I’d like to think I had a calm conversation with the hubby about this one, a casual “hey did you know you can see monkeys in the snow in Japan?”
But when I saw some National Geographic Pictures of the Nagano snow monkeys while figuring out our Japan trip I probably brought this on with a piercing scream from wherever I was when I saw the post:
“MUST SEE MONKEYS!!!!!” I think he had to check that I hadn’t injured myself.
The more I researched, the more I realized how futile the reality of actually seeing these monkeys was becoming without driving my family crazy . The trek to see them was a little long and far away from anything else we were doing in Japana. Our suitcases were already stuffed and I would probably have to add more shoes and warmer clothes. And as much as we all love animals, with two wild boys and a husband somewhat underwelmed by bathing monkeys, I was scared this would be an absolute travel disaster.
I mourned the fact that monkeys just weren’t going to happen this time until I found out there were similar monkeys in a city called Arashiyama. This was a city we could easily make it to if we stayed in Kyoto. So my snow monkey dream became a plight to see Japanese Macaques in Iwatayama Park. (serving perhaps a gateway for future snow monkey travel….)
Thankfully, staying in Kyoto made a great stop on the way up north from Kochi. We left Kochi at noon and were able to check into our hotel and make it to the Fushimi Inari shrine at dusk and watch the sun set on the red pillars. Even the boys thought this was
absolutely amazing and they wanted to make the whole trek up the mountain through the red torii gate tunnels. We didn’t this time because we were all getting a little hungry and the inari vendors that are usually here during the day had already packed up and left. (We’ll have to come back here a little earlier next time. I was really glad the hubby had bug spray in his backpack.)
The next day we ventured to Arashiyama early in the morning. The town had just been hit by a horrible typhoon and it was humbling to see everyone bustling about and fixing it up while we passed through. The trail-head was easy to find (thanks to our portable wi-fi!) and we began a fun hike through the forest up the mountain. The boys were a little worried at first-where were the monkeys? Were these attacking monkeys? (5-year olds can be really dramatic.)We had read the signs that said “don’t look in their eyes” and that was all the boys could think about.
But then we came upon an amazing park. I thought this was going to be a park for monkeys, but it was definitely built for mini-humans. We played here for a long time and then the boys were ready to meet the monkeys.
Monkeys were EVERYWHERE! One even snuck up on the hubby while he explained to someone how to take our family picture.
When we wanted to try feeding them, we had to go in a little hut. From there we could safely feed the monkeys through the fence because they can be quite vicious. (we fed them yams and peanuts.) We were totally enamored by a little baby monkey and watched him for a long time.
The boys decided this was the best adventure ever. As we hiked back down the mountain one of them piped up “Can we come back again tomorrow?” and I saw my opportunity. “You know, the next time we come to Japan I found a place with the same monkeys, but these ones bathe in the SNOW!”