Monkeys are a very familiar symbol in the religion, folklore, and art of Japan, as well as in Japanese proverbs and idiomatic expressions.
Since with 8th-century until now, monkeys were mediators between gods and humans; then a “scapegoat” – tricksters and dislikable people. Commonly, Japanese portray the monkey as representing undesirable humans that are to be ridiculed.
Here comes the year of Monkey! And if you cannot find any amazing as well as wild but friendly enough places to enjoy together with your company and families, then I’m sure these Monkey-theme parks will make your trip in Japan memorable:
1. Mt. Takao Monkey Park
Mt. Takao Monkey Park and Wildflower Garden are in Mount Takao, a mountain located about 45mins by train from central Tokyo. You can enjoy the park and the garden with just one ticket. The park is famous for park docents who present humorous talk shows about rules and daily life of about 60 monkeys live in groups, form a small society and answer questions from visitors. Each monkey in the park has his or her own name and is full of a character. Some monkeys respond when called out their name and others perform tightrope stunts.
In the Wildflower Garden next to the Monkey Park, about 300 kinds of native grasses bear pretty little flowers in their seasons. Originally, a multitude of native grasses used to grow naturally on Mt. Takao and its surrounding area but the number and variety dropped steeply due to waves of development. The garden is established to protect native grasses and designed for observation in their natural state. Showing themselves as they are, monkeys and plants would soothe your heart.
Takao-machi, Hachioji, Tokyo
By Train: 3mins walk from Takao-san Station on the Takaotozan Cable Car (about one and a half hours from Tokyo Station).
By Car: 30mins from Hachioji Interchange on the Chuo Expressway.
Adult (Junior High Students and Older) 420yen. Children (3 years old and Older) 210yen. For Group discounts, visit website for more information
9:30-16:00 (Jan, Feb and Dec), 10:00-16:30 (Mar and Apr), 9:30-16:30 (May to Nov)
2. Ueno Zoo
Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo is a world class zoo with animals and birds from around the globe. Best of all, its settings imitate the wild, meaning the animals can be observed in what come pretty close to their native habitats. Ueno Zoo is divided into 63 main sections, grouped into such categories as the Gorilla and Tiger’s Forest, Japanese Animals, The Children’s Zoo (with animal petting area), Animals of Africa, a Birdhouse, and the Vivarium (turtles and reptiles).
The big attractions at Ueno Zoo are the big animals: elephants, gorillas, polar bears, giraffes, etc. However, a huge area is dedicated to showing Japanese monkeys and called “saru-yama”, literally meaning “monkey mountain”. The saru-yama has a long history, 2011 was the 80th anniversary of monkey mountain.
9-83 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo
5-10mins walk from JR Ueno Station, Subway Ueno Stations (Ginza-line or Hibiya-line), Keisei Ueno Station, or Subway Nezu Station (Chiyoda-line).
Adult (16-64ys) 600yen. Seniors (65+) 300yen. Students (13-15ys) 200yen. Children (below 12ys) free. For more discounts visit website for more information
9:30 to 17:00 (last entrance 16:00).
Closed every Monday and December 29 through January 1.
3. Jigokudani Monkey Park
This is a place in Nagano where you can see “snow monkeys” (Japanese Macaque) chilling out in an onsen hot spring. The Jigokudani Yaenkoen park opened in 1964 and since then many thousands of people from around the world have visited the park to observe the lifestyle of the Japanese Macaque. The Japanese Macaque is a monkey species native to northern Japan, and is the most northern-living non-human primate, surviving winter temperatures of below -15 °C. They have brown-gray fur, a red face, hands and bottom, and a short tail – and often seem remarkably human-like.
The park is located in the Yokoyu River valley, which flows down from Shiga Kogen. At an elevation of 850 meters, the area is called Jigokudani (“Hell’s Valley”) due to the steep cliffs and hot water steaming out from the earth’s surface. It’s also a fairly harsh environment in winter with snow on the ground for a third of the year, but it is also a paradise for the couple of hundred monkeys that live there.
6845 Hirao, Amanouchi-machi, Shimotakai-gun, Nagano-ken
From Tokyo JR Hokuriku Shinkansen (via Nagano) / Kagayaki Hakutaka Asama (fastest 85mins) to Nagano Station, then take “Nagano Dentetsu Line Limited Express” train to Yudanaka Station (39mins). From Yudanaka Station, take a bus to Kagayaki Onsen Bus Stop (15mins), walk 35 mins then arrive at Jigokudani Yaen-Koen.
8:30 to 17:00 (April to October), 9:00 to 16:00 (November to March)
4. Hagachizakien South Izu
Hagachizakien is the largest wild monkey habitat in east Japan, with more than 300 wild monkeys. The park first began taking care of the wild monkeys in 1953 by a man named Yohei Hida who lived at Ihama. Although now there are staffs to take care of the daily life of monkeys, these monkeys mainly live in the mountainous area, and feed by themselves.
There are few faculties for the monkey including swings, pools and log houses. There was a small shop where you can buy monkey foods to feed the monkeys outside. These foods were monkeys’ favorite food, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes.
2622-1, Ihama, Minami-izu-cho, Kamo-gun, Shizuoka
From Atami station to Izukyu Shimoda Station (1hr20mins), then take a bus to Hagachizakien (1hr 30 mins)
8:30-16:50 (Mar. 16th to Oct. 15), 8:30-16:30 (Oct. 16 to Mar. 15)
Adults 700yen, Children 350 yen
Thumbnail image is from Flickr