The first weekend in March, Kenji and I signed up to go on one of the many GAJET planned activities to a Monkey Onsen in Nagano. We were super exited about it: Kenji because of some photo opportunities, and me because of, well, monkeys!
The day, however, got off to a rocky start, with Kenji feeling really sick in the morning. Luckily, we were able to change our plans since we were one of the drivers, and meet everyone in Fujioka a little later instead of getting to Takasaki early. It worked out better that way anyway, so that was a relief!
The drive to Nagano was pretty uneventful, with a few bathroom breaks and Asama photo opps.
Getting to the onsen itself was interesting, as it took us awhile to figure out where we were supposed to park! We finally made it, parked, and started up the path from the bottom that takes us up to the onsen. Even though there was little snow, there was plenty of ice on the path so our journey was broken up by frequent slips and slides. Especially fun was running and sliding on the ice.
The path covered in ice
After about 10 or 15 minutes of walking (maybe a bit more even), we came to a valley opening with some interesting views. Even though it is winter and everything is therefore colorless anyway, it was still pretty to see why this was called Jikokudani, “Hell’s Valley”. Finding the little geyser just made it that much more apparent!
A first view of the valley
From there, it was just a few more minutes to the monkey park itself, where we bought our tickets and went on through!
Pointing us in the right direction… not that we had many choices along the ONE path to the place!
The monkeys were numerous and cute, and weren’t near as apprehensive around humans as those in Kyoto were. These walked a few inches next to you and didn’t really care. Sometimes it was hard not to step on them!
Oh, Kenji, one’s behind you! POSE! …. darnit, he moved >.<
After an hour or so, the majority of us were cold and getting hungry, so we decided to head into Nagano City proper to go to Zenkoji and eat. Both Kenji and I were super hungry at that point, but we took a few minutes to see the temple before going off to eat because it closed at 4:30pm.
The temple’s pretty big, and apparently you can go in and “see” a few priceless relics. And by “see” I mean shuffle by them in the dark because they’re only show once every seven years or something like that.
Neither Kenji nor I were terribly interested in going down there. Kenji because, “if you’ve seen one temple you’ve seen them all,” and me because I’d forgotten to bring my book for the stamp of the temple, so I want to save it and actually see the temple when I can get them to add to my book for me. So we took a few more temple pictures then headed out into the city to find food. Unluckily for us, most of the food places we tried were closed in preparation for dinner by that time, but we finally found a place with yummy soba and udon.
The temple and drums inside
At that point, everyone was tired and Kenji feeling a little bad again, so we drove home. On the way, we did stop for some awesome kitkat flavors at one of the rest stops on the highway, which tastes a bit like Mexican cocoa, with that bit of spice at the end. I really liked them, and apparantly Nagano’s famous for them. Definitely something to pick more up of when we go again! There is a really nice castle in Nagano I want to go to next!