Photo by Cynthia Bowen
On my most recent trip to Tokyo, Japan, I had the fantastic opportunity to visit the world-famous Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, located in the northern Nagano Prefecture section of Japan. The parked opened in 1964 and has become known as a tourist destination to observe the wild monkeys in their natural habitat. In 1970 the Japanese macaques bathing in the hot springs graced the cover of Time magazine and garnered the title Snow Monkey.
The journey to the Snow Monkey Park from Tokyo required a 1.5-hour ride on the Japan Rail Shinkansen Bullet train to the city of Nagano. Once I reached the town of Nagano, I took a 40-minute local train to Yukadanka station. From the Yukadanka station, a 15-minute bus ride dropped us off at the base of Joshinestu Kogen National Park, Snow Monkey Park.
But wait, the journey to the park didn’t end here. I had to trek 1.8 km to reach the Snow Monkey Park. Finally, after about 25 minutes of walking, the path opened up to a beautiful valley, home of the world-famous Snow Monkey Park.
The weather that day was a balmy 60 degrees. Over 100 monkeys were roaming about, eating grain that was provided by the park rangers. The Snow Monkeys are wild animals, but they have a culture among the troops that resembles human-like behavior.
It was surreal to experience the Snow Monkeys so close up and personal. Most importantly, the civility of the wild Snow Monkeys’ nature captured my heart. I made a promise to myself that this wouldn’t be my last visit to the park. As I left the park, I turned to look back, and there was an adorable troop of monkeys following me. If only I could get them through the airport security.