Monkeying Around

I’ve been procrastinating the blog thing, not sure why but here we go!

Solstice/Christmas time was amazing!

It was pleasantly cold enough to wear coats, gloves and scarves which made it feel even more magical.  Originally, our plan this year was to go to the Sapporo Ice Festival which is a long trip up North but a moved up wedding in November meant we had to put off the more expensive trip for Christmas week.

I was glancing through the different tours the base offers for December and noticed one that was a reasonable price and something I knew the husband really wanted to do.  His response when I mentioned it:

“Snow Monkeys on Christmas Day, Hells YES!”

The tour itinerary went like this:

Day 1:  4-5 hour ride on a tour bus North and West of Tokyo to Nagano, Japan.  Nagano is where the 1998 Winter Olympics were held, if you recall.

IMG_20141224_065942I got a little artsy fartsy with this photo.  We were sitting at the back of the bus and when I turned around to take a photo of the sunrise behind us this is how it turned out.







We would stop at a Temple on the way up then check in at the Ryokan in Nagano.

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japanese dinner





japanese dinner 2


Had a Japanese style dinner at the hotel, which was lovely and delicious then go down to the lobby to enjoy a drum show.  This turned out to be more than just a great drum show.  First the wife of the owner of the hotel introduced a group of eight older ladies who sang English Christmas carols.  They were adorable and wonderful.

chorusThe bamboo container I am holding has coals in it and they came around to add water under the shelf with the meat on it, then put the lid down and let it steam.  Fabulous!




These ladies were amazing and on short notice sang a beautiful set of carols.





Then the drum show which was one man beating on a very large drum.  After this, he played the Shamisen you hear at Kabuki theatre shows.  The final treat was a new years lion dance called the Shishimai (much like the kind you see at Chinese street festivals) with the big head and just clothes around the person inside it as the rest of the body.  He was an excerpt from the New Years Festivity that would be held the next week.  This was a special performance for us which was truly an honor.  He went to each person in the lobby watching and pretended to munch on our heads which apparently is good luck for the coming year.  Very much the same dance as this one:

After the show, the husband and I opted to purchase time in the private rooftop onsen so we headed up to our room to change into our Yukata and head up to the roof.  What we saw was a small wood deck with walls up the sides for privacy and a lovely view out the front of the town and mountains.  A small tub filled with hot running water and a washing station where you sit on a small stool (and I mean tiny!) and rinse, soap, rinse your body before you go in the tub.  We had the deck for 40 minutes which was actually just the right amount of time, anything more would have had us pruned up.  While we soaked in our little tub, chatting about the chorus ladies and the show we saw, the great dinner and looking forward to the monkeys in the morning, it started to snow on us.  It was truly magical.








So, back to our room and time to crawl into our futon bed.  We were exhausted and super relaxed so it didn’t take long to fall asleep.










Day 2:  Christmas morning, we got ready and went for the Japanese breakfast the hotel had prepared for our group which consisted of a lot of small dishes and bowls of various types of food.  Salmon, homemade pickles, two kinds of soup, etc.  The husband isn’t a fan of salmon or a few of the other items but he got enough to eat.

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Can you see his trepidation with most of this meal?












This package was so cute, it even had a bow!







Then, we all checked out and piled on the bus to go see some crazy monkeys.  It was a bit of walk in snow and ice to get to the park but once we were there it was really fun.  I’ll just let the photos speak for the monkey portion of the trip:


christmasmonkey park snow





monkey onsen2


monkey onsen









After the monkeys we started back but detoured to the Matsumoto Castle, which is loaded with history and legend.

touristWe just had to do the touristy photo with the Samurai and Ninja. haha!








Then back on the bus for the 4 hour drive home.  We were exhausted and giddy from all of it.  Two bucket list items were crossed off on this trip.  For me the rooftop onsen while snowing and for the husband, the snow monkeys.

Also, I found a little something for my mother that I’ve been searching for, not saying more than that or showing photos cuz she’s reading this.  🙂  You’ll have to wait.

13 thoughts on “Monkeying Around

  1. While I may not be there, physically, I thank you for the spiritual experience. These are wonder-filled words and I thank you for sharing all of these treasures.

  2. Excellent blog! You two really had a great time.. so obvious.

    We went out with two friends last Saturday night who both travel to Japan for business. They talked about how hospitable their Japanese hosts are. One friend has developed a liking for Japanese scotch (Yamasaki?), enough that his girlfriend gave him a bottle for Christmas, with a ice maker for the ice balls they put in the scotch glass.

    1. Very cool, I haven’t tried Yamasaki yet, but I do love the saki. 🙂 With that dinner above, I put down a little hot saki. There is so much I will miss when we leave, it’s still a year away but we are already sad about it.

  3. What an amazing trip! I’ve always wanted to see the monkey hot springs. Snow + hot springs is such a typical winter Japanese image. I really love the touristy type photos! How fun!

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