Nagano adventure pt. 3/3: Snow Monkeys!

Welcome to part three of my Nagano adventure (sorry to be so slow in posting this)! Please check out part one and part two as well.

On the Monday (21st March), it was finally time for the main part of our trip. The whole reason to go to Nagano was to see snow monkeys. These snow monkeys (wild Japanese Macaques) are famous because they live in the snowy mountains and come down to the hot springs to bathe. I had read about them and seen them online in a number of places, including here and here, and thought they looked amazing. Everything I had seen online didn’t prepare me for the reality though!

First, we had to walk to Jigokudani Monkey Park (地獄谷野猿公苑 Jigokudani Yaen Kōen). It’s not directly accessible by car, and we had to walk along a really snowy, icy, mountain path. It was scary and I walked very slowly, so it took a bit longer than the predicted 30 minutes!

Entrance to the Snowy path to Jigokudani

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Snowy path to Jigokudani

The area around the monkey park was so interesting – you could see steam literally rising up from the land where the natural hot springs were, and snow on the mountains in the background.

Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

As we were approaching the monkey park, I spotted some men bathing in a “rotenburo” (outside hot spring bath).

Rotenburo (outside bath)

As soon as I spotted the men in the bath, I spotted the nearby monkeys scampering down the mountains! They were so close they could have easily joined the men! They didn’t seem to be bothering each other though.

Entrance to the monkey park was a mere 500 Yen. It wasn’t quite the touristy place I had imagined (no gift shop and, actually, no other foreigners – although I’m sure that was more due to the recent earthquakes than anything else as there are usually a lot of foreigners there).

As soon as we entered there were monkeys literally at our feet!

Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

I was really scared at first and couldn’t help thinking that my friend and I were going to be attacked by wild monkeys and left to die in the isolated mountains. But actually, they didn’t try to touch us or anything. I had heard that you mustn’t make eye contact with the monkeys as it can freak them out or threaten them, so I was constantly aware of that as I wandered around looking at the monkeys. But it was very hard to look at them without looking at their eyes! They were so interesting to watch, and absolutely gorgeous!

I took literally hundreds of photos, which you can see here, but here’s a selection of the best:

Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

Snow Monkey Live Cam

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

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Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

It was raining, so it wasn’t easy to get good pictures or videos, but I did shoot a couple of videos too:

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My weekend in Nagano was one of the best trips I have had in Japan. I can’t recommend the snow monkey experience enough! It’s not easy to do without some Japanese, but please try if you’re going to be in Japan for enough time. If you have any questions about how to do it, feel free to contact me and I will do my best to help you!

Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani, Nagano, 21st March 2011

LINKS

This is a Show Me Japan entry. Don’t forget to check out the others! :)



6 thoughts on “Nagano adventure pt. 3/3: Snow Monkeys!

  1. Awesome!!! We get plenty of monkeys in Nikko, and people claim that they do like to bathe in backyard onsens, but if you ever ask someone if they’ve actually seen it, they tell you that no, they haven’t. And they will always start with the Nagano monkeys sitting in hot springs. And speaking of Nagano monkeys, it seems they have much better lives than their cousins in Nikko.

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    • I’ve heard about the monkeys in Nikko – I’d love to see them someday. Actually, I was planning to take a day trip from Tokyo to Nikko in April, but I thought I had better cancel my plans as I assumed the trains would be pretty unreliable and there might be blackouts. What do you think?

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  2. Ohhh, man, I have to agree–visiting Nagano & the monkey onsen was definitely one of my best experiences in Japan. It really made me happy :) Which reminds me, I still haven’t blogged it! I should get on that!

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