Visiting the Snow Monkeys

Way back when in February, we went skiing in Nagano. We went to the Shiga Kogen resort, I believe on the same mountain range as where the Winter Olympics were held in 1998, but round the corner a bit. Indeed, we stayed in the same hotel as the German Olympic team, and they’ d left some memorabilia and signed flags in the dining room.

About a 15 minute bus ride from our hotel was the famous snow monkey park. Outside of Japan, the image of monkeys flocking to the hot pools of water for warmth is quite familiar; however, it appeared to be completely unknown to the Japanese people I talked to about it. Being one of the stereotypical tourist areas, and being stereotypical tourists we paid it a visit.


From the bus stop, it was about a  forty-minute walk through the forest to this small collection of houses. The entrance to the monkey park is up the steps in the background.

The monkeys were happy just milling about in the sun. Although it was chilly, it seemed perfect weather to top up their tan.

We were a little disappointed by the general lack of snow. On the bus from Nagano station to our hotel, we were getting a bit worried that there wouldn’t actually be enough for skiing! Because it must have been quite a mild day (although it certainly didn’t feel like it!) there were only patches of snow, so the real money shot of monkeys in the snow was impossible.Thankfully, that night there was a big downpour (is that even the right word for snow?) and skiing the following day was fine.

At the back of the park was the pool which usually provides the famous shot of the monkeys in the snow, although that was sadly impossible on this trip!

As you can see, some people had a proper professional setup and were taking the whole photo-taking a little seriously.