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February 9, 2013 - Yamanouchi Snow Monkeys & Nagano Zenkoji Temple
When I remember looking in travel brouchures of Japan before moving here a couple of years ago, it always used to include the Snow Monkeys of Yamanouchi. It's a strange thing to say - but the monkey's really are that photogenic!!
There are 2 possible ways to get to the base of the monkey park. One is via train and local bus, whilst the other is express bus. I found catching the train and local bus there and express bus back easier as I seemed to miss most of the crowds. Just remember to check train times as they only leave around once per hour. The trail to the entrance of the monkey park in winter takes 30-45 minutes depending on your level of fitness. Above is a picture of one section of the walkway. I would not reccomend people who find it diffucult to walk to come to the snow monkeys as it's quite a hike and it can be slippery with the ice and snow.
The main pool is located around 150 meters from the entrance of the monkey park. Please note that it can get quite tight around the pool as there is only space for around 20/30 people to take pictures at any one time.
No - it's not what it looks like. Hint if you decide to drive in winter - bring chains!!! Quite a few buses and cars got caught on the icy roads going up to the walkway to the snow monkeys...
Nagano was supposably built around the Zenkoji temple. Above is a picture leading up to the first gate of the temple. As you can see - there are plenty of opportunities to purchase omiyage (presents) on your way to or from the temple.
If time allows, have a little bit of a walk around the temple. It's gardens are quite nice and there are a number of different sections apart from the main temple in the middle.
To celebrate the past winter olympics, the city of Nagano has a small matsuri for around 2 weeks. Many parts of the temple are illuminated.