For our Christmas escape this year, we’re up in the Japanese Alps near Nagano. We’re staying in the sweet village of Happo-One in Hakuba, spending our days skiing and eating the famous local soba. For a little side trip we went out to visit the Jigokudani Monkey Park, a place I’ve always dreamed of seeing.
The park is famous for it’s population of Japanese macaques or snow monkeys who spend their days floating in the local onsen or hot spring. It’s really quite something to watch these little guys floating around and playing with one another. They are used to having company and so allow you to get surprisingly close.
The more I watched them, the more I enjoyed their different ages and personalities; from the naughty youth running around to the grumpy elders snoozing and watching over them. With them all lined up at the edge of the onsen, I couldn’t help but imagine them sitting in a nail salon.
Their similarities with humans are fascinating and the monkeys loved watching us; just as much as we loved watching them. Buried in Jigokudani or Hell Valley, the short hike to the springs is also beautiful; surrounded by cedar, ferns and moss. It must be an incredible place to see when covered in snow!