For our second day in Kyoto we booked a walking tour of Arashiyama. We thought it’d be a nice easy tour. It ended up however being the worst possible tour to take my aunt and uncle on. It wasn’t an easy tour for the heat and since there were a lot of things on the planned to-do list our guide didn’t stop to really tell us all how strenuous it would be or give us options to take a break, plus the whole thing felt rushed. There could be many reasons for this, the fact that the company’s system went down and they thankfully realized they had a tour that day and found someone to send out, that we hiked through the morning at the imperial palace or that this was the last full day of our trip so we were all pretty low on energy.
We started at Iwatayama Monkey Park which I had ideas that it was easy. The last time I’d been in Arashiyama, as part of a friends field trip, in the time it took my group to go to the Nonomiya Shrine and make it back to the station another class team had gone through the monkey park and gotten back so I assumed it was just something easy nearby. Also park doesn’t reflect reality. It’s a mountain where you climb for 20 minutes on a winding path upwards to 160 meters above sea level. It wasn’t a smart choice after walking the palace grounds and then from a station that was on the outskirts of Arashiyama to downtown. Along the way there was places to sit and catch a break with fans and information about the monkeys but we didn’t stop, our guide was far ahead of us. Once we reached the top we headed inside the “feeding pin” to use the rest room. By the time we came out our guide was ready to head back down leaving us little to no time to take pictures or enjoy the scenery.
I don’t think it’s necessary to do a tour that includes the Monkey Park. I’d suggest going on a cool day in the morning and taking your time. You can buy monkey to feed the monkeys from a cage. (Probably the best way to avoid getting hurt). And you can also take the time to enjoy the view you earned from making it to the top. The park opens at 9am and is open until 4:30pm. Tickets are 550 yen per adult. You can buy food inside the hut to feed them through the wire but you can also visit when the park staff feed the monkeys. Feeding time is at 10:30am, 12:30pm and 2:30pm.
The monkeys found at the park are Japanese Macaques or snow monkeys. They eat a variety of food like insects, fungi and plants. The park feeds them a large variety of things like: wheat, soybeans, chestnuts, peanuts, apples, bananas, sweet potatoes and persimmons. There are currently 130 different monkeys at the park all of which the park keeps record of and has since 1958. While on their English website the information of the monkeys including the babies is still under going some work you can meet a couple of the monkeys here. They also have a variety of rules for everyone’s safety:
- Don’t look the monkeys in the eye
- Don’t touch the monkeys
- Feed them only in the designated area (the hut at the top)
You can read on your way up the other things they don’t like or what they do like. The park also has cherry trees and maple trees which make for a colorful hike in the spring or fall. They also have a playground near the top for kids to play at. It’s a fun place to go for families, and I’m sure we could’ve enjoyed it more if we spent more time there but in the heat it was essentially just a work out with a quick view of monkeys before being shepherded back down the mountain by our guide.