See snow monkeys soaking in an onsen in the middle of Japan.
...check that off the bucket list!
My good friends Nathalie and Tony, their two kiddos and I decided to head for a weekend in Nagano to visit the famous snow monkeys that reside in Yamanouchi. We left Tokyo Saturday morning around 8am and got to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park at around 12pm!
Since Tony works at the embassy, they have access to the embassy store which has basically every necessary American imported food item AKA...MUENSTER CHEESE, SLICED TURKEY BREAST...AND WHEAT THINS! I was in heaven.
We knew we arrived when we saw monkey logos at every possible place.
Quick shout out to my mom who sent me these boots for my birthday last year. I had no idea she was going to send them...so one day I came home to a huge rectangular box thinking, what could this possibly be?? And boom! new boots! Being a socal girl, I never knew the need for such legit boots...but my mom has a way of knowing what I need even before I know I need it haha...so thanks mom! These were perfect for treking in the snow.
Once we parked...we roamed around the base of the mountain taking pics and seeing a few monkeys already! We had to walk up a little hill to the entrance.
Once you reach the entrance to the trail, they make it clear that you have to walk 1.6km in to the actually monkey park entrance.
Although the path is a little muddy, there was hardly any incline which made it a real breeze. Also, the mountain views were spectacular.
So once you walk 25 min in or so, you reach this cute little valley right at the base of the monkey onsen. There were a few monkeys roaming around this area and even a dude taking a bath in one of the onsens. He was BUTT naked for all to see. HAHA...gotta love Japan.
Up the stairs to the entrance...
Made it inside! Lots of snow and monkeys (and tourists) roaming all over.
I was surprised how close we could get to the monkeys without them freaking out or anything. I've seen monkeys in Vietnam and Uganda before and they were much more aggressive (well, in Uganda they were straight up baboons) so we were joking that these were "Japanese monkeys" which made them naturally respectful and kind! haha.
And the iconic onsen!! This was a mama monkey and her TEENNYYY TINYYY adorable baby.
LOOK AT THAT BABY!! GAHHHH!
Nathalie, Poiema, Khiro and I posing with our new monkey friends.
Loved these dudes chillen in the sun.
This mama was cuddling her baby and they looked so cozy. Pretty crazy being this close to nature!
We spent a few hours in the park. It's not that big, and most people probably don't need to be there that long, but Nathalie and I are both photographers so we found plenty of things to occupy our time.
We headed back down the mountain and ate a quick afternoon snack at the cafe out front before driving to our next destination.
From Jigokudani park we had a 40 minute drive further up the mountain to our hotel. The road was so windy and crazy but...nonetheless, very beautiful! (just look at the blue line on the GPS!)
Made it up the mountain just as the sun was setting down. What a good day!
Seeing the snow monkeys in Nagano is DEFINITELY worth it. It's so epic seeing them bathing in the onsen like old Japanese Ojiisans. Especially if you're a photographer of any kind...you gotta go. The park itself isn't that big and theres not too much to do there besides take 1,000 photos for instagram (lol) so I would suggest booking a night at one of the hotels up the mountain and going skiing or snowboarding while you're up there. Nagano is pretty far from Tokyo so it's worth it to spend adequate time cruising around the mountainside.
second day in Nagano coming next...!