Nagano: Jigokudani Monkey Park [2016.01.29]

Jigokudani Monkey Park was a pain in the ass to get to. Well, actually, not really. Sometimes I’m just a dum-dum and almost miss the last train that would actually give me time to explore the park because I was too busy taking my sweet-ass time drinking my coffee.

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How I got to Nagano: I bought a highway bus combo ticket that would take me from Tokyo to Nagano to Hakuba to Tokyo. I can’t find the link to that exact bus itinerary now but it was approximately ¥9,200 (approx. $110 CAD). Have no clue how I managed to come across it 3 months ago. It was perfect because there are trains/buses from Nagano to the Jigokudani Monkey Park and then I could make my way to Hakuba to meet S. for our snowboarding. This option was actually cheaper than buying roundtrip tickets from Shinjuku to Hakuba (¥9,700). So #winning.

I left my favourite scarf on my bus from Shinjuku to Nagano. It was is very upsetting.

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So, once you arrive at Nagano, don’t make like me and take your sweet ass time drinking coffee and “researching” a route (do this before hand…or if you must do it en route, buy a data pack). I took the early bus at like…8:00a and got to Nagano around noon. What I should’ve done than, is gone straight to the Nagaden Nagano Station and buy myself a Snow Monkey 1-Day Pass (¥2,900). The pass gives you:

Buy the pass, it saves you money.

Then what I should’ve done, is plopped myself on the Nagaden Express Bus and made way to the park. But. Because of the above mentioned coffee drinking, I missed the last departing bus. So, I go to take the Nagaden Train (this is the Plan B method because it involves a lot more connections), but then the Japanese has these things in their public transit where it runs pretty regularly (like every 20 minutes), then there’s one big chunk of inactivity (like 1.5 hours). Guess which time period I hit?

So I caught the last express train (45 minutes, the local train takes approx. 75 minutes and you have to make a random transfer at Shinshunakano Station) that would’ve given me enough time to explore the park (officially, it’s supposed to close at 4:00p, but I coulda sworn they were still letting people in after 4:00p…). This train took me to Yudanaka Station. From there I had to take a bus (confused yet?) to the Monkey Park trail head. They’ve lined it up quite nicely that the bus is pretty much matched to the train’s arrival, so that’s nice. Oh, this bus fare is not included in the pass – don’t use up all your change for a warm vending machine coffee no matter how tempting.

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The bus I took resulted in me stopping at the Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop, where I only had to walk uphill for a little bit before I saw the entrance to the walking trail. 1.6km hike walk from the trail entrance to the park entrance. It was quite slippery in my cheap-no-grip-cheap-chinese-bought-cheap boots. But no falls!

Jigokudani, established in 1964, translates to Hell Valley (now it makes more sense of why I was seeing the Kanji Characters for Hell everywhere…), named so because of the steep cliffs and spring steam. It houses troops of wild Japanese macaques, who does cute things like hot spring bathing (adorbsies).

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I’m scared of wild animals.

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Not so much that they’re going to scratch my eyes out.

Ok, that too.

But mostly because they’re dirty creatures.

They’re pretty much only cute from far away.

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And in hot pools of water. Or babies. Babies are cute too (but still disease filled).

It was cold and wet and my camera was getting soaked, so it was time to head home. Well, because the park was closing and I had to catch my bus to Hakuba from Nagano. Took the express bus straight back to the Nagano station, much easier than the clusterfuck of transportation I took to get there.


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