You might come to Japan and want to visit zoos or other animal attractions like aquariums, but there are many different ways to interact with animals outside those parameters. Japanese macaques are found in the wild in many spots across the country, and they're a big part of Japanese culture - featuring in many stories and folktales. If you'd like some monkey magic while you're traveling, here are three spots to check out.
Kayabukiya Tavern, Tochigi Prefecture
Ever heard of the saying "if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys"? Well, in the case of the Kayabukiya Tavern that might just be true. The owner of the tavern has two Japanese macaques as pets that work at the premises, but the monkeys working there came out of luck rather than any kind of forced labor. One of the monkeys was given a hot towel one day by the tavern's owner, and brought it right out to one of the customers. It seemed like the monkeys learned from watching, and now they are a bit of a tourist attraction in themselves. I'm sure that if you are reading this and you're an animal lover you might be concerned about their welfare - from reports of those who have visited there, the monkeys are only out interacting with customers for an hour a day, and proceeds from the taverns profits go to an animal welfare group. If you're after a unique izakaya experience this might just fit the bill.
Want to stop by Kayabukiya Tavern? The map details are below.
Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano Prefecture
Want an experience that looks like it's straight off the cover of a National Geographic Magazine? The Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano Prefecture is your spot. Onsens are a wonderful part of Japanese culture, and it seems like the monkeys here are well aware of the benefits of them too! You can visit the park at different times of the year, but there's something magic about visiting when there's snow on the ground. Odigo now offers a range of day trips to various neat spots across Japan, and the monkey park here is one of them - the link will take you to booking details if you're interested!
The map details for Jigokudani Monkey Park are below.
Iwatayama Monkey Park, Kyoto Prefecture
Iwatayama Monkey Park is another spot where you can see monkeys in their natural habitat. You take a walk up a mountain (it's not too strenuous!) and at the top there are monkeys galore - you can even purchase snacks like apple slices to feed them at the small store you'll find at the summit. Hand feeding the monkeys through the mesh wiring in the store building is one incredible experience - it's definitely worth a visit if you're in Arashiyama when visiting Kyoto, particularly if you're all shrined-and-templed out! Map details for the Iwatayama Monkey Park are below.
I was so surprised to learn that the monkey izakaya (that I had seen in YouTube videos years ago) actually I located in Utsunomiya where I now live! Haven’t been there yet, since I find it quite questionable, but your report about the condition make me feel better about it. I might go!