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November 1, 2013
Day 29 - Snow Monkeys

The Jigokudani Monkey Park (nJ쉎, Jigokudani Yaenkōen) provides a unique and memorable experience where you can get an up close view of wild monkeys as they play, forage, and groom each other in their natural habitat. The park's inhabitants are also known as Snow Monkeys for they are a popular winter attraction, when they can be observed playing in the snow and bathing in the natural hot spring.

The monkey park is located in the forests of the Jigokudani valley in Yamanouchi, not far from Shibu and Yudanaka onsen towns.

Today's Report
Snow Monkeys

Yesterday evening after a great meal, I took one last dip, but this time it was in Biyunoyadofs rooftop onsen. You have to ask for the key at the front desk to get there as it is for private use only. Itfs pretty special - and what a view!

Biyunoyado's awsome rooftop onsen

This morning I set off early and left the hotel for the station where I was due to meet other walkers. Not only did the nice German family from Kusatsu Onsen make it, but 6 other people came as well - be it locals or all the way from Miami. Along with Ishinomaki, this probably was the best turn out for any of my walks.

Today's walkers (minus the 40 school children)

From the station we walked for about 2 hours to the Jigokudani monkey park, where we saw the world famous monkeys who, like the humans they learned to imitate, also bathe in outdoor onsen. I was a bit worried none would be in the water as itfs not winter yet but it was quite cold enough and so a lot of them were soaking in the hot spring water.

The tour's little German monkey!

At the park, we also met about 40 junior high school students who even though they didnft walk with us (we were due to meet along the way, but I think we were probably a bit late so we all converged to the park where we eventually met), did sign up for the tour and we visited the park together.

From there, some of us who had trains to catch took the bus back to Yudanaka, but the bravest of us walked back along a mountain path. After that, we had lunch and all went our separate ways.

They almost fell on us!

Onsen tamago - eggs boiled in hot spring water

From Yudanaka, I drove to Joetsu where I left my car and then the Japan Guide team and I went for a gchanko nabeh dinner at a very unique ryokan here wefre staying thatfs in fact a sumo stable, where some of the best young sumo practitioners and students live and study. Maybe this meal will make me gain back the 4kg I lost on this trip?

Speech time for the sumo students

Chank nabe - delicious!!

Today's Program
Today's Walk: Exploring Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen resort towns and a visit to the Snow Monkeys

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Today's walk starts at Yudanaka Station and leads through the towns of Yudanaka and Shibu with their narrow lanes, historic ryokan and small wooden neighborhood hot spring baths.

After passing through the hot spring towns we'll head higher up the mountain slope and into the valley along a nice nature trail through the forest to the Jigokudani Monkey Park. This unique park is a popular spot among photographers who come to capture pictures of the monkeys as they frolic about.

Date November 1, 2013
Start Time 8:05
Start Yudanaka Station
Goal Jigokudani Monkey Park
Distance 6 kilometers (about 2-3 hours)
Terrain The first half of the walk leads uphill along the narrow, paved roads through Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen towns. After crossing the river, it is mostly an uphill slog to the trailhead to the monkey park. From there it is mostly flat (except for a few steep staircases near the end) along a nice nature trail through the woods to the park. No special footwear is necessary.
Weather Average daytime high: 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit)
Average nighttime low: 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit)
Weather Forecast for Nagano
Access Yudanaka Station is the last stop on the Nagaden Railway from Nagano. The one way ride from Nagano takes about 45 minutes and 1230 yen on hourly limited express trains, or 70 minutes and 1130 yen on local trains which require one transfer. The 6:44 departure by local trains from Nagano via Shinshu-Nakano arrives at Yudanaka Station at 8:01 in time for today's walk.
More details on how to get to the monkey park
Lodgings Many ryokan and hotels can be found in the Yamanouchi area around Yudanaka and Shibu onsen towns, as well as in nearby Nagano City.
Search hotels in Yamanouchi through Agoda, or Japanican
Search hotels in Nagano through Agoda, or Japanican

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Daily Quiz
The deadline for answering the quiz question for day 29 has passed.

On which of Japan's four main islands do monkeys live wildly?

23%   All of them
74%   All except Hokkaido
0%   All except Kyushu
3%   Honshu and Hokkaido
0%   None of the above

The correct answer is: All except Hokkaido

The natural habitat of Japanese monkeys includes all of Japan's main islands except Hokkaido.

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