Found across Japan, ryokans are traditional Japanese guesthouses which offer the perfect glimpse into Japanese history and culture. Most predominantly located near onsen towns, they are the perfect place to rest travel weary legs along the Nakasendo Way or as an addition to your itinerary on a tour of Japan’s highlights.
Snow Monkeys in Japan
Think of the Japanese Alps and world class skiing, traditional ryokans and steaming onsens spring to mind. Yet few places are as unique to the area as the Jigokudani Monkey Park, located between the onsen towns of Shibu and Yudanaka and home to Japan’s indigenous primate, the Japanese macaque. Otherwise known as snow monkeys, these playful creatures have frolicked and bathed in the natural hot springs of Jigokudani for centuries, continuing to fascinate locals and visitors alike. A favourite for families, but also amongst active and adventurous travellers, visiting the park is best paired with a stay in a nearby ryokan.
The best time to see Jigokudani’s snow monkeys is arguably between December and March when the primates descend from the surrounding mountain ranges, seeking respite from the harsh conditions of the higher altitudes. During the summer months the park tends to be quieter and it is possible to spot baby monkeys. At this time of year, the mountains provide the perfect setting for alpine adventures both on foot and on two wheels and the trails come to life with the flora and fauna of Japan’s heartland, confirming the area as a fantastic year-round destination. For those with an interest in art, we’d also highly recommend visiting the nearby town of Obuse. Known for sake tasting, small boutiques and impressive art galleries, this is where Hokusai, one of Japan’s most famous artists, lived in his retirement. His woodblock print, The Great Wave, is one of the world’s most recognised pieces of art.
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