Mar 14, 2011

Monkeys love onsens too!

Yup, monkeys love onsens, too, like the Japanese. These are known as the snow monkeys, and are very popular among tourists.

They are so famous that they are on livecam!

I decided to pay them a visit before the winter ends. I'm very glad I went last week, the last weekend before the M9.0 earthquake struck on Friday. Nagano was hit by the earthquake as well. But looking at the livecam, the locals (snow monkeys) seem to be unaffected, the onsen is well intact as well. :)

Can you spot the live camera? This onsen is very popular with tourists, especially Caucasians. I almost forgot I was in Japan when I was there.


The snow monkeys live at 地獄谷野猿公苑. Entrance fee is 500yen. I paid only 420yen, due to a discount offered by my ryokan, 上林ホテル仙壽閣, which I will talk about, more in detail in the latter part of this post.

The nearest train station is Yudanaka 湯田中, from there, you have to trek to the park.


From my ryokan, 上林ホテル仙壽閣, I took a slow stroll of about 30 minutes to the snow monkey onsen.

How's the trek like?

The road gets broader as we approach the park.

Tagging behind the local.

The trek is pretty gentle. I even met 3 families who carried babies with them?! Nearer to the park, I had to climb a flight of steps, that's probably the steepest part of the trek.

Wear proper footwear. Though the trek is gentle, the treks are covered with snow and ice, hence proper footwear is necessary. I was glad I bought rubber snow boots for the trek. Very safe.

On the way, here are some pictures of the nearest ryokan, 後楽館. I didn't stay in this one though.

The locals

Do not tag too closely to one, just like I did. This local snared at me after me and another tourist kept following him around.

Drinking from the onsen

I can do it! I can reach it!

Where to stay for the night?
I would recommend 上林ホテル仙壽閣, where I stayed over for the night.

It also offers accommodation for single bookings. Though slightly more expensive for a room for 1. I was so pleasantly surprised to find that the room I am given is actually for 2!

View from my room
You can choose between Japanese futons or Western beds.

And my stay also included 3 meals, very sumptuous dinner and breakfast, and a simple lunch. It also included a discount voucher for entrance ticket to 地獄谷野猿公苑.

It's an onsen ryokan, so you can soak in the 2 baths for ladies (indoor and outdoor) 24/7. All bath lotions, towels, combs, etc are provided too. The lotions etc are products for us to try, and we can buy them at the store located within the ryokan if we like them. And I liked their foot massage machine. The best part I liked about my stay, is how relaxing it was. After soaking in the onsen, I would go to the room next door, make some hot tea, listen to soothing music, sink down in the armchair, reading a book or just watch the snowflakes flutter by. Very relaxing.

I missed my stay there...

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