Wild Japanese Macaques or more commonly known as Snow Monkeys can be found at the Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano. The Monkey Park is two train rides away from Tokyo, the Shinkansen Kagayaki (bullet train) for about hour and a half, then followed by the local train (Nagano Dentetsu Train), another hour, to Yunanaka Station and then a short car ride to the entrance of the park. Instead of waiting for the 2nd local train, we reserved a taxi to take us from Nagano station to the entrance of the Snow Monkey Park which took about 1 hour. And then it was another half an hour walk to the man-made onsen or hot spring pool in the middle of the park where these snow monkeys like to soak in the warm waters especially during the winter months.
The hot spring here is reserved for the Snow Monkeys, but Nagano is an area filled with many onsens. Shibu is an onsen town about 10 minutes away from Jigokudani Monkey Park. Many of the ryokan hotels have been around for over 400 years. In the Edo period between 1600-1868, Shibu was used as a relaxation area by samurais for healing in the hot springs after long battles. We made a brief stop for some soba in Shibu but it seemed pretty dead during the day. After our noodles, we continued onto Obuse for a short visit before heading back to Nagano to catch the train back to Tokyo.