Iwatayama Monkey Park

April 13, 2010

by Mayo Yoshikawa; Yuka Minato

Iwatayama Monkey Park:

Kyoto’s Wildlife Haven

Do you like monkeys? If so, you’ll love Iwatayama, the mountain which rises from the riverside in picturesque Arashiyama, a popular spot in western Kyoto. You are guaranteed to see numerous monkeys up there!

◆ Our Story

We went to Iwatayama in early July, under a cloudless blue sky on a very hot day. Climbing up the mountain, we became wet with perspiration. Along the path, we saw signboards (see details below), some with quizzes and others with information about Japanese macaques — the monkeys we would soon meet.At the summit, we found a large troop of macaques, and there was a rest house. Walking inside, we were still dripping with sweat, but the staff gave us cold towels so we could cool down.We bought sweet potato, and from inside the building we fed it to the monkeys through the windows. When we got close to the monkeys to feed them, they reached their hands towards us again and again. Even when they were eating, they extended fingers towards us, eager for more food.Outside the house, many monkeys were grooming each other. And some monkeys were drinking water from a pond or swimming in the pond, like you can watch in this movie.


◆ Quiz signboards

As we said, along the path there were three quiz signboards. We took a picture, and here is a translation.

Q1: Which of these is the rare thing that monkeys living in Iwatayama eat?

① Stone ② Soil ③ Chilopoda (Centipedes)

Q2: In which area are there no Japanese monkeys in Japan?

① Okinawa ② Kyushu ③ Shikoku

Q3: How many kinds of foods do monkeys living in Iwatayama eat?

① 50 ② 150 ③ 200

Sorry, but we don’t remember the answers clearly! If you are interested and have a chance to go there, please check the answers yourself by pulling the black handle-grip.

◆ Information on Japanese macaques

You will see a sign like this.This signboard explains the monkeys’ emotional signals. Japanese monkeys have a human-like, hairless face and expressive eyes. In the picture on the left, the monkey is angry and in the right one it is scared. Please be careful to observe the monkeys’ facial expressions. Again, here is a translation.


  • Don’t stare into the eyes of the monkeys.
  • Don’t touch the monkeys.
  • Don’t feed them outside.
  • Don’t leave any items unattended outside.

You can reach the monkey park by walking approximately 15~20 minutes up the trail and then you can watch monkeys, including tiny infants playing. Inside the house, you can feed them, and buy monkey’s feed. It is safe to feed them, because the outside walls of the house are covered with wire fencing, so monkeys can insert only their fingers. There are three types of monkey feed: sweet potato, cucumber and peanuts. Each bag costs 100 yen.Usually, monkeys are inside and humans are outside in a zoo, but at Iwatayama you are inside the house and monkeys are outside when you feed. It is unusual, isn’t it? As if we were caged animals and the monkeys were free.And they are completely free to go anywhere. These are wild monkeys, and this is no zoo; it’s a wildlife haven. Japanese macaques live in many mountains of Japan. On the other mountains, they can be dangerous because hungry monkeys looking for their food come down from the mountaintops and sometimes they romp and take food out of human’s hands.At Iwatayama, the monkeys may be dangerous, too, but if you conform to some rules, you can enjoy these animals very safely.In addition, you can see great views of Kyoto from a high vista point. Let’s look down at Kyoto in this next photo. Do you see any well-known places?

◆ General Information

This monkey park opened in 1957. There are about 150 monkeys. It costs 550 yen for entry fee. Many foreigners come here in every season.

◆ Access

Arashiyama is a very famous tourist scenic spot. The monkey park is a short walk over the famous Togetsukyo bridge across the Katsura river. Here are two ways to get to Arashiyama:


From Kyoto Station, take the JR train on the Sagano Line.When you reach Saga Arashiyama Station, get off the train.It takes 15 minutes to walk from JR Saga Arashiyama Station to Iwatayama.


From the front of Kyoto Station take the Kyoto City Bus No. 28 to Arashiyama. And you can reach a spot near the foot of the mountain Iwatayama.There are also stations on the Keifuku Railways and the Hankyu Arashiyama Lines.Do you like monkeys? If so, you’ll love Iwatayama, the mountain which rises from the riverside in picturesque Arashiyama, a popular spot in western Kyoto. You are guaranteed to see numerous monkeys up there!

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