Wild Snow Monkeys – Jigokudani Yaen-koen, Japan

Snow Monkeys - Redterrain

Japanese Snow Monkeys - 2015 Copyright - RedterrainJapanese Snow Monkeys - 2015 Copyright - RedterrainJapanese Snow Monkeys - 2015 Copyright - RedterrainJapanese Snow Monkeys - 2015 Copyright - RedterrainScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 6.34.32 PMJigokudani Onsen Korakukan - JapanScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 6.33.50 PM To make the most of our stay, we booked one night at a “Jigokudani Onsen Korakukan”.  It has been family run for over seven generations and is 200 metres from the entrance to the park.  While it was expensive, we would easily have paid double to do this again.  In the morning and evening the monkey will climb the roof and even join you in the onsen (hot spring) outside if you’re inclined.

The rooms are traditional japanese with paper walls, and a small sitting area, along with a futon bed that rests on the floor. Included in the room price ($280.00AUD) are a traditional (delicious) dinner and breakfast as well as welcome tea and sticky rice treats. We spent our dinner along side the only other guest at the hotel.

It was at this meal, that Mike and I both tried crickets for the first time!  We became painfully aware that we did not know what to do with half of the food in front of us.  There was a long moment of eyeballing each other and giving sideways glances to the man at our right.  We were hoping that we could follow his lead… luckily he noticed us struggling and showed us what to do.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 7.04.28 PM

Ryuji Nobuka is 78 years old and is a retired teacher.  He was travelling on his own, and generously shared some sake with us over dinner.  Mike and he polished off the sake, as I was having trouble swallowing more than a tiny sip at a time.  There was plenty to laugh and talk about.  Whenever things got tricky (and I couldn’t mime) we used out translator.  We spoke with our new friend for two hours.

Ryuji told us that his name meant “Two Dragons” which is probably the coolest name I’ve ever heard.  He thought my name initially was “Holy”, however I explained it was actually “Holly” which is a plant with a berries that is quite poisonous.  Mike, well his name just means Mike…  It’s very interesting what our names translate to.

He invited us to visit with him in Kyoto, when we return to Japan.  We took portraits of each other (as he is an avid photographer too) and have made the promise to keep in touch via email.  Mike and I were both really pleased to have met him and to have shared such a lovely dinner (and breakfast).

When we get back to Australia Mike and I are going to put together a care package for him and send it as a surprise.
Japanese Snow Monkey - Copyright Redterrain 2015Japanese Snow Monkey - Copyright Redterrain 2015Japanese Snow Monkey - Copyright Redterrain 2015Japanese Snow Monkey - Copyright Redterrain 2015

This little one was upset, he had been pushed out of a group cuddle and was screaming at his friends at this point.Japanese Snow Monkey - Copyright Redterrain 2015Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 6.29.57 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 6.29.32 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 6.28.36 PMJapanese Snow Monkey - Copyright Redterrain 2015Japanese Snow Monkey - Copyright Redterrain 2015

Jigokudani Yaen-koen, Snow Monkey Park was the highlight of our time in Japan so far.  If you have time and are in the Nagano region, it is well worth the trip. These monkeys are wild, and have been soaking in these hot springs for over 150 years.

You are encouraged to take photographs, however feeding and long eye contact are discouraged.  Understandably so, every so often one of the females would become territorial, and start to show her long front teeth to a tourist who got too close!

As I post this blog, I think back to the first time I saw images of these monkeys in National Geographic.

It feels surreal to have encountered them in real life.  They have this playful nature, and the ability to bring great joy and happiness.  I found myself grinning and laughing out loud while we were with them.

Have you seen these monkeys in Japan?  If you have, what did you think?

Thanks for reading. Holly (& Mike)

5 thoughts on “Wild Snow Monkeys – Jigokudani Yaen-koen, Japan

  1. Holly, once again you have given me the pleasure of “time warp”. Reading this piece is like watching videos. I haven’t explored Japan like you have. I had two hours in lay-over at Jakarta International Airport back in 1992, on my way here in America. That was the closest I’ve encountered Japan. My brother is stationed in Japan and will soon be coming back home later this year. I will peruse his collection of photos and perhaps use them for blogging-
    These monkeys are adorable. I can only imagine how much joy it brought you being there with them in person-

    Katz-

    Liked by 1 person

    • The monkeys gave me so much joy. I literally was overwhelmed with happiness. They were so funny, silly, loving aggressive…everything we humans are. I hope your brother enjoyed his time East. It’s a fascinating country.
      x
      Holly

      Like

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