Japan is blessed with distinct four seasons. Every season is a perfect symphony of nature’s Vivaldi. Listening to the winter I traveled to the prefecture of Nagano. Nagano is blessed with gorgeous mountains; beautiful apples and lots of other fruits. I have been to Nagano before but never in winters. Visiting during summer was whole other experience. The lush green fields had turned white and it was freezing cold. Looking out of the train I could see few apple trees. Few of them were not harvested and the apples were frozen. The bright red color was prominent in the white surrounding. Such a perfect shape! Did the evil queen from snow white collect one from there I wondered. Started seeing less houses and more snow as the train started going further in the mountains. White mountains, white deserted fields; it all looked like a fairy tale to me.
In India it snows only in the northern region. Where I come from there are just two seasons; summer and monsoon. Well we technically do have winter, “technically”! Snow does look beautiful and clicking a macro of a snowflake is absolute bliss. To observe its intricate design is just magical.
During winters it only snows twice in Tokyo. So to enjoy real snow it is best to travel. Nagano is famous for snowboarding, skiing. But I was visiting for a special reason. My plan was to go to the tiny village called Yudanaka. It is famous for Onsen and monkeys bathing in Onsen at the Jigokudani or the hell valley! Hundreds of tourists visit the yudanaka monkey park to see these wonderful animals.
There are many options to travel to Yudanaka during winter. You can take a Shinkansen; bullet train, till Nagano station and then board the Dentetsu line till Yudanaka. From here take a 20 minutes bus to the monkey Onsen. Since it is the Onsen town, I planned to stay for one night.
When I reached the town I realized I should have carried by grippers for snow. It was so slippery everywhere! The Japanese inn I was staying looked so beautiful from outside.
Snow covered trees surrounded the house. Inside was very cozy. Wooden structure, sliding doors and windows and a fireplace; there cannot be a more perfect place to stay in the harsh winter. I visited nearby Onsen for almost an hour and relaxed in the cozy chair near the fireplace. Such a quiet place to be in. Sipping a hot cup of green tea I got engrossed in my favorite book and decided to call it a day.
Next morning when I got up it was snowing softly. Snowflakes were falling in swirling motion. Since it was not too windy I decided to click a few macros of snowflakes. It is difficult and I did not get good crispy shot but it was still fun. I was taking too long to focus so the snowflake was melting. It looked like a candy.
After visiting another Onsen I headed to the monkey park. Troops of monkeys were coming from the other side of the mountain to enjoy hot springs. All of them were flashing the latest fur coats. The tiny ones were curious about the two legged animals who had vivid fur and funny equipment in hands. They came so close. I could get beautiful portraits. More experienced monkeys preferred staying away from people. The water was probably too hot or the weather wasn’t cold enough, none of them got inside the pool.
It was just fun watching them play in the snow. Infants would try to eat the snow and then make funny sounds. There was one little brat who was throwing the snow around. Imitating him few of his brothers threw so much snow on him that he shivered. Came closer to his mommy and made whooping sounds. I wish I could speak monkey. Even though I can’t, it seemed like he was complaining. Mommy monkey pulled him closer and gave him a nice warm hug. Tiny little fella just disappeared under her thick coat. Ahh it was absolutely heartwarming.
After a few hours of observing and clicking pictures I noticed a big male sitting away from everyone. He had those ‘don’t mess with me’, “planet of the apes” expressions and also had some battle wounds on the nose. He was observing each one of them closely and was also keeping an eye on extra enthusiastic tourists. None of the monkeys were getting in the pool and it was getting dark. He started wobbling first and then started the high pitched whooping sounds and in no time the troop started heading back to the jungle.
The little ones got free rides. After an entire day of playing in thr snow they did deserve a ride I thought.
What a wonderful day!
Winter can’t be any better. Came back to the hotel, visited Onsen again and called it a day after having some Sake and smoked salmon.
Hope you enjoyed reading my story. For more do visit once in a while.