When I visited Japan this year, I was trying to find some new, different and interesting places in the Kyoto area to visit having already done many of the more popular sights on a previous trip two years ago. I soon discovered Iwatayama Monkey Park or Arashiyama Monkey Park as it is sometimes called where a large group of over 100 Japanese Macaque monkeys (or snow monkeys) live. The town of Arashiyama is about fifteen minutes on the train west from Kyoto Station which makes it very easy to get to.
The closest train station to the Monkey Park is Arashiyama however this is a private railway line. If you want to use your Japan Rail Pass you will arrive at Saga-Arashiyama station which is a little further away however the walk did not take long at all – about another ten minutes. At Kyoto Station you will need to get the JR Sagano Line (usually departing from platforms 32 and 33) to Saga-Arashiyama which should take 11 or 16 minutes depending on whether you take the local or the rapid train. If you do not have a Japan Rail Pass then the fare is ¥230.
At Saga-Arashiyama Station you will need to exit through the South Gate.
After leaving the station keep walking straight ahead and then take a right here…
…Onto this street and walk all the way to the end before taking a left…
..Onto this street.
This is the main street in Arashiyama – there are lots of shops and restaurants as well as Arashiyama Station where the private Keifuku Randen line ends. You will need to keep walking down this street and across the Togetsukyo Bridge over the Oi River towards Mount Arashiyama.
After crossing the bridge, you will need to take a right at the end of the road – there are plenty of signs involving monkeys from this point!
The entrance to Iwatayama Monkey Park will be on your left and the ticket booth is at the top of these steps.
At the entrance to the park, you will find a vending machine that has both English and Japanese buttons to purchase your tickets. Adults cost ¥550 and children ¥250. After having your tickets checked you are given a map and then you can start making your way uphill. It can be quite steep in some places but it is not a difficult walk though comfortable and sensible shoes as well as having a bottle of water handy are recommended.
It took about 20 minutes to hike to the top. There are lots of signs on the way giving information about the monkeys which roam freely in the area including trivia questions and lots of rules about not touching them or looking them in the eye!
When you reach the top there are monkeys everywhere as well as a hut (where you go to feed them) and great views over Kyoto. The monkeys will pay you no attention so you don’t need to be scared that they will get too close. Occasionally one of the staff will shoo a monkey away if they think they are up to mischief! Monkeys give birth between April and July so if you visit during this time you will more than likely see some baby monkeys – we visited in June. Yay.
Inside the hut is where you go to feed the monkeys – yes you go inside and the monkeys stay free outside. There are bags of nuts, sweet potatoes and bananas on the counter which are ¥100 each. You can also get drinks for yourself in here which on a hot day was very welcome. There was also wifi!
We bought bananas and the monkeys which the monkeys loved! You hold out the food and they reach through the wiring and take it from you. As always there are the bigger monkeys in the group who try to get all the food and scare the other monkeys off – it was amusing to watch though I did try and make sure some of the smaller monkeys got food too. We ended up buying several more bags of food whilst we were there!
Just as we were about to leave they made an announcement which someone translated for us as “Feeding Time” which usually happens three times every day. One of the staff came outside with a bucket of food and proceeded to feed the monkeys to the sounds of the Can-Can! Think I’m making this up? Well thankfully I filmed it – only in Japan!
There are plenty of signs to all the railway stations when walking back over the River Oi towards the main street in Arashiyama.