Monkeying around in Japan

by Molly Carnahan
Stripes Korea

When most people think about a paradise vacation they think about sun, surf, and sand. After living on Guam for two years in a tropical paradise, my husband and I wanted a winter escape. In December 2014, we decided to get away to the winter wonderland of Tokyo, Japan. We of course wanted to see all of the popular tourist spots, but there was one attraction that was at the top of my list.

When we got to the hotel, the first thing I asked the concierge about was going to see the snow monkeys of Japan. I learned about the Japanese snow monkeys from watching a documentary about them on TV. I have always had a love for animals and really wanted to see these monkeys in the wild.

The hotel informed us that they did have guided trip to Jigokudani Yaen-koen (Japanese Snow Monkey Park). The only downside of the trip was that we would have to get up super early and catch a train to Nagano to meet the tour group. We also wouldn’t return to Tokyo until late that evening.

After getting all of the details of the trip, I looked at my husband and told him that we had to go. He agreed and we scheduled the trip.

We spent most of the morning on trains making our way to the monkey park. Once we got there it started to snow and we had to hike a chilly 30 minutes from the parking lot to the park. I remember our guide telling us that we should make sure we don’t have food on us and that we should never stare into the monkey’s eyes. These monkeys are free range so we had to be cautious of monkey attacks. Walking up to the park was a beautiful sight. There was snow everywhere and monkeys playing about. First, we walked over to the hot springs and saw the monkey’s bathing in a hot tub like spring. They were so relaxed and chilled. Then we walked around the park and watched the monkeys play with each other.

It was such an amazing experience to be up close and personal with the monkeys and see how they behaved in the wild. After visiting with the monkeys for a few hours it was time to make the long journey back to Tokyo.

The whole train ride home, my husband and I talked about how amazing it was. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience to see these monkeys in person. It’s rare these days to get to see wild animals in their natural habitat. To this day we still talk about monkeys and what an awesome experience it was. I will never forget the snow monkeys of Japan!

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