Monkey Business in Yudanaka
Close to Yudanaka is the famous Snow Monkey Park, where Macaques, young and old, come to hang out in the hot springs. It’s one of the only places in the world where this monkey business is observed.
To get there, after a short bus ride, there is a beautiful 30 minute walk on a winding trail through a forest filled with the scent of pine.
At the end of the main trail, a rushing river roars past, with waterfalls and an onsen, its old buildings perched up on the opposite hill.
At the Monkey Park ticket office, you pay 500 yen (about $4), and head in for a barrel of fun!
The monkeys clamber everywhere, chattering and screeching, about 160 of them. They spend their nights in the forest and then come down to the hot springs during the day.
The park itself is small, but I stayed about 3 hours. You never get tired of watching their antics, and photographing them…
You aren’t allowed to touch or feed the monkeys, or get closer than about 3 feet, but every once in a while, they touch you. One of the babies was running from a teenage monkey and grabbed my pants to hide behind my leg, until he looked up and decided I was scarier than his aggressor!
They tend to be very curious…
…and they spend hours grooming each other…
…and sharing cuddles.
They definitely seem to have different personalities…
…and styles of hanging out.
It’s fascinating to see them so close up.
After the monkey park, if you’re thirsty on your way back to the ryokan in Yudanaka, saki tasting is free at Tamamura Honten. You just show up at their little showroom and head up to the bar where all of the saki bottles are lined up.
The young guy, who spoke a little English, basically told me to help myself. It’s illegal to pour your own alcohol in the U.S., based on my wine pouring days in the Napa Valley, but here he just left me alone with the bottles…good thing I was taking a bus!
Later, I ate dinner at a little local place and chatted with with a nice couple from New Zealand. I enjoyed chicken satay, a bowl of edamame, and veggie dumplings which were held together in a sort of pancake by what looked like egg batter, all washed down with a Japanese beer. A nice end to a day full of monkeyshines!