Day 11 | Snow Monkey Tour
Tours aren't something we usually do when we are on holidays, but so glad we booked this one at the last minute. The tour started from Hakuba and our Australian/Japanese tour guide Kenji had so many fascinating stories and facts about the area as we drove about an hour and a half on the bus to get to the monkey park. He even brought along his guitar and played some old Japanese songs for us.
We arrived at the Jigokudani wild monkey park and it was about a 30min walk up to the hot springs in the mountain. The park is home to about 200 wild monkeys who spend their days soaking in the natural hot springs, keeping warm from the harsh winter. Although it was quite sunny today so apparently they prefer to be higher up on the mountain in the sun so there were a lot fewer at the springs. The park was opened in 1964 and is considered to be the only place in the world to see snow monkeys bathing in the wild. It was such an amazing experience to watch them soak in the hot springs, clean each other and play in the snow. You could get so close to them and they just moves freely around the park. We were so mesmerised by how similar they are to us, their facial expressions and they way they use their hands. We could have watched for hours, but we only had a limited time before departing from the monkey park and heading to the historic town of Obuse for lunch. Lunch was a delicious traditional Japanese hot pot with a glass of Sake.
After a quick look around the town of Obuse, the next stop was the Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City. It has a history of over 1400 years and is one of Japan's most admired temples and houses the first image of Buddha brought to Japan in the 7th century. The streets surrounding the temple are lined with lantern lit shops and tiered roofed stalls, souvenir shops and galleries. There were also food carts along the street in celebration of the new year.