4:30pm, last entry 4pm
4 years old to junior high school students: JPY250
Non-smoking area: Yes
7 min walk from Arashiyama Station, Randen Line
Official Website (Japanese)
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
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