Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani

The friendly, helpful staff at Kanazawa Station Visitors’ Centre advised me not to attempt a day trip to the Snow Monkeys from Kanazawa. Not unsound advice, but I ignored it anyway (as I only had time for a day trip) and caught the 8:58am Hakutaka567 Shinkansen (bullet train) from Kanazawa to Nagano. On arrival at Nagano Station, after asking directions, I flew down a couple of escalators and bought a day pass to the Jigokudani Yaen-Koen. The pass included the return trip on the local Yukemuri express train (or the express bus) between Nagano and Yudanaka on the Nagano Dentetsu line, the local bus between Yudanaka Station and the park entrance, as well as admission to the park.

From the local bus stop to the park main entrance, it’s a short uphill walk along the road, and once you’re in the park, you climb a set of stairs, walk approximately 1.6km through the forest, and then climb another set of stairs at the end of the trail to reach the macaques.

The park’s visitor advisories stress that visitors ensure they wear appropriate footwear, but humans being what they are ignore advice when it doesn’t suit them (yes, I know, I ignored advice not to attempt the day trip), and I saw many people attempting to walk the snow- and ice-laden forest trail in the most ridiculous footwear, including one chap in sandals and socks.

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Forest trail to the Snow Monkeys © 2018 Karen Price

The walk is beautiful but quite treacherous even for those in sensible footwear. You need to watch out for iced sections; I saw people land flat on their backs without warning. And while the unfenced forest drop-off is not exactly sheer, it is precipitous, and you’d need rescuing with ropes if you slipped on the ice and disappeared over the edge, so a good sense of balance comes in handy. And bear in mind that you’re walking at altitude, even if it’s only 850m, so you need at least a basic level of cardiovascular fitness. Many visitors seemed to struggle along the way.

Is it worth it?

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Snow Monkeys © 2018 Karen Price

The monkeys are utterly fascinating to watch, particularly those bathing in sleepy bliss in the hot spring, and I wish I’d had the time to observe them for a bit longer.

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Japanese Macaque – Jigokudani © 2018 Karen Price

However, it’s not quite the scene of simian serenity depicted in the brochures. It’s not so much disturbed by the constantly scrapping, screeching macaque troupe romping about in the surrounding snow, but rather by their human cousins behaving badly. Contrary to the blurbs that advise that the monkeys ignore humans, this is not what I observed, and my guess is that the situation has developed due to our endless stupidity. The park provides many clear warnings to visitors to not bring packets or foods into the area and to not attempt to interact with the monkeys in any way, all of which were ignored by some people on the day I was there. I watched as a macaque went for a girl who attempted to retrieve a torn packet of junk food rubbish from him. Another bystander amused himself by throwing snowballs at the animal, which it blocked with a fascinating human-like action. And the way that macaque sat and stared long and hard after the idiot as he walked off down the path chilled me to the bone.

Jigokudani means ‘Valley of Hell’, and in Jigokudani Yaen-Koen, Hell is other people.

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Bliss © 2018 Karen Price

A few things to note if you’re planning a similar visit:

  • The JR Rail Pass is incredibly good value for getting around Japan (not to mention much more convenient and relaxing in comparison to flying), and I cannot recommend it enough. But it doesn’t necessarily cover all local train routes, so check beforehand (in my case, it covered all the local train trips I took except the local train from Nagano to Yudanaka).
  • Although the Shinkansen (bullet trains) are equipped with all the modern conveniences including impeccable toilets, many of the local trains do not have toilets, including the local train from Nagano to Yudanaka, so make sure to check, and take your comfort breaks before boarding.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Muse

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Stylish in Shibuya

I’m lazy technically when it comes to photography. Part of the problem is that I have two sets of glasses and never seem to be wearing the right pair when I want to take a photo quickly. Which is frustrating because my muse is most certainly ordinary people, and for this reason the photography that I most enjoy is street photography, which requires spontaneity.

These lovely chaps cheekily photo-bombed me as I was taking photos down this street in Tokyo and then happily agreed to pose. Of course, my camera was on the wrong settings.

The other people-inspired form of photography that I love is portraiture, but I don’t get much time to do it these days. My good friend Kim is always a wonderful subject.

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For incredibly beautiful and technically perfect portrait photography, see Joshi Daniel’s blog.

For more entries to this week’s photo challenge, see The Daily Post.

Remembering 3/11

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End of a Dream

C-sharp minor
plays through the eaves
of this house
wind-cold emptiness, the ambient noise
of destruction
where laughter once lived.

Shoji, last opened
to plum-blossom whispers
now lachrymose with silent
half-life

a bird singing
for no-one.

xxx

Act of God

Power of Poetry

3/11 – The Japan Times

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Depth

One of the things that sticks in my head from a photography course that I did is the instructor’s mneumonic for depth of field settings: F-stop 2 = 2 fence posts; F-stop 22 = 22 fence posts.

For more entries to this week’s WPC, see The Daily Post.

Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto

Torii Gates – Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto