Bucket List Item #1570 – Iwatayama Monkey Park
It’s funny how a moment in time can sometimes feel so vivid.
As I’m going through and doing the blog stories about past bucket list checks, I find some items so hard to talk about. I can’t remember the details or how we got there or what exactly happen. I know it’s a fond experience, but I can’t quite remember.
Then there are things like Robot Restaurant, which you’ve probably read about in this previous post, that are forever ingrained in your memory like it’s carved in stone or knifed into a tree. That’s what Monkey Mountain is for me. It’s really called Iwatayama Monkey Park in case you want to actually go there. The park is on Mt Arashiyama in Kyoto. I remember seeing some video floating around the internet of tourists walking among the monkeys with the beautiful view of Kyoto in the background. At the time I didn’t have a real list yet, so I literally wrote it on a post it and tacked it to my computer screen.
I think I remember this so vividly because of the struggle and reward. I remember it was hot and humid when we arrived in Kyoto. We were staying in Osaka at the time and took the first bullet train of the morning to Kyoto. When we got off the train it was muggy and oppressive. Japan hadn’t felt that way until that day. There had been tsunamis in Japan while we were there. I went through three umbrellas on that trip. I think the weather was catching up or something. See? It was pretty comedic.
We were so hungry when we got off the train and it was so early that nothing was open. So, we skipped straight to the monkey park since we had nothing better to do. We were already sweating and hungry when we started the trek. We had no idea this was a serious, uphill hike. Literally just uphill the entire time while climbing over rocks. And guys, Dave and I are not in shape, like, at all. We almost gave up multiple times and kept saying, “we must almost be there.” We also didn’t have water. I mean, we were beyond ill prepared. We thought it was a park because of the name, but it was a goddamn mountain, hence “Monkey Mountain”.
It was a painful climb, but the sweat and tears were so worth it. I mean, you’re just surrounded by monkeys. Monkeys everywhere doing monkey things! And they’re not aggressive like some other places because they don’t need to be. Tourists hike their asses up a fucking mountain and have heart attacks just to feed them a banana, so they’re pretty chill. The staff does take precautions though and have a little building with chain link fence to go in and feed the monkeys through the fence, just in case. They don’t care that you’re there though. It’s like being surrounded by a bunch of aloof cats.
Also, there’s a beautiful view of Kyoto, which I only mildly remember. This was my first wild monkey experience, so I didn’t care about much else. In case you’re wondering, these cuties are Japanese macaques, aka snow monkeys. Did you know no other monkey in the world lives further north than these macaques nor lives in a colder climate? Cute and resilient! My only regret about this experience was not going in winter. It would have been more majestic and way less hot.
BTW, the walk down the mountain was a breeze and was followed by some delicious Japanese ice cream concoction, so all was right in the world again.