Monkey See, Monkey Do: Visiting Monkey Park Iwatayama In Winter

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After our morning in the bamboo forest of Arashiyama outside of Kyoto, it was time to go to Monkey Park Iwatayama, or Monkey Park, or Monkey Mountain, whatever you hear it called.  After wandering around a bit looking for it, we bought our tickets and started the 15-minute trek up from the base of Iwata Mountain.

This is a fun thing to do if you’re visiting Arashiyama or staying in Kyoto and want to see some wildlife.  Monkey Park Iwatayama is a cool place to spend an hour or two, even in the winter.  This was the only place I saw snow in Japan in February.  It was really light and didn’t stick, but it was still exciting to see it up there.

We had a long day ahead of us with plans to visit the bamboo grove and Nara Deer Park both in one day.  Once we got to Arashiyama we found out the Monkey Park Iwatayama was just across the river and decided to check it out before we left.

We trudged up the mountain (which is more of a good-sized hill) in the cold keeping an eye out for monkeys along the way.  We saw a couple but made sure to keep moving (the rules are to keep moving) so we could see more and take pictures at the top.  There is a little hut at the top along with some benches and some of those viewfinder binocular type things.

After walking around at the top a bit and checking out the hut, we headed back down since we had a lot left to see that day.  We didn’t feed them while we were there, but it is nice being able to look at them from inside without having to worry about being too close to them.  Overall I enjoyed it and would probably go back.  If you’re in the area and have some spare time, it’s worth a visit.

So, what is Monkey Park Iwatayama?

Monkey Park Iwatayama is a small park at the top of Itawa Mountain in Arashiyama.  It is home to a troop of about 130 Japanese Macaques or Snow Monkeys.  The monkeys are wild, but they are fed by the people working in the park so they stick around.


Where is Monkey Park Iwatayama?

Here is the official address and phone number:

8, Arashiyama Genrokuzan-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto-shi
Phone number: 075-872-0950

If you’re already in Arashiyama to see the bamboo forest, it’s just across the river, over the Togetsukyo Bridge, not too far from the non-JR train station.  From the Hankyu Arashiyama station, it’s a five-minute walk.  From the JR Saga-Arashiyama Station, it’s a fifteen-minute walk.

How to get to Arashiyama from Kyoto

From Kyoto Station take the JR Sagano Line to the JR Saga-Arashiyama Station.

If you are coming from central Kyoto, take the Hankyu Line from the Kawaramachi or Karasuma Station.  You can also get the Hankyu mainline from Kyoto Station.  Either way, take the train that goes to Katsura Station.  From there transfer to the Hankyu Arashiyama line.

How to get to Monkey Park Iwatayama from the Arashiyama train stations

From the Hankyu Station, exit and turn left right away.  Keep walking until you get to the street at the base of the mountain.  Turn right and walk for a few minutes until you get to the Togetsu-kobashi Bridge.  Don’t cross the bridge. Walk along the river for a bit until you see the stone stairs on the left.  The park entrance is at the top of the stairs.

From the JR Saga-Arashiyama station, exit on the left and walk down the street until you reach the T near the Randen railway crossing.  Turn right at the T and go to the end of the street.  Turn left onto Nagatsuji Street and keep walking toward the river. Randen Arashiyama station should be on the left side of the street.  Cross the Togetsukyo Bridge and Togetsu-kobashi Bridge then turn right next to the river and keep going until you see the stone stairs on the left.  The entrance is at the top of the stairs.


How much is Monkey Park Iwatayama and when is it open?

The entrance fee for Monkey Park is 550 Yen.  It is open in the spring and summer (I don’t know exact dates) 9-5, but you can stay on top of the mountain until 5:30.  In the winter the hours are 9-4.

If there is really heavy rain or snow, the park may temporarily close.

What is there to do at Monkey Park Iwatayama?

At the top, there is a little building that you can feed the monkeys from.  They stay outside, doing their monkey thing, while you go inside and feed them through some wire so they don’t rip your arm off.  There were also warnings to not put your face too close to the wire or stick your arms through the holes.  I don’t know what happens if these guys get a hold of you, but I certainly wouldn’t want to find out the wrong way.

Aside from that at the top, there isn’t much, but that really is the main attraction.  In the spring you can enjoy cherry blossoms and fresh green leaves on the hike up.  In the fall, you can see the colored leaves.  They even have a tunnel of maple trees to enjoy in the fall.  The walk up the mountain is nice and not too tough.  Keep an eye out for monkeys along the way, too!

You can also find those magnified viewer things at the top to admire the fantastic views of Arashiyama and Kyoto below.  It’s worth the walk up just for the view, even though at the top you’re only 160 meters above sea level.

There are three feeding times and these are basically the times (the official website actually says these are basically the times and I really enjoy that so I had to use it.)  But don’t worry, you can still feed them between these times.  These are just the official feeding times.

  • 10:30 AM
  • 12;30 PM
  • 2:30 PM

These times may change in the fall to control irregular troop movement.


Rules at Monkey Park Iwatayama

There are three main rules at the monkey park.

  1. Don’t stare directly into their eyes.  They feel threatened and may become aggressive.
  2. Don’t touch the monkeys.  They get stressed out, and, well, they’re still wild monkeys.
  3. Don’t feed them outside of the wire hut.  This encourages them to misbehave around people.

There were also signs along the way warning us to stay away from the monkeys and don’t stop on the trail.  Wait until you’re at the top to take pictures of any.


Other important things to know about Monkey Park Iwatayama:

  • You can get snacks in the hut at the top.
  • Smoking is only allowed in the area in front of the hut.
  • To see the monkey troop, you do have to go to the top.  You might see some along the way up, but most will be up at the top.
  • If you’re wearing high heels, you can even rent rubber slippers for free at the park entrance.
  • If you’re visiting Monkey Park in the winter, dress in layers.  I was there in February and it was cold.  We even saw snow!
  • They do have bathrooms.
  • The walk up is 30-60 minutes, but it didn’t feel that long I don’t think.
  • Don’t bring your own food for the monkeys, buy it at the hut.

What to bring to Japan in winter

You can find my full packing list here, but these are things I definitely wish I had with me.

Warm hat – You’ll definitely want a warm hat for a winter Gooseberry Falls trip.  I have a different color of this hat and love it.  Check out the hat here.

Gloves – If you plan on being outside all day, you’ll probably want thicker gloves, but these are perfect for a few hours.  Buy my gloves here.

Hand and toe warmers – If you don’t want to get thicker gloves, bring some hand warmers.  If your feet get really cold really easily, definitely bring toe warmers.  They’re a game-changer.  Buy hand warmers here.

Warm socksSmartwool socks are always a good choice, but I also love my Farm to Feet socks.  I usually just get hiking socks and might wear a lighter pair underneath.  Check out warm socks here.

Warm bootsI love my Sorel boots.  They’re cute, comfy, and warm.  Plus, there is room under my toes for toe warmers.  Buy my boots here.

Cozy Sweatshirt – I have a few different Patagonia sweatshirts and love them all.  They’re great for layering in cold weather.  I have two Re-tools, a Better Sweater, and a Synchilla.  Sometimes you can find them on sale on REI or Backcountry.  I also like to keep an eye out for them on Poshmark (use code REDAROUNDWORLD for $10 off your first purchase) and Mercari (you can save $10 with that link as well!)  I’ve found some really good deals on both.

Long sleeve shirt – I just have one that’s like Underarmour but not.  I think I found it at TJ Maxx.  I also just like these from Parks Project.

Have you been to Monkey Park?  What did you think of it?  Do you want to go?

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