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Where to See Monkeys in Japan

When the Japanese speak of ‘monkeys’, they are usually referring to the native Japanese Macaque, also known as the Snow Monkey for its origins in Japan’s frozen northernmost regions. With both its face and posterior are a distinctive shade of pink, it is characterized by frequent mischievous behavior. Known here as the nihonzaru (‘Japanese monkey’), so fond are the Japanese of the species that dedicated parks have sprung up across the country, where visitors can encounter this living national treasure in natural surroundings. Here are six of the best.

Where to See Monkeys in Japan

Index

  • Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano

  • Osarunoyama Monkey Park, Nikko

  • Awajishima Monkey Center

  • Choshikei Monkey Park, Shodoshima

  • Iwatayama Monkey Park, Kyoto Arashiyama

  • Mount Takasaki Monkey Park, Oita

  • Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano

    Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano

    Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano

    Jigokudani Monkey Park is the source of those world-famous photos of Japanese Macaques bathing in natural hot springs. Located in the Japanese Alps town of Yamanouchi, it is the only place in the world where this spectacle can be marveled at. Surrounded by forest and especially captivating when snow-capped from December through March, the park was created in the macaques’ natural habitat of a dormant volcanic region (Jigokudani literally means ‘Hell Valley’), with the inhabitants free to come and go as they please.

    Though essentially ‘wild’, the Jigokudani monkeys are well used to gawping homo sapiens and so go about their lives paying little attention to tourists. A small visitor center gives an English-language lowdown on the group’s alpha male-ruled hierarchy.

    Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano

    Jigokudani Yaen-koen
    Address
    Nagano Pref. Shimotakaigunyamanouchimachi Hirao 6845
    Phone
    0269334379
  • Osarunoyama Monkey Park, Nikko

    Osarunoyama Monkey Park, Nikko

    Osarunoyama Monkey Park, Nikko

    The historic city of Nikko is closely associated with simians: it is here that the legend of the three wise monkeys originated. It’s a perfect location then for Osarunoyama Monkey Park, or ‘Monkey Mountain’ as it is informally known. The park, accessed via ropeway from the onsen resort town of Kinugawa, consists of a mountain plateau where dozens of macaque families go about their lives in a leisurely style, sunning themselves and taking in the impressive view.

    Article: Monkey Mountain of Nikko

    Kinugawa Onsen Ropeway
    Address
    Tochigi Pref. Nikkoushi Kinugawaonsentaki 834
    Phone
    0288770700
  • Awajishima Monkey Center

    Awajishima Monkey Center

    Awajishima Monkey Center

    This attraction lies by the southeastern coast of Awajishima island in the Seto Inland Sea. Here a 300-strong macaque posse, which is cared for both humanely and ethically, scurries around the spacious grounds and gathers atop elevated ‘rooftops’ specially created for simian socializing. Non-aggressive and friendly, the monkeys happily share their domain with a number of roaming deer.

    Awajishima Monkey Center

    Article: Where to Go in Awajishima

    Awaji Island Monkey Center
    Address
    Hyougo Pref. Sumotoshi Hatadagumi 289
    Phone
    0799290112
  • Choshikei Monkey Park, Shodoshima

    Choshikei Monkey Park, Shodoshima

    Choshikei Monkey Park, Shodoshima

    Over on Shodoshima, on the eastern side of the Seto Inland Sea, awaits the mountainside Choshikei Monkey Park. This is another fenceless location, where several hundred macaques freely come and go. What has them flocking here daily is a highly scenic space with a view out to sea, and plenty to keep them occupied including wooden climbing frames, tyre swings, rock pools, and an abundance of trees to monkey around in.

    Choshikei Monkey Park, Shodoshima

    Article: Where to Go on Shodoshima

    Address
    香川県小豆郡土庄町肥土山蛙子3387-10
    Phone
    0879620768
  • Iwatayama Monkey Park, Kyoto Arashiyama

    Iwatayama Monkey Park, Kyoto Arashiyama

    Iwatayama Monkey Park, Kyoto Arashiyama

    Yet more cheeky macaques, roughly 120 of them, reside at this park situated in historic and picturesque Arashiyama, a 15-minute train ride from central Kyoto. Here the monkeys enjoy acres of land, rich in trees, grass, and rocks, surrounding the hill of Iwatayama itself. Many of them make the trek up to Iwatayama’s peak for a superb view over to Kyoto, as can visitors: for humans, it’s roughly a 30-minute hike. One neat aspect of this attraction is the way it turns the traditional zoo format on its head: while the macaques roam free, visitors who wish to feed them must do so from within a special cage!

    Iwatayama Monkey Park, Kyoto Arashiyama

    Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Nishikyou-ku Arashiyamanakaoshitachou 61
    Phone
    0758720950
  • Mount Takasaki Monkey Park, Oita

    Mount Takasaki Monkey Park, Oita

    Mount Takasaki Monkey Park, Oita

    The entirety of this 628 meter-high mountain, sat by Beppu Bay between hot spring resort Beppu and the city of Oita, forms a nature sanctuary dedicated to the ubiquitous Japanese Macaque. A bus from Oita Station will take you to the park entrance, and from there you can either walk up to where the monkeys reside, which can get a little steep, or instead take a dedicated monorail. Aim to be there at either 12 noon or 3pm: these are the main feeding times, when hundreds of hungry nihonzaru gather to keenly fill their bellies.

    Mount Takasaki Monkey Park, Oita

    Article: Oita's Monkey Park

    Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Garden
    Address
    Oita Pref. Oitashi Kanzaki 3098-1
    Phone
    0975325010
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