Photo： Border. garaku on Flickr
Takasakiyama: Monkey Mountain
Rut Einarsdottir May 28, 2015
When you think about Beppu, you think about onsen (Japanese hot spring baths). At least that is the case with most Japanese people, and for a good reason. Beppu is swarmed with onsens and that is the main tourist attraction. However, many seem to overlook other attractions, such as Umitamago (Aquarium), African Safari and Takasakiyama. Although I have yet to go to African Safari, Takasakiyama is definitely one of my favorite attractions. Whenever my friends come to visit, I make a point of taking them there, and they all love it. Takasakiyama is actually located right in between Beppu and Oita city but belongs to Beppu. With that said, it was the mayor of Oita city, that began provisioning of the Macaques Monkeys in 1952 and opened up Takasakiyama in 1953. At that time, soon after WW2, when Japan was rebuilding, many monkey parks opened up. This was done both to promote tourism and prevent crop damage. Since the population had decreased severely, they didn't have enough manpower to manage to crops and fight off the monkeys. Unfortunately, due to economical circumstances, not all of these parks survived. Takasakiyama, however, having faced many difficulties, survived and is still standing today. Recently the park gained a lot of attention due to the fact that they named their first newborn monkey this year Charlotte, after the royal princess. The name of the firstborn is always subject to vote, and Charlotte was the result this year. However, the park was flooded with protests, as the Japanese believed that the Royal family would be offended by the name giving. In spite of the controversy, the park decided to stick with the name that the people had voted for. Going to the mountain, you can take almost any bus that’s going from Beppu station to Oita (or the other way around) and get off at the stop called Takasakiyama. Once you are there, you must take the overbridge, which has monkey statues guiding you the right way. The entrance fee is only 510 yen, and with additional 100yen, you can get a round ticket on the railway. However, if you are physically able, I would recommend walking up, as it is a short hike and the track is beautiful, where you can already see the monkeys in their natural habitat. Once you get up to the main area, the number of monkeys presented might overwhelm you, especially if you come up during feeding time. The park keepers feed the monkeys every hour, with the main meals at noon and 3pm. That is when you can witness hundreds of monkeys coming in from every direction, a truly magnificent sight. The park keepers will tell you about the history of the monkeys, how they are separated into groups and other details about their living habits. Takasakiyama makes an effort to provide with educational material and make the visit as pleasurable as possible. The lecture is conducted in Japanese, but some of the keepers also speak English, and they will give you a personalized tour and guidance. So what is so charming about Takasakiyama? It’s the fact that you get to see the monkeys in their natural habitat. You get to come close to them and observe them. You get to learn about them and their life. You get a great insight into another world to whom which you can, believe it or not, relate to.