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Jigokudani Monkey Park

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The bus going from the Jigokudani Monkey Park to Nagano station isn’t super frequent, so after getting my fill of monkey business, I had a little bit of time to kill.

Enter: Enza Cafe, a small restaurant that specializes in ramen near the beginning of the monkey trail.

Given its proximity to such a well-traveled tourist spot (and its status as one of the few restaurants in the area), I didn’t have high hopes.  But since I didn’t have anything better to do while I waited for the bus, I figured sure, why not.

Enza Cafe in Nagano, Japan

I ordered the basic ramen, which they make with chicken broth rather than the more standard pork, and it was shockingly good.  It wasn’t quite up there with the best bowls I had in Tokyo, but from what you’d think would be a tourist trap, it’s amazing: rich, flavorful broth, springy noodles, and perfectly cooked egg.  It was the perfect capper to a very memorable morning.

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