Ever since viewing Baraka I always dreamed of seeing Japan's hot springs-loving snow monkeys. After a bullet train from Tokyo to Nagano, a short train ride on the Snow Monkey Express to Yamanouchi and a hike through the woods, we arrived at the hot springs in Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park.
Although I had practiced my Japanese in order to communicate with the seemingly enlightened monkeys, none of the monkeys spoke to me. Their lifestyle is rather enviable: free lodging in the trees, free snacks and sitting in hot springs all day long.
Although I had imagined that the monkeys would be sitting in their warm waters in a pristine natural environment, there are actually a ton of other visitors there filming and recording the monkeys' every move and facial expression.
Our hotel, Korakukan Jigokudani, was right across the river from the snow monkey park with a geyser in front, indoor and outdoor soaking tubs and plenty of monkeys passing by.
At breakfast, monkeys stared longingly at our food as they sauntered past.
Our hotel's outdoor hot spring pool where guests can share the water with the monkeys.
The woods along the hike
The Snow Monkey Express train
Slippers for our balcony at a different onsen hotel