Monkeying around in Arashiyama

In Kyoto, a favorite tourist attraction is Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama where over 120 macaque monkeys native to Mount Arashiyama roam freely among humans.

Although the monkeys are considered wild, they are comfortable in the presence of humans and are excited to visit with others. The entrance fee to the monkey park is 600 JPY (about $4 USD).

The journey to Arashiyama can be strenuous. First, there are multiple routes you can take to get from Kyoto to Arashiyama. The central route via public transportation would be to take the JR Sagano Line at Kyoto Station to the JR Saga Arashiyama Line for a direct 15-minute route to Arashiyama. 

Once arrived, tourists will cross the Togetsukyo Bridge. The greenery of the trees spread across the mountains is a show-stopping view. They sway across the sky and make the tourists feel one with nature as gusts of wind move through the trees.

A wide view of the Oi River and the mountains from Togetsukyo Bridge.

The Oi River is another sight that streams under the bridge and makes its presence known with strong currents that take up all of the sound waves. The river is a huge attraction that also offers boat rides without reservation to get a scenic view and relax on the river. 

Arriving at the entrance of Arashiyama Monkey Park will be intimidating to most as the steps up the mountain are steep and can be somewhat slippery if walking in the wrong spots. Hiking shoes with a lot of grip would be ideal when climbing the stairs to the park. 

The hike can range from 20 to 30 minutes and can seem narrow while following the curving path. The altitude at the top of the mountain is 160 meters (estimated 525 feet) . The change in altitude can be subtle but the difference may creep in at the highest point. While being aware of the altitude change, be wary of the pathway itself. 

Making your way to the top, there are many rest stops and circulating fans that are for use by hikers that need a pit stop before continuing on the pathway. Be sure to grab water at the vending machines before embarking on this journey.

The park is beautiful with a pond right in the middle of the entrance filled with koi fish and foliage. Of course, macaque monkeys are seen running around everywhere. It may be freaky at first to be so close in proximity to wild monkeys but they are friendly–-just as long as you follow three simple rules. 

  • Do not stare at the monkeys in the eyes!
  • Do not touch the monkeys.
  • Do not feed the monkeys outside food.

Macaque monkeys take staring as a serious threat. It is their nature to revert to fighting tendencies so be aware if a monkey begins to chase you across the mountain! Not to worry, though, because a park employee will stop the monkey before any serious damage happens (we hope!).

Feeding the monkeys with personal food items is prohibited Instead, the Rest Hut located next to the koi pond is where you can purchase apples or peanuts to give as snacks to the macaques. Each package of apples or peanuts costs about 50 JPY (about 35 cents USD). While in the caged enclosure with the monkeys outside, remember not to feed the monkeys by hand. All you have to do is place it in front of a monkey who is hanging on the caged hut and they will grab it.

A macaque monkey reaching out for a peanut

While being very cute, the monkeys are still considered very wild and are not trained to tame their natural responses. Do not mistake a monkey for a homey house cat. They most definitely belong to the mountainous forests.

All said and done, this monkey park is a very special place to be. You can see a wide shot of the whole city of Kyoto from the very top. It is an adventure that definitely takes tourists from normal day-to-day activities to a transcendent oasis that not many people can say they have had the pleasure of visiting.

Nature is often taken for granted, but once you take a good look at Arashiyama Monkey Park it may shift your perspective in an enormous way.

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