Saturday, April 23, 2016

Monkey Business in Beppu

My Mom is visiting us in Japan, and will be here a total of 90 days. I am taking her with me on all of my final adventures before my family moves back to the States in July. I haven't blogged about too many of the adventures so far, because most of them have been things I have done in the past, and already have information blog posts for. Such as Beppu. I've been to the hells, buried myself in a sand onsen, enjoyed the Suginoi resort and atop a mountain that should have had a fantastic view... if it hadn't been cloudy that day. You can read about all of those adventures here.

But this time, when I took my Mom to Beppu for the kids' spring break holiday (and three days before the series of earthquakes rocked the area) we stopped by a place I hadn't been to before and enjoyed some snow monkeys. It turns out that Takasakiyama Nature Zoo is only 9 days younger than my mother... LOL.

Helpful hint: Use this Google Maps link.  I used a different one and it tried to take me to the top of the monkeys' mountain, rather than at the base, where the zoo is. By the time I had enough sense, and could manage, to turn the car around, we were on a one-car-wide gravel road with a sheer cliff on one side. No bueno.

Of course, it was spring, so there was no snow, but the monkeys were still fun to watch, regardless, and I recommend the stop. There is also an aquarium nearby, so you could spend a good portion of your day checking out all the animals available. Just make sure you don't check out the monkeys too closely... or laugh at them... or bring in food. Apparently they like to attack humans en masse when they want food or feel ridiculed.

We were also fortunate that there was a Japanese woman there who spoke English and volunteers her time to the park to inform English speakers like us about the monkeys' routine, why they come to the park (they are wild, and not trained... simply motivated by food, much like my spouse and offspring.)

We arrived just in time for the first mass feeding. They coming running for the seed or whatever it is they spray across the lot and it is said to be good luck if a monkey runs between your legs. We all have multiple opportunities for luck.

And then the monkeys were requested (i.e., enticed with food) to show how well they can climb, jump and figure out simple mechanics.

There was a lot of excessive grooming. Some fun facts: The females stay in family groups while the males migrate. The longer the male is in a group, the more alpha he becomes. Babies under a year old are dropped off at the "yochien" spot... a banoo playground created by humans. The moms drop their offspring off there in the morning and then pick them back up at 5 p.m. when the park closes. Some babies don't want to go home because they are having too much fun. Those kids get drug off. Some moms are helicopter moms and never stray too far from the yochien. And the younger and more feminine the monkeys were, the cuter they were... the older males had bright red faces and butts... not attractive in monkeys or humans... ;)

Plan to spend about 2 hours at the money park. Adults are 510 yen, kids about half that. For an additional 100 yen, you can take the small monorail up the hill, or you can walk it for the price of admission. In my opinion, the 100 yen is worth it, plus you are above some of the trees the monkeys are climbing on top of. Kind of fun.

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