The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Friday, 15 January 2010

Cute snow monkeys @ Nagano

The main reason of our recent visit to Nagano was to see the snow monkeys at the Jigokudani Monkey Park. We first visited Nagano three years ago, but the purpose of that trip was to snowboard and hence we didn't do much sightseeing. Rob often mentioned that we ought to go back to Nagano to see the snow monkeys, and so here we were, in these snowy parts of Japan, to peep on snow monkeys taking a bath in the onsen (hot springs).

The town that we stayed in for the two days, Yudanaka Onsen, is quite a lovely town. It's a half hour scenic stroll to the nearby Shibu Onsen, which I embarked with toddler in pram while my sister and husband went snowboarding at a nearby ski field (it was Honey's first time, and Rob has wanted to snowboard a lot more than me, so it made sense for me to stay behind with Zak). Not as exciting as snowboarding, but I wasn't going to waste time and mope around the ryokan.

A panoramic shot of the river running through the town (click for larger image):

I love Japanese rivers, regardless of how manmade they are; and a mini stream of hot spring:

Early the following day, we headed out to the Jigokudani Yaen Koen to see the snow monkeys. The name Jigokudani means "Hell's Valley" and the park is so named because of the steam that blows out of small crevices in the ground. During winter, getting to the park involves hiking 1.6km in the snow through the slopes of the forest, making for quite a slippery walk and ropes were kindly provided to tie around our shoes to help with traction in the snow. Having good traction in the snow was especially important for the person carrying the precious 11kg cargo, which was me on the way up, and then Rob took Zak on the way down.

A sign saying that tying ropes on the shoes would help avoid slipping in the snow; and the mountainous snowy terrain on the hike:

Sign of life after walking through the snowy forest for half an hour: a minshuku (a Japanese inn) located next to the Monkey Park; and looking down at this minshuku from above - that's a steam outlet for the hot springs, and there were monkeys roaming all around the area:

Young monkeys play fighting over a ball of snow; and monkeys having a nice hot bath in the onsen:

Bathing with grooming service included:

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