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6 of the best places to see wild 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.

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.

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 【設施名稱】地獄谷野猿公苑 【地址】長野県下高井郡山ノ内町平穏6845 【電話號碼】0269334379

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 【設施名稱】鬼怒川温泉ロープウェイ 【地址】栃木県日光市鬼怒川温泉滝834 【電話號碼】0288770700

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 【設施名稱】淡路島モンキーセンター 【地址】兵庫県洲本市畑田組289 【電話號碼】0799290112

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 【設施名稱】銚子渓自然動物園 お猿の国 【地址】香川県小豆郡土庄町肥土山蛙子3387-10 【電話號碼】0879620768

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 【設施名稱】嵐山モンキーパークいわたやま 【地址】京都府京都市西京区嵐山中尾下町61 【電話號碼】0758720950

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 【設施名稱】高崎山自然動物園 【地址】大分県大分市神崎3098-1 【電話號碼】0975325010

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