Dec 29, 2009

Snow Monkeys, Jigokudani Yaen-koen, Nagano Pref.

I visited the Jigokudani Yaen-koen(地獄谷野猿公苑, the Jigokudani wild monkeys park) in Nagano Prefecture to see the world famous snow monkeys on the other day. You can see onsen bathing monkeys in the winter. About 200 wild monkeys are said to live around the area (They are wild monkeys but I saw a park worker feeding them). Usually you can see their onsen bathing from Dec. through Mar. But it depends on the temperature and I can't assure you.

They just ignore visitors and relax in the bath, so visitors can watch them closely.

My husband asked me "Hey, how did you take this self-portrait?"

Temperature of the bath around here was 38.8°C.

Probably boss of the school. When this monkey stepped in the bath, other monkeys gave space and walked away.

◆Jigokudani Yaen-koen (地獄谷野猿公苑)

Type: An open-air bath exclusively for monkeys.

Address: 6845 Yamanouchi-machi Shimotakai-gun, Nagano Pref.

Location: 36.732745,138.462775

Business hour: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM in the winter (Nov. to Mar.)

Holiday: None

Admission fee: ¥500 for adult, ¥250 for child

Access: From Yudanaka Station of Nagano Dentestu Line(for the access from Nagano to Yudanaka Station, see related post), take a bus to Kanbashi Onsen (上林温泉)taking 15 minutes and costing ¥250. For bus timetable see below. You have to walk about 30 minutes from the Kanbayashi Onsen to the park (Ask the bus driver which way to walk). There is no direct transportation to the park. Even if you take a taxi, you have to get off at the entrance point of the walk pass and walk for 25 minutes. The taxi ride costs about ¥1800 one way.

Bus timetable (as of Dec. 2009):
From Yudanaka Station:(* not operated on weekends & holidays)

From Kanbayashi Onsen: (* not operated on weekends & holidays)

If you stay overnight at the Yudanaka Onsen or Shibu Onsen or other neibouring onsens on weekend or holiday season, you have a chance to ride the "Snow Monkey Holiday Mini Bus". It cost ¥800 one way,  return ticket is ¥1700 including the admission fee of the park. This bus takes you to the closer to the park, and just 10 minutes walk will take you to the park. Advance booking is necessary, but you can book and buy the ticket just the day before (not earlier). Ask about the bus service to the ryokan you'll stay. If you are a day visitor, you can ride the bus if seat is availble on the day.

You need appropriate shoes to walk snowy or slippy or muddy foot path for 30 minutes one way. Although I saw many visitors in sneakers and leather shoes, I think it's difficult to walk in these shoes after fresh snow falls.

The walk pass to the park as of late Dec. 2009. It was a warm day for the winter and the snow was melting partly.

Official website of the Jigokudani Yaen-koen in English
Live Webcam of the Snow Monkeys

Related Post:
Kaede no Yu, Yudanaka Onsen, Nagano Pref.

Dec 21, 2009

Hotel Kuanzuling, Kuan Tzu Ling Hot Springs, Taiwan

One of the private baths. Overnight staying guests can take a bath here anytime, if nobody inside and the door is open. You can see how thick their mud bath is.

Kuan Tzu Ling (關子嶺, also spelled "Guan Zi Ling" and "Kuanzuling") Hot Springs located Southwest of Taiwan is one of the most impressive hot springs I've ever visited. It's gushing with mud and smells like volatile oil. I mean you can soak yourself in a mud pot with benzine-like smell. Isn't it exciting? It looks sticky, but actually it has powder-like smooth touch and it's good for your skin.

I stayed at the Hotel Kuanzuling again in early Dec. It hasn't changed much since my last visit in June 2007. The Japanese style entrance is still used as the back entrance. It has history of more than 100 years.

The present main entrance (left) . The Japanese style entrance still remaining as the back entrance (right).

I never think of staying other places at Kuan Tzu Ling. Because it's close to the fountainhead, their mud baths are thicker, and it's cheap to stay overnight (TWD 1000 for a single room on a weekday) . There are five private baths, and the bathroom attached to the guestroom also supplies mud hot springs.

The bath in the guest room also supplies hot springs.

Dec 3, 2009

Osenkaku, Takaragawa Onsen, Gunma Pref.

The mixed gender open-air bath named "Kodakara no yu" in the midwinter, not in early Dec. (photo: courtesy of the Osenkaku, Takaragawa Onsen)

This onsen ryokan is everyone's favorite without a doubt. There are four big rotenburos or open-air baths along Takara-gawa, the River Takara. One of them is for ladies only, and other three are mixed gender baths. All of them are harmonized with surrounding nature and you don't have to choose season to visit as you can enjoy any time of the year. I spent hours hopping the four baths and an indoor bath at my last visit in  March.

The Main building of the Osenkaku, Takaragawa Onsen in the midwinter.

It's a huge estate (at leaset for the Japanese). If you make a day visit, pay admission fee at the Takaragawa-sanso just besides the bus stop, put your valuables in a locker (¥100 necessary), walk through junks (you'll see) to the rotenburos. Changing rooms are gender separated, and ladies are allowed to rap their body with bath towels, it's easy for female first-timers to try the mixed bath here. You can rent a bath towel (¥100). If you need a hand towel, you have to buy it (¥200).

"Maka no yu", the biggest open-air bath in the night.