I’m gonna be honest with you. Kyoto is NOT one of my favourite destinations in Japan with kids. It’s an amazing city to explore – if you don’t have kids with you. But with kids, especially apathetic and way-too-energetic boys like mine, it can be rather stressful.
Firstly, Kyoto is insanely crowded with tourists throughout the year – making it easy to lose the kids at the turn of a corner inside a massive crowded shrine. Case in point: When we tried to visit Kiyomizudera during their special autumn after-dark hours. That was quite a nightmare.
Secondly, Kyoto is all about shrines. Okay, not all, but almost all. Shrines are supposed to be sacred places. Despite the huge crowds, people keep relatively quiet and respectful at shrines. My boys? Trust me, they are anything but quiet. And they were VERY tempted to mess up that carefully raked rock garden at Tofukuji Shrine. I just thank my lucky stars that they were somehow restrained enough to not do it.
After about a day inside Kyoto city centre, we decided it was time to get out. Because the novelty of visiting shrines and drinking spring water at shrines had worn off for the boys.
So we headed to the ever-popular Arashiyama in the outskirts of Kyoto. Arashiyama is almost synonym with the bamboo path. EVERYONE goes to Arashiyama for the bamboo path.
The boys took one look inside the bamboo path and decided, nope. They weren’t going in. It was narrow. It was crowded. It was a little creepy.
So unlike 99.9% of people who came to Arashiyama, we skipped the bamboo path. And we headed for the much less visited Arashiyama Monkey Park instead. Because ‘monkey park’ sounds SO much more interesting to the kids than ‘bamboo path’.
To get to the monkeys required a climb up a mountain to about 160m above sea level. So don’t say I didn’t warn you. The path was rocky and uneven, so please ditch your stroller. A baby carrier would serve you much better here if you are bringing young kids. Along the way, there are benches for you to take a break if you need to.
The area we hiked through was supposed to be full of momiji trees. But unfortunately when we were there in early December, it was way past the momiji season at Arashiyama Monkey Park. According to their website, if you come in Spring, you can also see cherry blossom along the way!
On a side note, we did get to see a weeeee bit of autumn foliage around Arashiyama on our way to the monkey park.
Arashiyama is actually one of Kyoto’s top autumn foliage spots. But by the end of the first week of December when we were there, it was definitely past the peak. If you want to enjoy autumn foliage in Arashiyama, try to go in the later half of November.
Okay, back to the park! With the autumn leaves gone, it was a rather tedious and boring walk. But at least along the way, we found some information boards with quizzes about monkeys. In English, yay!
As we got to higher elevations, we started to notice that the distant trees around the mountain still had some nice autumn colours.
And when we finally got to the top, we were rewarded with a view of the city below us!
Oh wait. We were here for the monkeys, not the city view. Monkeys, where are you?
They were EVERYWHERE. We got lucky and arrived when a staff came out to feed the monkeys.
Although I say that we were lucky, I think the kids would rather have been here outside feeding time. Because during feeding time, the monkeys starting running towards the food at full speed. Which was kind of scary for the kids.
Just imagine if tens of monkeys suddenly started charging towards you (who happen to be standing near their food).
MF totally freaked out. He just froze there, in the middle of all the monkeys, not knowing what to do. And the hubby had to carry him out.
But really, you don’t need to worry too much about the monkeys. They care much more about their food than you.
As long as you don’t attempt to touch them, disturb them or take their food, they will leave you alone. Just stand at a safe distance to observe them.
Hubby decided to bring MF back down since he was somewhat traumatised by the monkeys. But MY was still enjoying himself and kept saying he wanted to find the baby monkeys. So I brought MY around to hunt for baby monkeys.
It really wasn’t that difficult to find baby monkeys. There were quite a number of them around the monkey park.
After MY was satisfied that he had seen enough baby monkeys, we started making our way down to catch up with MF and hubby. On the way down, there was a children’s playground, but we didn’t stop since we had some catching up to do.
Tips for Visiting Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama:
- Try not to bring a stroller as the path is uphill, uneven and rocky. If you are visiting with babies and young toddlers, bring a baby carrier instead.
- Wear proper shoes for the hike up the mountain.
- Allocat sufficient time for the visit to climb up to the top of the mountain. We took about 30 minutes to get to the top with the kids.
- There are toilets at the entrance and at the top of the park, but not in between.
- Do not carry food with you inside the park. If you want to feed the monkeys, there is a hut at the top for you to do so. You can purchase either peanuts or apples at 50 yen to feed them in the safety of the hut. So you stand inside the hut and feed the monkeys roaming outside through a grill. We didn’t try this, since MF had totally freaked out. But according to reviews on TripAdvisor, the monkeys like the apples better.
- NEVER stare at the monkeys or attempt to touch them.
- If you want to take photos of the monkeys, remember not to get too close to them. Always stand at a safe distance away and use your zoom.
Information on Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama:
- 8 min (550m) walk from Hankyu Line Arashiyama Station
- 8 min (550m) walk from Keifuku Line Arashiyama Station
- 15 min (1.2km) walk from JR Line Saga-Arashiyama Station
- If you’re driving, there is a carpark next to Hankyu Arashiyama Station (click here for google map location). When we were there in December 2015, the parking fee was 1000yen for the whole day.
Map Code (what is this?):
- 7 606 645 (Map Code for the park)
- 7 606 869 (for the carpark near Hankyu Arashiyama station)
Read more reviews on: TripAdvisor
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