IT has a thing for monkeys, so when Jessie Szalay—an English teacher in Kyoto, Japan—sent us this item about a monkey park, we were naturally curious. She writes:
It’s no secret that the rock gardens of Kyoto are incredibly beautiful. But if all those meticulously placed boulders, trees, and blades of grass leave you wondering what exactly the landscape would look like without the help of gardening monks, the Iwatayama Monkey Park offers a gorgeous answer—as well as lots and lots of monkeys.
The park is nestled in the wooded mountains of the quaint neighborhood of Arashiyama in western Kyoto. After crossing the elegant Togetsukyo bridge over the Oi River and passing through a series of torii gatestorii gates, you’ll embark on a steep but satisfying hike. There, your eyes may suffer culture shock from the lack of neon and the abundance of greenery, as star-shaped maple leaves and bamboo trees sway overhead.
Nearing the top of the mountain, the trees thin out and you’re likely to spot your first monkey, one of over 170 native macaques
allowed to run wild in the park. Signs advise visitors to avoid making eye contact with the animals, but that can be difficult to do as the monkeys are friendly, cute, and cleaner than those in your average American zoo.
At the top of the mountain, you can buy a bag of bananas or apples
for 100 yen (about $0.85) and enter the ‘human house,’ where, safely enclosed by mesh walls, you can feed the monkeys outside. Further up the hill, monkeys sunbathe, groom each other, and nurse their babies in a sunny glen. The complete lack of barriers means you’re probably closer to monkeys than you’ve ever been before, or are likely to be again, and the entertainment value makes it a perfect activity for families. At the top of the hill, be sure to gaze east and check out the spectacular view of Kyoto City.
- Nat Geo Expeditions