Yudanaka – Snow Monkeys

A few hours on the train north to Nagano where the 1998 Winter Olympics were then another hour on a private train and we landed in rainy Yudanaka. It is a sleepy little town, but beautiful! We stayed at the Shimaya Ryokan which was a traditional family run hotel with it’s own onsen. Our room was traditional with tatami mat floors and rice paper walls. It’s all quite low and Chris was banging his head on the ceiling every few minutes. Because it was raining when we arrived we chilled in our room and then went for dinner at this place called Asashinaya at our hotel man’s suggestion. The staff were so nice and we had a big meal with even bigger beers. They gave us this little wooden plaque as a gift for coming!

The next morning we were up early for a private session in the hotel onsen, and a traditional Japanese breakfast with green tea, rice, salmon, vegetables and soup. After breaky we got the train to a town called Obuse. There we walked in the rain to this temple which was beautiful with gardens and cemetry (sounds morbid but they look really nice). After being drenched we realised we could have got the bus…so we got a bus back and went to the Hikari Museum. It is more of an art gallery to one of Japan’s famous artists. We love Japanese art, so simple and so beautiful. We sample various chestnut sweets which are pretty traditional, and pretty weird!! Kind of like squishy nuts inside squishier jelly stuff. Hahaha. We got the train back to Yudanaka and Mr hotel man picked us up and took us to the Monkey Park. It was a 20-30min walk up through the forest which was all green, red and gold because it’s autumn, and luckily the rain stopped. There are hundreds of snow monkies there and they just sit around grooming each other, playing in the onsens and the big males fight for dominance. You are not allowed to feed or touch the monkies and they pretty much ignore all the people and walk right by your feet like you don’t matter. There were mums with tiny little babies cuddled in their laps and bit bigger babies clinging to their backs. Sooooooooooooo cute! Mr hotel man picked us up from the Monkey park and then we went back to the hotel to get ready for our rotenbori onsen session. A private outdoor onsen. It was part of a ski resort and up in the hills. You have your own bathroom with sauna inside then outside the onsen looks over the hills and down onto the towns below. It was bliss………. For dinner we went back to the same place because it was raining again and we were already soaked to the bone! It was heaps colder in Yudanaka then anywhere else we had been.

We skipped breakfast on our last morning and went for a walk up to this shirne with a big buddah statue lady…the goddess for world peace, which was just up the road from the god of tobacco!! Mr hotel man and his wife took photos of us and then dropped us to the train station and we started our journey (with our mandatory 6 packets of biscuits) to Nagano then Nagoya then Kyoto.