Iwatayama Monkey Park

We spent several wonderful days in Tokyo before moving on to Kyoto. Our first day in the city promised to be bright and summery so we decided to make our way to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. It sounded like an interesting place. Japanese macaques, also called snow monkeys, roam freely among visitors to the park.

Also, since the park is located on Mt Arashiyama, we thought that it would be good training for our upcoming hike on the Kumano Kodo Trail. A sign at the entrance warns that the walk up the mountain takes about 20 minutes, and the app on Walt's phone says the elevation gain was 38 floors. The climb was a bit strenuous, but not totally awful.

Signs on the walk up issue dire-sounding warnings. Don't touch the monkeys or look them in the eye. Don't aim cameras in their direction or squat down near them. It's enough to make you question the wisdom of visiting the park. In between the warning signs, other signs offer information about the monkeys.

There are benches where you can rest during the climb, and there is even a wonderfully cool air conditioned room near the top where hot, tired visitors can relax before tackling the last flight of steps.

When you finally reach the top, there are many monkeys just wandering about doing the things that monkeys do. They show no fear and little interest in humans except for the people inside the feeding building where visitors can buy approved monkey food and feed it to the monkeys who are hanging on the outside of the window bars.People are supposed to put the food down on the ledge and let the monkeys pick it up, but most people just place the food in the outstretched hands of the monkeys.

As an added bonus, there is a wonderful view of Kyoto.

Here we are looking slightly sweaty.

We finally wandered back down the mountain and across the Togetsukyo bridge in search of lunch. The streets of the shopping district were packed with people enjoying the beautiful weather.

After lunch we wandered through the grounds of Tenryu-ji. We had visited the temple once before way back in 2008.

We finished up our visit to Arashiyama with a walk through the iconic bamboo grove. The path was full of people, but you can get nice pictures of you aim the camera above them.

We ended our walk through the grove at the intriguing Nonomiya Shrine. In the early days of the imperial family, unmarried daughters of the emperor were often sent to serve as high priestesses at the Grand Shrine of Ise. In preparation, they spent several years at Nonomiya to purify themselves. We would be visiting Ise Shrine later in our trip.