Takasakiyama: Monkey Mountain
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.
How to get there
Unfortunately there are no trains that go there, but it’s easily accessible by bus, car or bicycle.
Car or bicycle : simply take Route 10, until you reach the blue and yellow bridge, with Umitamagi (the Aquarium) on the sea side, and Takasakiyama on the mountain side. You won’t miss it.
Bus : When taking the bus from Beppu, you can take any bus that’s heading to Oita. You can catch the busses from Beppu station every 20 minutes, or hop on any of the busses that drive straight through Beppu on their way to Oita. The numbers are A60, A61 and A71. You can also always go to the travel information counter at Beppu station and they’ll be glad to help. They usually have at least one English-speaking staff. It takes about 15 minutes from Beppu station. Coming from Oita station, it takes about 25 minutes, and you can take any bus heading towards Beppu, ususally Kannawa line, or Kunisaki line.
Entrance fees :
Adults and high school students: 510 yen
Junior high school and elementary school students: 250 yen
Kindergarten children: free
Monorail round ticket: 100 yen
Opening Hours: 8:30 to 17:00 (All year), last admission time is 16:30.