Trip Start Sep 10, 2008
75Trip End Sep 03, 2009
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Where I stayed
Unfortunately, as the only person in the hostel, I had to work the gas heaters by myself
There lies the basis of my love/hate relationship with Japan. On the one hand you can go and visit snow monkeys, stand face to face with them as they bathe in an onsen (hot outdoor spa bath) made especially for them, literally only cenitmetres away, which is only made possible by the fact that all the visitors obey the rules (only in Japan!). On the other hand they leave your gloves, camera, scalf, jeans, anything else that came into contact with the surrounding rocks with a slight tinge of eau du monkey toilet. This then caused me to sit on the train for the next hour eyeing up my lunch, but not wanting to touch it, or anything else for that matter until I got somewhere I could wash my hands. As people sat within the vicinity of me, I decided that I probably didn't smell that bad after all.
It was quite an episode simply getting to see the monkeys, although it has to be one of the best experiences I've had so far, and was definitely worth the hastle. Arriving at Nagano station, I headed to tourist information who gave me a bus timetable and pointed me in the direction of the baggage lockers and bus stops. Very proud that I managed to fit my huge bag into the 400 yen locker, rather than the 600 yen one, with space to spare for my other collections of bags, mainly containing half-eaten bits of food I headed to the bus stop. Pointing to the snow monkey leaflet I had been given I pointed at the bus. "Is this the right bus for the snow monkeys?" "hai, hai, hai" (yes), and with that and a concoction of Japanese sentences that I couldn`t understand at all, the driver directed me onto the bus. Apparently the bag success had left me overconfident.
I started to get concerned just after we had set off. The reason being, the bus was full of foreign tourists, all talking about fancy ski lodges. This is something I had not encountered before. Everywhere else I'd been had been full of Japanese tourists, but no foreigners. I asked them where they were going. It wasn`t the same place as me. I spoke to the driver. Somehow managing to get the message across that I was on the wrong bus, I asked for him to let me off here, where I could walk back to the train station
Arriving at the correct destination this time, I got off with three girls from Thailand, all of us equally as lost as each other. We managed to find a petrol station, who was obviously so used to being asked where the snow monkeys were, even had a little map printed off that he could give to lost tourists. The beautiful uphill walk through the forest dusted with snow was worth it, to see the monkeys acting completely naturally, it was if there were no humans there. Truly amazing!