Monday, September 13, 2010

I took my monkeys to the monkey park

One thing they have in Asia that you don't see in North America (the zoo doesn't count), are monkeys!  In Japan the Macaque monkeys are the ones you will find by the hot springs (onsen).  They call them "onsen monkeys" in the summer, and "snow monkeys" in the winter. 

We didn't make it out to see the snow monkeys last winter as planned.  When MWR offered a tour to see the onsen monkeys this summer I decided to jump on the opportunity. 

We left at 5:30 AM, and headed for Nagano.  I have to to admit to you what a dork I am.  First of all- all I knew is that we were going to the monkey park, but didn't take the time to research excatly where it was that we were going.  So after several hours on the bus fast asleep- I was really surprised to see the sign for Nagano.  Nagano, Nagano,... why does that sound familiar?  Duh!  1998 Winter Olympics, perhaps?

Nagano is absolutely beautiful and green.  We stopped several times at various fruit markets.  They are famous for apples, but also have delicious peaches and plums.  Oh- and grapes- GIANT purple grapes.  I really should have taken pictures of the fruit.

No pictures of the fruit market- but here are some apple(?) trees that lined the roads.

We headed for Jigokudani Yaenkoen- the Jigokudani Monkey Park.  Jigokudani translates to Hell's Valley.  It is called that because of the steep cliffs and the hot springs coming out of the ground- it resembled hell.  But actually people and monkeys alike enjoy the onsen.  Generally people stay out of the monkeys' onsen- though the monkeys have been known to invite themselves over to the "people side".  It sounds pretty funny to me since many people "take onsen" in the buff.  Now add a monkey to the mix... get the picture?

We thoroughly enjoyed the monkey park.  Now, before we went in (read- hiked 20 minutes to the top), we were warned not to bring food, and never "eyeball" the monkeys- they see that as an aggressive act.  They also warned us that while the monkeys LOOK cute and cuddly- they in fact can be quite dangerous.

So we walked in and I expected to see a few here and there.  But instead, there were monkeys walking everywhere, even in between our legs!  One had to be careful where they stepped because little baby monkeys were walking underfoot.

I LOVE baby monkeys.  Brother and I discussed how one of them would fit in his backpack.  Both of the kids really dug the monkeys.  We were a little nervous at first, being in such close proximity.  After a while we relaxed and laughed at the monkeys antics.

A few pictures for you to enjoy:

There was a park employee (Monkey Ranger), that was cutting fruit and feeding the monkeys- here is one of the smaller ones enjoying his snack.
LOVE LOVE LOVE baby monkeys!!
The hot springs water (onsen)
Monkey Ranger man throwing nuts or seeds to the monkey.  I think they had done this before, the monkey never missed...

just in case you aren't sure where to go...
They said no dogs or cats allowed- but it's ok to bring your own monkeys...



  1. I love monkeys! I'm so going on this tour at some point while we're here!

  2. aw...these are great pics...would love to visit a monkey park...and would definitely check my pockets for food...the warning is rather ominous..smiles.

  3. FABULOUS pictures! Someday I hope to have the opportunity to go. Until then, thank YOU for the tour!

  4. Hey there! New reader here and I am so excited I found another milspouse/blogger living in the East! I just relocated to South Korea with my husband and started a new blog, so I am excited to exchange stories with you!

    Don't you just love those 5:30 AM departures for tours? lol!

    Love your monkey pics! My husband and I went to something similar near Rock of Gibraltar. I will have to dig up some photos of the monkeys grabbing at my husband's belt. Looks hilarious (and awkward)! We also witnessed some fat and depressed monkeys sulking over all their veggie scraps.

    Can't wait to read more!

    Jennie Pie
    "Capturing Sweet in the East"


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