Monday, November 9, 2009

Mt. Takasaki National Park, Oita City, Kyushu, Japan

This mountaintop monkey preserve is home to over 1,700 Macaques. Not a zoo, there are no cages or restraining bars. Creatures run freely in their own natural habitat, and visitors can wander through the grounds just inches from the little fellows, clustered in twos and threes.

Every day, just before 2:30 pm, the groundskeeper uncoils a green hose, and begins to spray down the dusty yard. That’s the signal for the monkeys to climb down from their perches and scamper to the center of the yard.

Suddenly the park explodes in a frenzy of fur, chatter, and the thunder of little feet. A simple 2-wheeled metal cart is dragged across the court, spilling potatoes out of its hinged back.

In its wake, Macaques shove and snatch, shriek and claw. Competition is fierce. The oldest and strongest grab handfuls of potatoes, while juveniles and females fight for the smaller bits. Babies, who suckle for over a year, cling to their mothers’ backs, lest they get trampled in the fray.

Suddenly, its over. One blink and you would have missed it. Before the sprayed pavement dries, monkeys begin to disappear into the forest, treasured spuds in hand

Not found in many guidebooks, Mt. Takasaki National Park lies in the northeastern part of the island of Kyushu, Japan. The park is open from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm. Feeding time is at 2:30 pm. Admission is 500 yen (about $5 US) for adults and 250 yen for children. Tel (097-534-6111). To reach the park, cross the walking bridge that connects the island to the town and then board the monorail to the feeding area.

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