There were three things I wanted to accomplish while in Nagano: snowboard (64), hike the Japanese Alps (39), and chill with the famous onsen snow monkeys (88). I knew Richard was not a fan of cold weather and the snow, but the promise of meeting the stars of Baraka was enough to get him to go along with the plan. I also figured that during the time I'd be snowboarding, he'd be asleep, so he wouldn't be missing much.
And I was right! I set my alarm for 6:45am, which gave me enough time to gather my things, go down to the lobby where there was a shop, rent a board, boots, bindings, a beanie, goggles, and snow pants (I was a little unprepared...) and then make my way to the mountain. Unfortunately I was up and out an hour before the shop opened, so I instead decided to head to a Burton rental shop 20 minutes away by taxi. When I arrived, however, the place was empty. After some poking around, an Australian bro wandered down from the apartment above the shop and informed me that they had moved locations last winter and that I was a 60 minute walk away. For a moment I thought I had just stranded myself in the middle of nowhere as the cab had already driven away, but pointed me up the hill where there were a number of rental shops surrounding the Hakuba 47 ski resort.
|The Japanese Alps|
|Making my way up in the gondola|
|Blue bird and freshies. What more could I ask for?|
|Always love riding new places|
So I can now say I've ridden on another continent! This seems like the sort of place to come heliboarding, so perhaps one day I'll be able to return with some friends and explore the back country. Every line of site from atop the slopes ended in some snow-covered mountain. I actually didn't realize until I made my way up into the hills that I was in the Japanese Alps (39) but it became wildly evident as soon as I gazed out into the endless sprawl of ridges and mountaintops. I do wish our arrival in Hakuba had coincided with more fresh snow, but I can't really complain about the blue bird day and calm winds.
I met up with Richard after finishing on the slopes and we made our plan for tomorrow, which involved an hour long bus ride to Nagano city and then a 40 minute hike into the woods to find the famous snow monkeys that bathe in the hot springs.
We rose pretty early (by Kraft-time) and caught the bus to Nagano where we had just enough time to buy some scarves and gloves before catching another bus into the mountains. We were dropped off on a country road near a gas station, but there were plenty of tourists and signs that told us we were near:
|I love that it's called Monkey Park. No bullshit, they know why you're there|
|Hiking up to the monkeys|
|Oh don't I know that feeling|
|Despite being a national attraction, they couldn't hire a better artist|
|About 30 minutes into our hike and we began to joke about how lame and overhyped this was all going to be|
|Our first monkey sighting!|
|At this point we were on a cliff overlooking the river and there were quite a few monkeys. Perhaps this wasn't going to be overhyped...|
|Homos in the distance|
|The monkeys ran wild, unrestricted by cages and uninterested in the humans|
|Well this is just adorable|
|We don't share a common ancestor my ass!|
|This is what Taylor looked like in every onsen|
Another piece of trivia we read informed us that "Monkeys view humans as neither friend nor enemy. They do not care about people". It was absolutely true, so long as you didn't startle them. They really couldn't give much of a fuck that we were there, snapping photos and trying to get close. I wouldn't say they were jaded (though these exact monkeys have been featured in dozens of films and TV programs) but they certainly weren't interested in anything other than bathing and picking fleas off one another.
|Moments before being attacked|
|You scratch my back...|
|Being quite protective|
In the 3 months I have been here I have not experienced anything quite like this. In fact, in the 22 years I've been on Earth, I really haven't experienced anything like this (and I once sent an afternoon playing with an orangutang). Taking the 2 hour shinkansen train to Nagano from Tokyo to see these monkeys is an absolute must for anyone visiting or living here now. So often experiences are ruined by images and films we've already seen, and while it would have been unbelievably surreal to just stumble onto this monkey park without any prior knowledge of its existence, no amount of prior exposure and knowledge about this park can spoil the joy of being surrounded by 160 monkeys just doing their thing.