“TO ADVENTURE IS TO FIND YOURSELF WHOLE”
Snow monkey and Onsen, sounds like a nice combo right? You can find both at Jigokudani Monkey Park in Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture.
To get there you’ll need to take the train to Yudanaka Station, afterwards you can either take the local bus or hitchhike. I’m kidding… The owner of the ryokan that I was staying at kindly offered a ride to the park. In addition, they also lent me a pair of boots. Excellent service form the get go, I’m already loving this place. Yudanaka Seifuso, is a family owned ryokan and was named one of the Best Inns in Japan by TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award 2015.
Tips: actually there are many ways to get to the park, check out this link.
It was a short ride from the ryokan to the Monkey Park Entrance. In case you didn’t have the right shoes/clothing, you can borrow them at the nearby gift shops. It’s recommended to dress properly for the short hike, better safe then sorry…
The short trail was breathtakingly beautiful, it feels like I’m in a fairytale land. It took me about 15 minutes to get to the Monkey Park post. The entrance fee cost 800 yen. It was monkey paradise, there were monkeys everywhere! The park itself is rather small, but it’s clean and well taken care of. And what’s important is that the wild monkeys are not caged or restricted, they are free to come, dip in the onsen, and go.
I spent quite a while admiring the monkeys in their natural habitat, bathing in onsen and cleaning each other. But it’s getting late and I’m planning to hop into the onsen myself. But before that, drop by Enza Cafe for some delicious ramen and matcha drink. In the middle of enjoying my dinner, there was an unexpected incident. A crying girl was rushed in by her parents as she was hurt by a monkey (I didn’t see blood, so maybe it’s a light wound). I assume the girl innocently tried to play with the monkey… so BEWARE, don’t bother them or try to pick on the monkey as they are wild animals after all.
Back in my ryokan and ready with my yukata, I can’t wait to soak my tired limbs in the onsen. Here at Yudanaka Seifuso, they offer four hot-spring baths. And being the onsen enthusiast that I am, I was determined to try all of them. The bath has it’s own time schedule for men and women, but if you’re going as a family they also allow mix (if the bath is empty). My first dip is the apple bath, then the two indoor baths, and finally the outdoor bath. I personally like the apple bath best as the soaked apples smell very sweet and calming, but the outdoor bath was equally awesome and enchanting with it’s authentic Japanese feel.
Finally after soaking in all four baths I was satisfied and made my way back to my room. But before that, I spotted something amazing: Eiji Wents was once a guest here and his picture is posted on the wall (childhood crush anyone??). I’m pretty sure that’s him, the third guy from the left with blue jeans and making peace signs with both hands…
I can’t emphasize enough how much I love this place. The interior was spot on (love the traditional approach), the service was excellent, the futon, the yukata, and the KOTATSU! Finally, dream come true… watching some random japanese variety show (that I couldn’t understand) while eating snacks and drinking tea under a warm kotatsu. It was heaven~~
It was a short trip to Nagano, but I’ll definitely come again to this place. I had a blast here and will give Yudanaka Seifuso 10/10 for their excellent service and outstanding accommodations. I had to leave early that day, so the owner kindly prepared my breakfast half-an-hour earlier than scheduled (note: request the day before). I was pleasantly surprised to see the heaps amount of food they served for breakfast. I tried to enjoy every bite and to eat every single thing on the plate, in addition to the large amount of rice that they served. I finally KOed after finishing 90% of the side dish and barely 50% of the rice. Nonetheless, love the japanese breakfast and would eat it again for my next visit.
After breakfast, I rushed to Yudanaka Station with 10 minutes on the clock before my train departs. I can’t miss this, as the next train won’t come for another 40 minutes. As usual, I was in panic mode and my ‘pasmo’ card was not applicable here. Luckily the train staff oji-san helped me to purchase the train ticket and even asked the train conductor to halt the departure and make sure I was able to board the train. I repeatedly say my thanks and making small bows, the oji-san waved his hands as I rushed to board the train. Yet again, another lovely experience in Japan that warmed my heart — helped by kind and caring strangers.
Tips: for solo travelers, keeping track of your time is important.. here’s the train schedule for Yudanaka – Nagano.
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