I may have overdone it with the monkeys.

Cute Baby Japanese Snow Monkey - Copyright Redterrain 2015 Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 2.14.46 PM Mike took the camera from me at this stage by tricking me into a portrait.  I was taking too long documenting the beautiful forests.  There is a 1.6km hike to get to the entrance of the park.Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 2.14.24 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 2.14.14 PM
I feel like that kid, that’s had access to all the candy on halloween…and has eaten so much sugar that my body reacts in a lethargic, sickly way. Yesterday I was completely exhausted by 7:00pm.  I had a fever, and was glowing red in the face.  I decided to walk in a literal blizzard to the grocery store (which is 10 minutes from our hotel) to get some food.  The freezing temperature cooled me down, but I was feeling achey and tired even still when I returned home carrying dinner (fresh fruit and microwave pizza – which was actually a terrible choice!).

Mike joked with me the other day that I was on a “dizzy – high from the monkeys” and I actually think he might have been onto something. Over the evening I slept through the rest of the snow blizzard and woke with Mike to the discovery that quite a bit of snow had fallen while we were dreaming.

Today is the come down.  I’m resting in a collapsed heap.  I’ve eaten little, and moved even less.  I am a literal blob.

Tomorrow, is our last day in Hakuba before we travel back to Tokyo for one more night.  We’ll then rise early and fly back to the hot state of Western Australia, Saturday morning.

I feel oddly torn.   Japan is an amazing country, and yet there are familiar things in Australia that I am also looking forward to as well. Number one thing?  Without a doubt our amazing bed.

When you travel, what is it that you look forward to when you return home?  

It turns out, I’m the type that like’s to know there is a home to come home to.  To appreciate the unfamiliar, and bring those stories and memories back…that’s what I enjoy.  Mike and I will have many special memories to take home with us. Obviously also I love to photograph it all too.

Until next time… Sending Love, Holly & Mike

ps:  Mike may also be posting his set of photos… keep an eye out.  His images feature the monkeys in action, playing!

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)

Snowboarding in Hakuba, Japan

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.12.22 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.13.29 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-07 at 4.51.03 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.16.10 PM I really admired this guys style… clothing wise anyway, I didn’t get to see his skills.  Either way, it’s a really sweet outfit.  The Japanese fashion on the mountain is really cool.Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.15.32 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.14.22 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.14.10 PM  Selfie sticks are everywhere… Then again Mike and I were shooting with my massive Canon.

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I had this deep fried chicken burger (which was full of actual real chicken meat, both dark and lighter) for lunch (my vegetarian diet has literally gone out the window).  It was GLORIOUSLY moist, and crisp.  The seaweed and light sauce made it rich and unique.  I couldn’t finish it, and I now have major indigestion… thank god I’ve got some medicine here to help sort out my tummy troubles, as I’ve been burping up a storm since lunch.Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.13.39 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.13.23 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.13.17 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.13.08 PM

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We chose Hakuba for a few reasons when we decided to take this trip to Japan.

  • There are 5 ski hills that we can choose to go to (a shuttle leaves a few times each morning and comes back midday, and later in the afternoon).
  • The snow here is insane.  Each year Hakuba is covered in about 14 metres of snow.
  • The area is not flooded with Australians, which makes our experience feel more authentic.  There are a few other regions in Japan that are more touristy, but this one at the moment is mostly frequented by Japanese people.
  • The area is very close to some special creatures which we’ll have the luxury of meeting on Monday/Tuesday (can you figure out who we will be meeting?)
  • It’s not very hard to get to from Tokyo.

Have you been to Hakuba?  What were some of the highlights for you?

UPDATE:

I have been belching like a man for 8 hours…

 All photos of the lady in the white jacket – Credited to Michael Cresswell Copyright – 2015