I recently went to Nagano for the first time with my friends from California, and the first stop on our list was the Snow Monkey Park in Nagano. There’s a natural hot spring (onsen) there, and the monkeys like to go in there and hang out. It was pretty warm out, so there weren’t that many monkeys (only one) taking a bath while we were there, but it was still a lovely trip.
There were cute little baby monkeys, too, that were the size of rabbits. I think they are born in the spring, so we had the right timing to see the little monkeys. I usually don’t find monkeys that appealing or cute, but these monkeys were fluffy and adorable. Even if you don’t like monkeys, it’s a beautiful walk along a mountain trail in the woods to get to the park–very relaxing and quiet.
My friends were surprised to find that there were almost no Japanese families there on a Saturday spring morning–almost all of the visitors we saw there were older Japanese folks and tourists from other countries. We felt that this would be a great place to bring children, since the monkeys are all over–the pictures always make it look like there are about 5-10 monkeys, but there are a ton. I only remember seeing one Japanese family with kids, hiking up the trail, but one of the owners at the Japanese inn we stayed at says its because there’s a bit of a hike to get from the bus stop to the park. It really isn’t that bad, though. If you want a more intense hike, it looked like there were many trails all over the mountain besides the park.
Humans are roped off from certain areas, but the monkeys are free to roam wherever they like, so it’s like being in a monkey arboretum! A monkey jumped on my friend’s backpack on his way to another perch. They feed the monkeys here, so they’re tame and they don’t steal your belongings (…probably. haha). You aren’t supposed to make eye contact with them, so it’s a good place to take lots of pictures and stare at them through your screen or viewfinder ;)
It was a wonderful start to my first visit to Nagano, which I’ve wanted to visit for some time!
Mongol 800, “小さな恋のうた” (Small Love Song) cover