Monkeys. There’s something about them that both fascinates and endlessly amuses me.
Whether it’s a hang-over from one of my favourite TV shows growing up – Monkey Magic (who wouldn’t want their own travel cloud??) – or because their facial expressions are as varied and expressive as our own, or maybe just because they’re so inappropriately interested in each others butts, I really don’t know.
Whatever it is, whenever I see monkeys I invariably end up lingering way longer than I intended, usually chortling away to myself like some deranged spinster, but always happier for it. That’s monkey magic.
So it wasn’t really a surprise when booking my trip to Japan this year that I would allow time for a sidetrip to see the Snow Monkeys of Nagano. After all, who would pass up the opportunity to see hot tub monkeys?
That’s right, hot tub. These monkeys are so clever, they’ve worked out that lounging around in the hot springs in winter sure beats shivering their red bottoms off in the snow.
From the entrance to Jigokudani park, it’s a 1.6km hike to the hot springs. The stairs at the beginning and end of the trail can be treacherous if the conditions are icy, but for the most part the trail itself is fairly level and most people who are steady on their feet should have no trouble.
The trail leads you to ticket office where you may get your first monkey magic moment – this guy was hanging around just outside the door to the ticket office, perhaps he could feel the heating coming out!
The day we visited was a little warmer than usual and I was worried that the monkeys may not feel the need for a soak, but I wasn’t disappointed. As we arrived at the spring, we could see monkeys in the mist surrounded by clicking cameras and clucking tourists.
The monkeys aren’t just interested in hot water, they’ll sit on anything hot! Whether it’s jammed against the rocks the water pours over, sitting on the box over the spring, or on pipes carrying hot water, they just can’t get enough.
In all we must have spent at least 3 hours pointing and laughing at all the crazy antics. We left with smiles on our faces and our hearts a little lighter – that’s monkey magic.