We got to Japan with no set idea of where we would go. The only thing that was sure is that we had a JR Pass valid for two weeks that we could activate at any time we wanted. (Check out the following blog post if you want to read more about the JR Pass – it’s the best way to travel around Japan in my opinion).
After getting a guide-book (we had trouble finding a Japan travel guide while we were in China, so ended up finding one upon landing in Tokyo), and getting a train timetable, we started planning our journey through Japan. Our first stop ended up being Nagano. Why? We wanted to see the mountains, the city looked nice, and we heard about snow monkeys. Who doesn’t want to see snow monkeys?!
So one morning we headed to the Jigokudani Yaen Koen (or Jigokudani Monkey Park) to see those cute snow monkeys. If you are around the area and looking for how to get there, have a look at the directions here or see the graph below. It takes a while from Nagano, and requires a 30 minute walk once you get off the bus, but it’s well worth the time as you will see below!
The monkey park is an onsen for monkeys. In fact, at that place, there is also an onsen for humans! There is actually a hot spring at that location where monkeys bathe and play. When we went there, it was the middle of the summer, but I imagine that it must be pretty special to see them during the winter as well!
So as I mentioned, there is a 30 minute walk in the forest which eventually leads to this beautiful onsen.
It is truly a refreshing place, and I think that the fact the day was cloudy just added to the ambiance over there. It felt very calm.
After a little more walking, we started seeing some snow monkeys in the distance. And then we got right beside them!
They were actually surrounding us. Some would pass between our legs, or come running past us while chasing after another.
And some were doing it monkey style… Not sure if it’s appropriate to post that picture here so I will refrain from posting it!
It was really fascinating to be able to watch them eat, play, bathe, sleep, and being so close to them. Being literally at a few meters from them and with my big lens on my camera allowed for some awesome pictures and close-ups!
It was such an awesome experience!
Since I also took some videos along with the photos, I made a Youtube video with both pictures and videos in it. Check it out if you’re interested!
Have you seen snow monkeys in Japan? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments below!
Also, if you enjoy the photos, I would be extremely grateful if you could share this post and spread those little snow monkeys faces around!