Happy Halloween…

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Happy Halloween to everyone!!


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Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park

I thought it might be nice to begin this post with a slightly creepy photo.  You will have to scroll to the end to see more pictures like this one!

Let’s re-start with something less creepy!  We awoke to beautiful weather for our 2nd day in Nagano…

We were in Nagano prior to climbing Mt. Fuji.  At the time, I thought 1,400m was high up.  It was probably a good thing I didn’t know that Fuji-san was 3,776m tall!

The area in which we stayed is known for it’s natural hot springs and the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the wild monkeys, so we asked the staff for directions to park.  Rather than giving us directions and sending us out on our own, the staff actually drove us to the monkey park!  We are so thankful for their kindness.  The park is in a remote location, so it would have been very challenging for us to find it on our own!

The name Jigokudani, meaning “Hell’s Valley”, is due to the steam and boiling water that bubbles out of small crevices in the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs and formidably cold and hostile forests. -Wikipedia

Click here for short, but descriptive National Geographic article on Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park.

Shawn took the next photo…I love it!

Over 200 monkeys live in the park and bathe in the natural hot springs year round.  The park is blanketed in heavy snow for 3-4 months, so the monkeys spend a lot of time in the hot springs during the winter.

Click here to check out the LIVE SNOW MONKEY WEB CAM! Make sure you do it when it’s daytime in Japan, otherwise you probably won’t see much.  🙂

“Hmmm…it looks like I need a manicure.”

This is finally the end of our trip to Nagano.  We took a taxi out of the monkey park, then caught the local train to Nagano, and then boarded the Shinkansen to return Tokyo.  (Sometimes I feel like we’e on the Amazing Race.)  We were only in Nagano for 1.5 days, but we did a lot in a short amount of time!

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Traveling to Shiga Kogen

We made our way back to Nagano Station and caught a local train out to Shiga Kogen.  The train was empty when we first got on, but that eventually changed.

After a 1 hour ride through the Nagano countryside, we arrived at the last train stop.  We departed the train and made our way to the bus station to buy tickets.  Shawn used his excellent Japanese skills to make sure we got tickets for the correct bus!

We had to wait about 1 hour for the next bus to depart.

As you can see, there wasn’t much to do at the bus station…

The old, rickety bus climbed through the mountains and we eventually made it to our hotel (Hotel Shiga Sunvalley).  The hotel is nestled at the bottom of a ski hill…and it was so nice to breathe the fresh, crisp, mountain air.  (Remember – this was in July, so it was 90+ degrees in Tokyo, with 90% humidity!)  The staff at the hotel was extremely kind and welcoming.

The Shiga Kogen area of Nagano Prefecture is a very popular location for skiing in Japan.  I can only imagine how busy this place must be during the winter!

We decided to stay in a traditional Japanese room.  This is how the room looked when we arrived.  🙂

Since we were in the middle of the mountains (and it was dark out), there was nothing for us to do in the area.  So…we had dinner at the hotel, played a few games, and called it a night.

Day 1 of our trip to Nagano is complete.  Check back for more photos from day 2!

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St. Cousair in Nagano

After visiting the Zenkoji Temple, we stopped at a store called St. Cousair.  They produce a variety of wines, jams, and spreads in the Nagano region.  The shop owner was very nice (and spoke English!) – so we just had to sample a few things.  It was the perfect treat after a day of sightseeing!

This was our final stop for the day, but our journey was not yet done!  After St. Cousair, we headed back to the train station to catch the train…and a bus…out of Nagano to our hotel.  The adventure continues…

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Details at Zenkoji Temple

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Zenkoji Temple

Our 3rd stop in Nagano was the Zenkoji Temple.  After you’ve seen 10…20…30…300 shrines or temples in Japan, you feel like you’ve had your fill for a lifetime.  Thankfully, visiting the Zenkoji Temple was different!  Zenkoji is a Buddhist temple and was originally founded in the 7th century.  The main hall was built in the 18th century and is a National Treasure in Japan.

The first thing you see is the Niomon Gate.

The temple guardians are housed in the base of the gate.

After you walk through the Niomon Gate, the street is lined with shops selling traditional items…

The pace of life in Nagano is definitely more relaxed compared to Tokyo.  It is much easier to take photos when people are not so rushed or getting in your way (or maybe I am the one in their way?)!

The Sanmon gate is the 2nd gate you must walk through to get to the main temple.

The gold sign in the middle of the gate reads “Zenkoji”.

After walking through the 2nd gate, you can finally see the main hall.

Incense burners can be found in front of all temples.  People will rub the incense smoke on their body for good health and fortune.  It is believed that if you have an ailment on a particular part of your body, you can rub the smoke on the specific location and the ailment will be cured.  Maybe I can bottle up some of the incense and bring it back to everyone as a gift?  🙂

This photo was taken while standing on the steps of the main hall and looking back at the Sanmon Gate…

More to come…!!

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Nature in Nagano

Enjoy the beauty!

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