Journey in Japan Part 4: Twelve Hundred Monkeys

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The entrance to Mount Takasaki Monkey Land National Park is at the bottom of a mountain. The mountain is 628 meters high, and the monkeys are about half way up. I pay my ¥510 entrance fee and begin to walk the rather easy path. There was an option to pay to take a small train to the top, but I would rather walk, immersing myself in the atmosphere of the woods.

I get to some stairs and there are wild monkeys wandering around all over the place. A sign tells me, “If you look into their eyes, they will perceive this as a threat and they will attack.” Not looking into their eyes is actually harder than you might think. At Mount Takasaki Monkey Land National Park there are Japanese monkeys everywhere. Just over 1200 monkeys, to be almost exact. They wander around by my feet, pretending not to notice me, or just not caring about me being here.

There is a staff member speaking Japanese on a microphone. Randomly, all of the monkeys in every direction scream, this occurs maybe every minute or so. The sound is deafening. It turns out I have arrived just before feeding time, and the monkeys are screaming because they know this and want their food.

A crate of food is brought out and the screams intensify. From every direction monkeys run toward the food. The member of staff takes the makeshift wheelbarrow carrying the crate of food and runs away from all the monkeys. They chase him, jumping into the crate to grab food before jumping out again, satisfied.

The monkeys find their own little private spots to enjoy their food. One sits down right next to my foot and munches on a miscellaneous vegetable; another monkey swings back and forth on a swing. I wander around taking photographs of monkeys before heading back down the mountain.

At the bottom of the mountain, there are two other attractions. Across the road from Mount Takasaki Monkey Land National Park is the Umitamago Aquarium, and at the bottom of the mountain path is ‘Forest Therapy Road’. The sign outside the forest claims to, “Help you stay healthy mentally and physically and prevent disease while immersing yourself in the atmosphere of the woods.” I was hoping to go to Forest Therapy Road, but it turns out that the path I had just taken down the mountain was the magical healing forest.

I cross the road and pay the steep entry fee, ¥1950. I am handed my ticket and a nice brochure that says, “The friendly aquarium welcomes you!” Inside, the aquarium is massive. Animals living here include seals, otters, dolphins, penguins, sharks, sea lions, frogs, sea turtles, walruses, and various other fish.

After spending far too long looking at fish, it is time to catch the once-hourly bus to Ōita. Today is the Nagahama Shrine Summer Festival. This is the very first summer festival held in Ōita Prefecture every year. It is famous for rice cakes and merchants selling handmade dolls, pictures, and other unique works.

At Nagahama Shrine Summer Festival, summer is probably the wrong word to have used. The rain is heavy. There are market stalls selling various foods spread all along the side of the road, however, the road isn’t closed. I walk through the streets avoiding cars and following my ears. I find the main ceremony in full swing; around fifty people dressed in purple clothing carrying portable shrines. People bang drums and play the flutes. Spirit levels are quite high, in spite of the weather.

After following the procession for a good twenty minutes, I find that I am soaking wet, so decide to head back to Beppu.

Read the next part of my Journey in Japan, where I explore the Hells of Beppu by clicking here.

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