Yudanaka, a small town near Nagano, is home to one of Japan’s most fun attractions.
This small town is known for its snow monkey park where hundreds of wild macaques can be seen up close.
We stayed at Kambayashi Senjukaku, a traditional ryokan or Japanese inn, that is closest to the park. Typically, the ryokan would have been packed with tourists but it was relatively empty and quiet which was a real treat. It was one of my favorite ryokans that we stayed at with an indoor heated pool, beautiful gardens, and delicious food (dinner and breakfast is typically included in the accommodation). Both the indoor and outdoor onsens were completely empty so we had the whole place to ourselves to relax.
Jigokudani Monkey Park is about a 30 minute walk from the ryokan and they provide rain boots for the walk as the trail is extremely wet and muddy. There was even some snow along the trail! During the colder months, the monkeys can be seen bathing in the onsen but since it was already warm when we visited, we only saw one monkey jump into the onsen. It was a pretty cool experience getting so close to the monkeys and it was crazy to see how many there were, all shapes and sizes!
After exploring the park, we had some ramen and desserts at a cafe near our ryokan.
Our room for the night was beautiful with a balcony overlooking one of the gardens.
Before dinner, we both went to the hot springs for some much needed R&R. Of course, onsens are divided into male and female but both were empty which was awesome!
Dinner was served in the dining hall and it was our favorite ryokan dinner during our trip. The traditional Japanese cuisine was delicious and fresh and we got to try some ingredients that we hadn’t before.
After a fantastic dinner, we went back to our room where they had set up our futon beds (soo comfy). We also were able to reserve a time slot for the private onsen which was a great way to end the night.
The next morning, we had a great breakfast (Japanese and Western style) that didn’t disappoint.
I highly recommend coming to Yudanaka for a once in a lifetime experience observing the snow monkeys. Definitely come during the winter when it’s snow season to get the full experience of watching them bath in the onsen.