Leaving Tokyo behind, we put our JR-passes to use travelling north east towards Yudanaka.
Passing by snow covered roof tops and 1998’s host of the Winter Olympics Nagano ↑, where we changed trains and had time enough for coffee.
Once we arrived to our final destination of Shibu Onsen, another train and one bus later, the weather looked like this.
Since we arrived a couple of hours prior to check-in, we decided to get the area’s no.1 tourist attraction over and done with, namely visiting the Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani.
I had read somewhere that one could walk up the hill to the monkeys in about half an hour, but must have missed out on the tiny detail of that being from the last bus stop and not from the village at the bottom of the hill… Either way, we chose a forest route signposted from the village and I am sure it took us well over an hour (and that excludes the many photo-breaks that were made along the way) and only met one couple and two snow trucks on the way. #offthebeatentrack #theroadlesstravelled 😛
But never mind that, apart from my choice of footwear (sneakers baby) getting completely drenched in the snow slush that covered the road, our longer walk through the high rising pines was absolutely beautiful.
Arriving at our destination, my heart was definitely pounding at an increased speed. I could not help but to think of my latest monkey-encounter in Malaysia, especially when one jumps out in front of this American couple, on their way to depart, and grabs the lady’s plastic bag containing the printed t-shirt she had just bought and completely demolishes it.
The Snow Monkeys are definitely an interesting breed. What is particular about them is how they are the northern-most living nonhuman primate. To keep warm during the snow filled months they bathe in the natural hot springs. Other than that, they do all the regular monkey business. (Like flea picking and starting fights over hierarchical issues and what not..)
Back at the Ryokan, we changed into our yukatas before going downstairs to enjoy our dinner; which seemingly consisted of a thousand tiny little dishes.
It all felt a bit like being on a health retreat; sitting in our robes, on the floor, eating a meal mainly consisting of different kinds of mushrooms and tofu (I had requested a vegan meal after all).
Shibu Onsen consists of nine bathhouses, whereof only one is open to the public. The other eight only locals or overnight guests have access to, through a master key that your ryokan will provide. It is said to bring good luck if you visit each one of them.
At first I was a little worried we would not have the time to visit all nine, but finally you do not spend an excessive amount of time in each hot spring. Like 5-10 minutes tops… Unless you want to faint from low blood pressure of course.
The following day was spent mainly on different modes of transportation. Back to Nagano, up further north-east to Kanawaza, before finally reaching Kyoto.
At this point I was absolutely starving and we were both a bit cranky arriving at Kyoto Station. But the higher we walked up to explore this magnificent station building, just in time to see the sun fall down over Kyoto and leave everything in a beautiful pastel tone, we quickly forgot about our hunger.
Above and below are “some” photos to illustrate. (Yes little photo bomb, but no kidding, I have already excluded like half of them!!! Too much pretty)
Our airbnb was like two blocks up this road, by the way. (Pun intended)
This is part 2/7 of my Japan Photo Diary. Hope you enjoyed this somewhat mastic post of two very different towns. The last post covering our first two days in Tokyo can be found here:
→ Japan Photo Diary, Day 1-2: Jetlagged in a rainy Tokyo.
Next up is two days of exploring Japan’s ancient heart, aka Kyoto.