Nagano, venue of the 1998 Winter Olympics and our next point of call:
The entrance to Zenkō-ji Buddhist temple in Nagano. A really interesting place and massively busy over the new year period.
The street leading to the temple is very similar to Sensō-ji in Tokyo. Less touristy though. We stood out like a sore thumb.
Sake barrels are offered to temples and shrines. Sake has a vital role in religious festivities here and that’s good enough for me, hiccup.
Truth be told, there’s not a huge amount of see or do in Nagano city. It’s mainly used as a hub for easy access to slopes for the skiers and snowboarders. The temple and surrounding is the main inner-city attraction and it’s well worth seeing.
Same street a few hours later. Early night for everyone clearly. Sleep off that sake hangover.
信州長屋酒場 (or Shinshu Tenement Saloon), an izakaya restaurant in town that was pretty cool to look at.
The following morning we were up bright and early for breakfast (Maz blagged us a freebie). We picked up a Snow Monkey 1-Day Pass – a bargain at ￥2,900 each. This allowed unlimited transport on local buses and trains around the mountain area. And off we went.
Monkey Gone To Heaven.
The world famous Jigokudani Monkey Park. Wild monkeys flock to this onsen, as do wild humans. 200 or so Japanese Macaque monkeys inhabit the area and use the onsen to keep warm in the harsh snowy conditions.
It was a pretty warm day when we were there so onsen use was minimal. Still loads of monkeys around though.
Me and my monkey.
Obligatory baby monkey riding on a parent monkey photo.
Cute little bundle of joy. Don’t be fooled. We witnessed some savage inter-monkeying behaviour. At one point we thought we were about to witness a monkey drown a lesser-ranked monkey. Thankfully it settled for just a heavy dunking instead. Nonetheless, distressing monkeying scenes.
Struggling for more monkey-related songs. Monkey Wrench? Oh, if only I had some nuts on me to throw in a certain someone’s direction…..
Last monkey photo I promise….
OK one more. “What happened to our hire car?!”
Nagano – a small but friendly city surrounded by mountains, perfect for a short break. A great base if you want to enjoy winter sports. It doesn’t boast too many traditional tourist attractions, but there’s enough to see and do in the surrounding area.
One thing though….don’t go to the zoo. It’s pretty distressing seeing such beautiful creatures in such tiny enclosures. I don’t like zoos at the best of times, but I understand their need for educational or conservationist purposes. Nagano Zoo however serves neither purpose and, quite frankly, is a bit of a disgrace.
Aside from that though, a great little trip….