Nagano Prefecture, Japan

Neighboring Yamanashi, Nagano prefecture is becoming a popular weekend spot for me.

Woman prays in front of Jizo
Woman prays in front of Jizo bosatsu statues at Zenkoji temple

tsutanoyu_onsen

The rotenburo (outdoor hot spring) at Tsutanoyu Onsen. For details about Tsutanoyu see the Kofu Guide to Hot Springs.

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Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) at takatoujyou, a castle in Nagano prefecture the second week of April in 2002. Even though this was about a week after peak for hanami, crowds of people still came to eat, drink Japanese sake, and spend time with friends and family under the cherry trees which extend as far as the eye can see.

Monkey Park

April, 2006 I returned to Kofu, Yamanashi for a 3 week visit. Before arriving in Kofu, I took a side trip to Nagano to visit Monkey Park. Consult your guide book for directions to the park. From Nagano station, I took a train, a bus, and hiked an extremely muddy trail for 30 minutes to my ryokan directly across from the park entrance. If you ever go, I suggest bringing a different pair of shoes or galoshes. And make sure you use a backpack and do not bring wheeling luggage like one couple I saw. I spent 1 night at a ryokan just across from the park. I booked the reservation for my ryokan, "Korakukan Jigokudani", using Japanese Guest Houses, and they were very professional. The park and the baths are the main attraction here so 1 night was a perfect stay. Because it was getting dark I headed straight the Monkey Park which was literally a 1 minute walk from the ryokan. There is a monkey-only bath in the park. Humans are not allowed to soak. These photos are from inside the park.

Baby monkey takes a soak
Baby monkey takes a soak with its parent

Two monkeys pose for my camera
Two monkeys pose for my camera

Baby holds onto its parent
Baby holds onto its parent waiting for apples from a grounds keeper

Grounds keeper with apples
Grounds keeper with apples welcomed by the monkeys

I am guessing the monkeys might not show themselves if it wasn't for the grounds keeper feeding them monkey-chow and apples. After visiting the park, I returned to my ryokan. The ryokan has a number of baths; men's bath, woman's bath, co-ed outdoor bath, women's-only outdoor bath, and 2 private (family) baths where you can lock the door and have the bath to yourself. All of these are natural hot springs.

My room at the ryokan
My room at the ryokan

Co-ed outside hot spring
Co-ed outside hot spring

I was told winter Jan./Feb. is the best time to visit because the monkeys will enter the baths at the ryokan and soak with humans. In April it was just not cold enough for the monkeys to have to share a bath with dirty humans. There is slimy, white goop floating around the baths which we thought was monkey crap at first. However, this is the natural mineral sediment from the hot springs source. You can see this in the outdoor bath photo above.

Dinning room
Dinning room where we ate all of our meals

Monkey on the ryokan roof
Monkey on the ryokan roof just outside my room window

Kamikochi

My 2-day trip to Kamikochi in Nagano prefecture. The trip to Kamikochi was about 2-3 hours total from Kofu. Kamikochi has a few trail systems from the parking lot. The one I hiked was about 4 hours the lake and back.

hikingtrail moth

The Kamikochi area is a good area for the hiker not interested in a strenuous mountain hike. From the parking lot it is a short walk to Copper bridge. Cross the bridge and there are lots of small restaurants and shops selling boxed lunches and souvenirs. Much of the trail is raised above the plant growth making for interesting hiking.

river

After an hour into the hike it began raining something fierce. People rushed the small souvenir/restaurant to take cover or buy a poncho. Once the rain had slowed to a light drizzle, I took the following photos. The rain had added an eerie quality to the photos. The trail crosses many small streams on the way to the lake.

lake

I reached the Lake at the end of the trail and took this photo of the lake. It was still raining, so I started on the return trip.

Shirahone

Shirahone is a ryokan/onsen town. Build on a hot spring source, Shirahone offers many ryokan with onsen as well as separate onsen.

shirahone

This is a famous Shirahone onsen as seen from the roadway. The onsen at shirahone are naturally milky white and smell like sulfur due to the source. This modest but famous onsen contains only two rotenburo. The men's onsen is seen in the photo. The women's rotenburo is to the left under the bamboo roof.

Utsukushii-ga-hara Open-air Museum

utsukushi

Utsukushii-ga-hara is an open-air museum. Most of the artwork is outside. The grounds are huge and I was unable to see everything.

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Much of the art seemed a bit twisted in theme including mangled bodies and severed heads.

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This working wind vane moved by the surface area of the dress.