Thanks so much for reading further about my adventures in Japan!
Our first destination was the city of Nagano. Travel time from Tokyo by bullet train is only 90 minutes and it is definitely worth visiting! This city hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in 1998.
We didn´t go to Nagano to practice winter sports, but if that’s your interest, it is definitely the right place to go. Some of the world´s top class ski resorts such as Shiga Kogen, Hakuba, and Nozawa are all close to Nagano.
We went to Nagano to see the city and its surroundings. The city offers a pleasant atmosphere and has one of the largest temples in Central Japan. The Zenko-ji Buddhist temple is a large wooden temple that will take you centuries back. Originally built in the Seventh Century, the temple is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Japan. The city of Nagano was built in 1897 because of the presence of the temple. Throughout the centuries, every single wooden board covering the outside has been replaced but the temple is still in the same design. I can’t decide then if the temple is old or young! Maybe it is both!
While walking around Nagano, there are many restaurants and cafes where you can explore the traditional Japanese kitchen and definitely try the local speciality called ‘Oyaki’. It is a type of Japanese dumpling made from fermented buckwheat dough which wraps around vegetables, fruit or bean paste. They are yummy! Even my little cupid loved them!
The best part of our trip was also why we came to the Japanese Alps. We visited the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park. This is the only place in the world where one can see wild monkeys bathing in the hot water pools during the winter season.
We stayed overnight in Yamanouchi, as we wanted to be close to the park to arrive in the early morning before crowds of people disturbed the picturesque scene. In the early morning our host dropped us at the park entrance. From there, we walked thirty minutes to see the monkeys. We walked through the forest and all the way up we wondered, “Will we see them bathing?” Our little angel was so excited about the experience and we didn’t want him to be disappointed. It would be a shame if the monkeys didn’t appear, but the park would still be worth visiting! While approaching the pools, we had snowball fights, we listened to the crunchy snow, we laughed a lot and we were amazed by the beauty of nature. It felt like we had been transported to Narnia!
After a bit of an uphill hike, we finally arrived and we saw entire families of monkeys striding down the mountains to bathe in the hot springs. We didn’t want to disturb the monkeys with any sound or even a take a picture not to spoilt that moment, but I thought of you and I wanted to share that view! Our little angel started talking to the monkeys and they answered him! 😊 It is truly an awe-inspiring sight! Our cupid still lives out of that experience. If I say ‘Japan’ to him, he starts pretending to be a monkey!😊 This is an experience you must see for yourself!
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