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Monkey Onsen

Hakuba Travel Blog

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On the way to the monkey onsen

Away from the bustling city of Tokyo, we made our way to the snowy mountains of Nagano Prefecture. We decided to stay in the village of Hakuba which becomes a skiing resort in the winter, full of foreign visitors, and a holiday destination for the Japanese people in the summer. Our main goal of staying in Hakuba was to visit the monkey onsen in nearby Nagano. An onsen is basically a hotspring in Japanese.

We took the Shinkansen train for the first time during our visit, and the trip took almost 2 hours to Nagano Central Station. From the Central Station, we took a bus to Hakuba train station which didn't have a direct trip to Tokyo.

The bus trip takes 45 minutes to Hakuba, at which we were picked up by the shuttle arranged by the lodge we stayed at. We spent the day in the pine woods across the snow and went around the skiing slopes. It was the first time we see  snow! Obviously, we didn't know how to skie, so we just hanged around.

Hakuba was a cosy village with a neat bus service covering the entire place. Many restaurants are available with diverse themes and decent food around. Additionally, Japanese fuel stations has good shops which you can buy groceries and cooked meals too. 

In the night, we booked the monkey onsen full day tour which included a visit to the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan and lunch. The tour guide was really good and kept us entertained. We left straight after breakfast in a coach and headed to the onsen.

The onsen was located in a valley and we had to leave the bus and walk through the woods for almost 30 minutes to reach the onsen. Once there, it was an exotic view to see the monkeys bathing in the onsen in the middle of the snow. The guide advised us not to look straight into their eyes as this may cause them to get angry. In the summer, the monkeys return to the woods as usual. 

After spending time with the monkeys we left for lunch to a small village called Obuse and had our meal in a nice country style restaurant which served decent food cooked on a clay oven/fireplace. It was a 3 course set menu and you can select either fish, meat or chicken as the main course. Nearby was a cluster of shops and groceries.

Departing from Obuse, we headed to our final destination before going back to Hakuba: Zenkoji Temple. The temple which is one of the oldest if not the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan housing an image of Buddha brought in the 7th century. The temple dates back to more than 1400 years. Around the temple was a cluster of shops too selling Japanese sweets and sourvenirs. The onsen was a highlight in our trip to Japan and it is worth while experience. 

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On the way to the monkey onsen
On the way to the monkey onsen
Zenkoji Temple Gate
Zenkoji Temple Gate
Zenkoji Temple
Zenkoji Temple
Hakuba
Hakuba
shops around Zenkoji Temple
shops around Zenkoji Temple
Hakuba
photo by: Yaryo0or