I always wanted to visit Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano to see cute monkeys in their natural habitat, that’s why when I came to Japan as a tourist I chose this very place as the first stop. I already described in my previous post how we got to Yamanouchi from Tokyo. So, from our guesthouse in Yamanouchi the friendly driver has brought us to the Yumichi forest entrance. From that point one has to walk about 2 km through the forest in order to reach the so called Hell’s Valley where the monkeys reside.
It was a warm and sunny day and the forest walk was pleasant. After about 25 minutes of walking we reached the valley. We were immediately fascinated by the view of streaming water and the hot steam coming from the ground. We also saw an old traditional building of Ryokan Korakukan. When planning our trip we were considering staying there. It is the only guesthouse in the valley and we just loved the idea of spending a night in such a close proximity to the monkeys. Furthermore, there is an onsen in this ryokan which can be shared with monkeys. I am not sure whether I actually would like to take a bath with monkeys, but it just sounded like a cool feature back then. However, as I read that the only way to get there is by walking 2 km through the forest, I imagined how uncomfortable would it be to do it with all our luggage. So, we chose the Ryokan Housei located directly in Yamanouchi instead, and staying there turned out to be a great experience.
I will never forget the excitement I felt when I saw the first monkey sitting on top of a small tree and fiercely shaking its branches. We came closer to the hot springs. During cold winter days monkeys bathe in these pools of hot water to stay warm. I guess it must be a spectacular view, and I was actually hoping to experience a cold snowy day there, but spring has already taken over. So, instead of cuddling in the hot water, monkeys were scattered all around the territory.
Nevertheless, I had so much fun observing them! Most of them were lazily lying in the sun. We walked a little further to the river and saw an active group of young primates. They were running around, fighting, and grooming each other. It was so exciting to observe their facial expressions which were surprisingly human-like.
Being used to public, they allow you to come really close. Of course, any direct contact is prohibited, and park employees watch that visitors behave and do not try to touch or feed the monkeys.
We spent a couple of hours there and I guess we could stay even longer, however, the park was closing and we had to hurry up, because the driver would wait us at the forest entrance at the appointed time.
We will definitely come back to this place someday! It would be cool to see it covered in snow next time.
Photos taken in March 2018