A Japanese macaque at Mt Takasaki (Photo: Mandy Bartok)

Takasakiyama Monkey Park

Monkey madness just outside Oita City

A Japanese macaque at Mt Takasaki (Photo: Mandy Bartok)
Mandy Bartok   - 3 min read

Oita city hasn't always been fond of its monkeys. A few decades ago, the area's macaques were wreaking havoc on farmer's fields and foraging for food in neighborhood trash cans. A local official decided to alleviate the problem by luring the monkeys to the mountain with a whistle and food. The ruse worked and Mt Takasaki has been home to around 1200-1500 Japanese macaques ever since.

The Mt Takasaki monkey park doesn't function like a zoo. There are no fences or boundaries, no off-limits areas for the macaques. Human visitors are cautioned to keep their distance, avoid aggressive behavior and refrain from touching or feeding the monkeys. In return, they are given the opportunity to observe these animals up close. Three troupes of monkeys call the mountain home and descend from the peak to eat, play on the equipment the park staff has constructed and groom themselves and their babies.

The main bulk of the action takes place a short walk up the hill from the main park entrance. Staff will offer you the chance to ride a mini-monorail to the top for an extra fee, but if you're in good shape and don't mind a five minute climb, I suggest you pass. At the top, most visitors cluster around the simian play area where a variety of swings, slides, ladders and obstacles keep the park's residents entertained for hours. Japanese staff usually keep up a running commentary on specific monkeys and their particular habits. There's no obligation to hang around and listen, so feel free to wander the grounds and observe the monkeys on your own. While the above-mentioned rules are in place for the safety of all parties involved, hardly any of the monekys display any fear of humans and you'll often be able to get quite close to them. Even the babies show complete comfort with all of the crowds, though I'd still get out of the way if Mama comes running over!

Feeding occurs several times a day around the central play area. If you miss the announcement, just watch the monkeys. It's a mad rush for dinner when the feed is scattered.

The monkey park is open daily from 8:30am to 5:00pm, though the ticket booth shuts down at 4:30pm. If you come in the morning, consider a visit to the neighboring aquarium, just across the highway at the bottom of the mountain.

Mandy Bartok

Mandy Bartok @mandy.bartok

Japan resident for 10 years, with time spent in Okinawa, Kumamoto and Tokyo.