Diversity Abroad – Blog

Saru no kouen (Monkey Park)

Monkey Park, Kyoto

I am currently studying abroad in Osaka, Japan; last week I visited Iwatayama no Saru no Kouen (Iwatayama Monkey Park) in Arashiyama, Kyoto. The park is home to over 170 Japanese macaque monkeys. It sits atop a mountain that takes about 20 minutes or more to climb. When I finally made my way up, shoes muddy from the rainfall, I could smell the scent of and hear the calling sounds of the wild animals.

It was quite a scenic location; you could see the mountainous horizons, fog and clouds mystifying the skyline. The trees rustled in the wind, some being jerked wildly by monkeys wrapped around them. Some of the monkeys spent their time on the roof of the canteen, grooming or attempting to engage in a bit of mating while us tourists were not looking. Others spent their time sitting around or hanging from the bars of the canteen where tourists handed them banana peels or peanuts.

We were warned not to take pictures on our way up the mountain, show food to the monkeys, and especially not to look directly into their eyes. Of course, most tourists still attempted to do these things. It was quite interesting to learn, however, that for monkeys eye contact is a sign of hostility and for a fight to ensue. I even learned a new word that day, “nakayokunai” which means unfriendly and there were quite a few unfriendly monkeys.

A fight ensued between three monkeys, which I can only guess was over matter of territory. An older monkey was chasing a youngling, who ended up hanging onto a column of the canteen, shrieking in fright. Soon enough, another older monkey came along and frightened the older bully away. While we were feeding the monkeys I saw that the older monkeys would attempt to hoard the food for themselves, with little care for the younger ones. And what a grip they have as well; I almost lost a finger!

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this little adventure and thought that I would share it with you in appreciation of all that I have learned.

I took as many pictures as I could before my camera died; I will be sure to post them.