February 11th is “National Foundation Day” and a holiday for all government employees, so we got a day off on a Thursday. JET traditionally does its Monkey Onsen and Zenkouji Temple trip this day, which Kenji and I participated in last year. Kenji and I discussed it and really wanted to go to the onsen since we knew there would be snow (very noticeable absent last year), but didn’t want to go to Zenkouji again. Well, he didn’t want to go to Zenkouji again. I wouldn’t have minded since I never got shuuin from it, but it isn’t a big deal. So we decided to go to the Onsen on our own, meet up with the JETs, then head to Karuizawa afterward instead. Karuizawa is a famous spot on the border of Gunma and Nagano where all the celebrities in Tokyo apparently maintain summer cabins and stuff. It is famous for lots of shopping, and I can vouch that the mall is HUGE!
Anyway, we started off early and made it to Nagano quickly, but got lost looking for the park. With a crappy map as our guide, we finally just decided to make a random turn… and ended up RIGHT at the Monkey Onsen entrance. I had to deal with Kenji’s “I am AWESOME”‘s for awhile after that (lol)
The sign, significantly more snow-covered than last year (and all the nicer for it honestly…)
It was with that last picture that the JET group showed up… they got a late start, then had to take a taxi from the station. We said a brief “hello-goodbye”, the headed out for Karuizawa. On the way we hit Fog. This was Fog with a capital F. I remember getting fog that bad VERY occasionally in Austin, but not often… it turned to this weird snow-fog mix later on that made the outdoor mall REALLY sorta unpleasant. We managed to see everything but it wasn’t really good shopping trip weather, so I made Kenji promise we could come back in summer when it is warmer!
And then we went home exhausted. Wee, monkeys! Videos: