Japan 2016: Day 3, Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park

Day 3 / 08 February 2016 (Monday) : Train ride along Tadami Line Snow Monkey Park
Today we are supposed to ride the train along the Tadami Line to enjoy the snow blanketed view of the towns along this train line.

Photo from Japan-Magazine.jnto.go.jp

There are very limited trains passing along Tadami Line so being on schedule is very critical. I have prepared the following itinerary based on available train schedule in HyperDia

05:32 – 05:35 Asakusa (Tsukuba) Station to Minami-Senju Station (Tsukuba Express Local for Tsukuba)
05:44 – 05:50 Minami-Senju Station to Ueno Station (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line for Naka-Meguro)
06:14 – 07:35 Ueno Station (Depart track no. 20) to Urasa Station (Shinkansen Toki 301)
07:46 – 07:55 Urasa Station to Koide Station (JR Joetsu Line for NAGAOKA)
07:58 – 09:15 Koide Station to Tadami Station (JR Tadami Line for TADAMI)
09:25 – 10:15 Tadami Station to AizuKawaguchi Station (JR Tadami Line for AIZUKAWAGUCHI)
AIZU-KAWAGUCHI: Stay for 2 hour 20 minutes
12:35 – 14:27 AizuKawaguchi Stn to AizuWakamatsu Stn (JR Tadami Line for Wakamatsu)
AIZU-KAWAKAMATSU: Stay for 39 minutes
15:06 – 16:20 AizuWakamatsu Stn to Koriyama(Fukushima) Stn (JR Ban-etsu-West Line for Koriyama)
16:30 – 17:42 Koriyama(Fukushima) Station to Euno Station (Shinkansen Yamabiko 146)
18:00 – 18:06 Ueno Station to Minami-Senju Stn (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line for Kita-Koshigaya)
18:11 – 18:13 Minami-Senju Stn to Asakusa (Tsukuba) Stn (Tsukuba Express Local for Akihabara)


01. Shinkansen at Urasa StationWe arrived at Urasa Station by Shinkansen on time at 7:35am and was supposed to take a 7:46am local train to Koide Station but was surprised to find out that the 7:46am train will not be arriving due to some technical problems. The next train schedule will only leave Urasa Station at 8:35am and we will only arrived Koide Station by 8:43am, by that time the 7:58am train to Tadami Station has left and the next schedule will only Koide Station at 1:11pm. This means that we have to abandon our plan of going to Tadami and I have to think of a new itinerary for the day.

We chose the Tadami itinerary to experience winter/snow Japan so upon learning that we have to cancel this itinerary, I immediately research other places “nearby” where we can experience snow. And so I have found Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in Nagano. I hurriedly prepared a new itinerary as follows;

08:35- 08:43 Urasa Station to Koide Station (JR Joetsu Line for NAGAOKA)
09:46 – 10:21 Koide Station to Nagaoka Station (JR Joetsu Line for NAGAOKA)
10:38 – 11:29 Nagaoka Station to Takasaki Station (Shinkansen Toki 318)
11:43 – 12:30 Takasaki Station to Nagano Station (Shinkansen Hakutaka 559)


02. View from Urasa StationThe view outside from Urasa Station


03. Urasa Station facadeSince we have lots of time to spare waiting for the next train, we decided to come out of the station and check around.


04. Outside Urasa StationOf course, another group photo opportunity đŸ˜‰


05. Leaving Urasa StationWe went back inside Urasa Station to board the next train to Koide Station.


06. Travelling to Koide StationA very nice view on our way to Koide Station.


07. Travelling to Koide StationAnother white view en route to Koide Station, it suddenly feels like Christmas for some reason, hehe.


08. Koide StationArrived at Koide Station, so happy just seeing this view.


We have more than an hour waiting time in Koide Station so we kill our time fooling around, this video was so “America’s funniest Video” moment ;-p


Our awesome train ride from Koide Station to Nagaoka Station


09. Shinkansen ride to NaganoWe bought our own bento meals at a convinienet store earlier in Ueno Station, I started munching mine while riding the Shinkansen to Nagano, perfect with the view from my window.


10. Nagaden Express TrainWe arrived at Nagano Station and change to Nagaden Express Train


11. Riding the Nagaden Expree TrainWe bought a 1-day Snow Monkey Pass for 2,900 Yen in Nagano Station. The pass covers the two-way train ride from Nagano Station to Yudanaka Station (the 1-way train ride costs 1,260 Yen), the two-way bus ride from Yudanaka Station to Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop (310 Yen for one way) and Snow Monkey Park admission (500 Yen).


12. Riding the Nagaden Expree TrainWe were lucky to get a front seat view of this 44 minute ride Yudanaka Station


13. Riding the Nagaden Expree Train


14. Riding the Nagaden Expree Train


15. Arriving at Yudanaka StationOur train arriving at Yudanaka Station pass noon time.


16. Outside Yudanaka StationWe waited for the local bus outside Yudanaka Station, there seems less tourist than we expected.


17. Kanbayashi Onsen Bus StopThe bus ride from Yudanaka Station to Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop is only a little over 10 miniutes.


18. Start of HikingWe started walking to the hiking trail.


19. Entrance to the Monkey ParkThey say that the walk up to Snow Monkey Park is only 25 minutes.


20. Hiking the Monkey ParkWe happily started the “hiking” to the park


21. Hiking the Monkey ParkThe trail is very slippery so its better to wear a sturdy footwear just to be safe.


22. Hiking the Monkey ParkThere are parts of the trail with a very steep portion and one wrong move and you will find yourself rolling down the mountain.


23. Hiking the Monkey ParkThe easiest portion of the trail.


24. Korakukan RyokanThe famous Korakukan Ryokan as you approach the valley


25. Korakukan Ryokan


26. Korakukan Ryokan


27. Monkey at Korakukan Ryokan.A few monkeys starts to appear just before you to take the hike to the valley.


28. Korakukan RyokanThe view of Korakukan Ryokan mid way up the valley


29. HikingJigokudani, in which the park is located, means “hell valley” and is a common name for Japanese valleys with volcanic activity. Although its landscape is not as dramatic as some of Japan’s other jigokudani valleys, Yamanouchi’s Jigokudani does produce a few steaming hot springs.


30. MonkiesAnd there they are!


31. MonkiesThe park is inhabited by Japanese Macaques, which are also known as Snow Monkeys.


32. MonkiesThe monkeys live in large social groups, and it can be quite entertaining to watch their interactions.


33. Warm poolThe park has one man-made pool around which the monkeys gather, located a few minutes’ walk from the park entrance.


34. Monkey dipping in the poolThe Jigokudani Monkey Park offers visitors the unique experience of seeing wild monkeys bathing in a natural hot spring.


35. Monkey drinking from the pool


36. Monkey


37. Monkies eatingThe park warden encourages the monkeys to gather together by throwing food on the ground.


38. Monkey eatingAccustomed to humans, the monkeys can be observed from very close and almost completely ignore their human guests.


39. Last viewThe park gives the visitors the freedom to roam around but are discouraged to interact very closely with the monkeys, like feeding the monkey is strictly prohibited.


40. Walking backAfter a few more shots, we decided to head back down to the bus stop to go back to Nagano Station.


41. walking back


42. Farewell monkeyA farewell shot from our hairy friend.


43. Onsen doorOne of the door of a local house down the valley with cute decorations. Kawaii ne!


44. Bus stopThere is a very limited bus schedule that leaves Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop back to Yudanaka Station so we walk further down towards the national road where the Snow Monkey Bus Stop is located.


46. Waiting at bus stopThe view from the Snow Monkey bus stop. From here we took a 41 minute bus ride all the way straight to Nagano Station, still free using your 1-day Snow Monkey Pass


Going back to TokyoTired but happy, riding the shinkansen back to Tokyo


45. Drinking at HostelBack in Tokyo, though we have to make a last minute itinerary adjustment, every one was satisfied  and happy and we ended Day 3 with a nice cold beer at the bar in the hostel.


Travel Tips: Transportation (Shinkansen and local JR trains) from Tokyo until Nagano were all covered by JR-Pass. Transportation from Nagano to Snow Monkey Park (local trains and bus) are all covered by Snow Monkey 1-Day Pass including the entrance fee in the park.

Some useful sites to check in preparing for this itinerary are:
Snow Monkey Resort


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