Day trip to Nagano and Jigokudani Yaen Koen
Today I took an early morning Shinkansen train to Nagano from Tokyo Station to visit the city and head out to the Jigokudani Yaen Koen to see Japanese macaques monkeys.
Nagano is located in former Shinano Province and developed from the Nara period as a temple town at the gate of the famous Zenkō-ji, a 7th-century Buddhist temple which was relocated to this location in 642 AD, and as a post station on the Hokkoku Kaidō highway connecting Edo with the Sea of Japan coast. During the Sengoku period, the area was hotly contested between the forces of the Uesugi clan based in Echigo Province and the Takeda clan based in Kai Province. Nagano is surrounded by mountains which boast excellent hiking, camping, and cycling. In 1998, Nagano hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics and the Paralympics.
Later in the afternoon I went to the Jigokudani Yaen Koen to see the monkey soaking in their own onsen. Located near the base of the Joshinestu Kogen National Park, the Jigokudani Yaen Koen (otherwise known as the Snow Monkey Park) is home to a very special troop of monkeys. Created in 1964, the park was established as a conservation area in which the monkeys - Japanese macaques to be exact - would have a refuge within what was already their natural habitat.
Despite its relatively remote location, roughly 90,000 visitors trek through the woods of Nagano each year to see Japan snow monkeys in the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park. I took the Nagaden express bus which operates several buses a day during the winter from Nagano Station’s East Exit up to the Shiga Kogen ski area. They drop you off at “Snow Monkey Park” stop in Kanbayashi Onse, which is in the vicinity of the Kanbayashi trailhead. From there there is still a 30-minute walk from the bus stop to the monkey park.