Iwatayama Monkey Park (Monki Paku if you’re Japanese!) is a little slice of furry heaven in the mountains of Arashiyama: a short train ride outside of Kyoto.
There’s a small shrine at the base of the mountain, right next to the Monki Paku ticket booth!
Hide your plastic bags or the monkeys might take them!!!!!!
It’s a pretty steep, 20-30 minute walk uphill to get to the monkeys; we could hear them before we actually spotted any; this little tree-sitter was the first one we saw! The park is home to around 130 wild Japanese macaques.
Japanese macaques are naturally docile towards humans; they basically just ignore you. They only become nervous or agitated if you stare into their eyes or crouch down on your haunches.
It was beyond amazing to see all of these monkeys just hanging out and doing normal monkey stuff. The hardest part is not touching them; their fur just looks so soft, and when they’re an inch away from you it’s so tempting! Argh!
It’s also super hard not to make eye contact with them; you just have to make quick glances at them, and most of them try not to look at you anyways.
Since they have so much contact with humans, I was expecting them to act more like tame monkeys than wild ones, but the people working at the park have done an amazing job of maintaining the monkeys’ wildness.
Though the park workers give the monkeys treats like apples, bananas, and soybeans, the monkeys don’t beg from the workers or hang around them. They’re actually very way of the workers, running up to take their food and then leaving again. The workers’ main jobs seemed to be poop-scooping (there were hardly any poops in sight!) and shooing the monkeys off of the stairs so people could enter and exit the park without stepping on a furry friend.
View from the top of the park.
The only place where the monkeys get greedy is around the ‘rest room,’ where people can feed themselves and the monkeys! We bought a couple bags of peanuts and apple chunks to share with our furry friends.
Having monkeys touch my hand was one of the most special experiences of my life! They all have such distinct personalities; the big, old, fat ones were very vocal and grabby; they’d take the food from your hand, shove it into their cheek pockets (the same things hamsters have, basically!) and grab more food straight away! Piggies!
The smaller ones were much more polite; most of them were very gentle about taking the food, carefully picking it up in between their thumb and forefinger. We gave a peanut to a tiny baby who didn’t really know what to do with it. He chewed on it for a while, bopped it around, and eventually lost interest.
The babies were definitely the best; we watched these guys playing for ages. I’d love to go back again when there are little tiny babies everywhere!
There weren’t that many little ones around, and the older ones had no interest in playing with them. We saw babies playing with rocks and sticks, and one trying to catch a fly, jumping all over the place and clapping its hands together.
The park isn’t just for tourists; there were a couple researchers walking around, and this guy was just doing some sketches. For a park filled with over one hundred monkeys, it was actually a very peaceful place to hang out.
I miss you, monkeys!