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    • Day 4

      Jigokudani Monkey Park

      February 20, 2017 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ -1 °C

      Despite the early snow, the temperature rose above zero and with that, the snow turned into rain which would continue pretty much non stop all day (the overtrails and rain jacket kept us both very dry, thanks Glen & Jenny).

      Not to be deterred by the poor weather, we made our way to the Jigokudani Monkey Park by bus (caught from the eastern exit of Nagano Station) to see the Japanese Snow Monkey, or Macaque. The bus trip took about 40 minutes and took us through the outskirts of Nagano and along an expressway towards Shigakogen. We also past the 'M-Wave', a building which hosted the speed skating in the 1998 Winter Olympics held in Nagano.

      The park itself is located within the valley of the Yokoyu River and is approximately a 2km walk from the bus stop. It must be said that I found the walk itself to be almost as enjoyable as seeing the monkeys. Steep cliffs, lots of snow, tall pine trees and a fast running creek at the base of the valley made for enjoyable scenery.

      The name Jigokudani stems from ancient times and is a reference to the harsh environment which is exacerbated by steep cliffs and the steam produced from the hot springs running through the valley. Thus the translation to 'Hell Valley'. I certainly didn't feel as though we were walking into hell. There was a thick scent of sulfur in the air from the hot springs and I wouldn't want to lose my footing off the side of the track.

      The Japanese Macaque (there are 23 species of Macaque's spread across the world) is native to Japan and they reside naturally within the valley, though they are not endemic to the valley itself rather they are found throughout large parts of Japan (found on 3 of the 4 main islands (not found in Hokkaido)).

      It was interesting to learn that the female monkeys will remain with their 'packs' their whole life and form a very close bond with their offspring. The male monkeys will however rotate through many 'packs' throughout their lifetime. The monkeys do not have a permanent resting place, instead they will sleep in different locations each night for safety. Also, you will notice the monkeys do not have long tails or ears, this is due to the cold weather (makes sense when you think about it).

      Once we reached the park we found 100's of monkeys. They are obviously well accustomed to human interaction as they would often walk straight past you without you even noticing. Many came within touching distance and one even tried to snatch someone's food.

      The monkeys come down and bathe in what is a man made hot spring. It was fascinating watching them go about their daily business. While it may appear that the man made hot spring was constructed to create a tourist attraction, the park has been used for a great deal of research into the monkeys which makes you feel somewhat better about paying a 600 yen entrance fee and being part of a large crowd of people gawking over them.

      Overall the Snow Monkey Park was a great experience. The monkeys are adorably cute and the walk is beautiful. I would definitely come back next time. Maybe spend a bit more time on a slightly better day to take some more photos.
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    • Day 34

      Jigokudani snow monkey park

      October 2, 2014 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

      These snow monkeys have good lives here with hot springs! They are not scared of humans at all. Also stopped by the streets where the movie "spirited away" used as the movie back drop.

    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Hirao, 平穏

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