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There’s a city called Nara that’s about an hour away from Osaka by train; its claim to fame is Nara Park, an absolutely enormous park that’s populated by over a thousand exceptionally friendly deer.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

These deer have been co-existing with people in this park for hundreds of years, so they’re not afraid of people at all.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

I sort of figured they’d be in one small area of the park, but nope — everywhere you go, hey, there’s a deer.

Some of them are just wandering around.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

Other’s are just chillin’.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

A lot of them are hoping for food.  There are several vendors throughout the park that sell a bundle of special deer crackers for 150 yen.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

There’s pretty much always a deer hanging out nearby, hoping for a quick snack.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

Once you’ve got these crackers, hungry deer will come right up to you.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

What’s this?  A cracker?

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

One please.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

Nom.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

This never gets old.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

Just stick a cracker out and within seconds, here comes a deer.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

I have a video of this, too.  Note: these deer are so Japanese, they’ll sometimes bow to you before or after you give them a cracker.  You can see it a couple of times in the video.

You also occasionally see deer getting into fights.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

These guys butted their heads together until one of them gave up, bowed to the other, and backed off.

There’s also a couple of temples in the park.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

And yeah, of course there are deer hanging out there, too.

It’s a pretty amazing place.

You’re probably familiar with Japanese cat cafes — they’re popular enough that we’ve even got a couple in Toronto.

Pug Cafe Living Room in Kyoto, Japan

Well, Kyoto has a pug cafe, and yeah — it’s just as amazing as you’d hope.  Whoever came up with this is a genius, because being surrounded by about a dozen snorting, wheezing pugs is flat-out delightful.

Pug Cafe Living Room in Kyoto, Japan

It costs 1200 yen for an hour of pug time.  It’s the best 1200 yen I’ve ever spent.  That includes a small bowl of dog treats that you can dole out to the pugs as you desire, as well as some human snacks.

Pug Cafe Living Room in Kyoto, Japan

This is Purin, one of the oldest of the dogs (the owner referred to her as grandma, and based on the pug family tree they gave me, that’s literally true).  She was the wheeziest of the bunch, and the most laid back.  She relaxed next to me for most of the time I was there.

Pug Cafe Living Room in Kyoto, Japan

And I mean, look at that face.  How can you not fall in love with that face?

Pug Cafe Living Room in Kyoto, Japan

Regal, right?

Pug Cafe Living Room in Kyoto, Japan

This is Roko, my second favourite.  He was sleeping on my lap for pretty much the entirety of my visit.

Pug Cafe Living Room in Kyoto, Japan

But let’s face it, they were all great.

Pug Cafe Living Room in Kyoto, Japan

This isn’t necessarily the most solo-friendly activity, as there really isn’t all that much to do here other than be surrounded by pugs.  But for me?  That was enough.  That was more than enough.

There’s a place near Nagano called Jigokudani Monkey Park, and it gives you exactly what you’re hoping for.  So many monkeys.

Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan

It’s about an hour bus ride from the city — you can actually get a special pass that includes the bus fare to and from Jigokudani, and admission to the park for 3200 yen (about 36 bucks Canadian).  Best 3200 yen I ever spent.

Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan

Even just walking from where the bus drops you off to the park itself is surprisingly memorable, with a really scenic trail taking you through a forest of super tall pine trees.

Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan

Once you get to the area, you can see the steam coming off the ground from one of the natural hot springs.

Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan

Then you get there, and the monkeys are everywhere.  I figured there’d only be a dozen or so monkeys, but there’s gotta be at least 40 or 50.  It’s amazing.

Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan

They’re all just hanging out; walking around, grooming each other, chillin’ in the hot tub.

Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan

Here’s a mother cuddling with her kid.

Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan

After a while, the kid suddenly angled himself butt-up towards his mom, and without missing a beat, she started grooming him.

Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan

More grooming.

Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan

And I guess because these monkeys have spent their whole lives surrounded by gawking tourists, we’re just a part of the landscape to them.  It’s like we’re not even there.

Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan

You can get surprisingly close to them, and they’ll completely ignore you.

Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan

And they’re amazing.  I mean, look at them.  They look like tiny little people wearing fur coats.  They’re almost absurdly adorable.

Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan

Suffice it to say, if you’re in Japan and you’re anywhere even close to the vicinity of Nagano, you’ve gotta go see the monkeys.  It’s amazing.

Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan