It was time to leave Tokyo and head towards the snow! Tim and I bought a 4 day flexible JR East Rail Pass, at the time an adult was 22,000 yen and a youth pass was 17,000 yen. I managed to get a youth pass as I’m under 26 years.
We bought tickets to Nagano for that afternoon and then needed to catch a private line train from Nagano to Yudanaka.
Our aim was to stay a night in Yudanaka to see the snow monkeys and then head up towards Shiga Kogen Heights for a couple of days of snow boarding (you can read about our snowboarding adventure here). Of course it didn’t quite work out like that…again our organising skills were at there best and we didn’t book any accommodation. Apparently every man and his dog wanted to be in Yudanaka tonight so we were searching the streets for hours, the snow started to fall which made things even better.
After asking every hotel we came across, we were ready to sleep at the train station. We bought our dinner from the Lawsons across the road and ate in the warm shelters of Yudanaka train station.
When we had almost given up we decided to go for one more walk and took a backstreet and came across a ryokan. When we entered the place was so warm, a gentleman approached us and said that they had 1 more room left, YES!
Uotoshi Ryokan was lovely, it was expensive at 8,400 yen per night, but we couldn’t be picky and the gentleman, Kazuhisa, was really friendly. Kazuhisa even performed Japanese archery for us, which was great to watch. Kazuhisa’s aim was spot on, Tim gave it ago too and scored quite well himself.
After watching Kazuhisa’s archery we dressed in our onsen attire and went for a bathe.
It is uncommon to find mixed onsens, so we each went to a separate room and bathed until it was too hot to stay in there anymore.
We decided to go see the snow monkeys tomorrow, Kazuhisa kindly said that he would drive us to the entrance, which was really nice of him.
You need to walk 1.6km through Jigokudani Monkey Park to get to the onsens where the monkeys bathe and believe me it is worth it. It snowed a little bit last night so the floor was a little slippery making it a slower walk, however the scenery was beautiful so the time flew. The walk took about 20 minutes.
When we reached the springs we were surprised at how many monkeys there were. The hot spring was very busy and after about half an hour the monkeys would start to fight and another group of monkeys would go for a dip.
After thirty minutes the snow started to fall again and before we knew it the entire park was covered in snow, was such a beautiful sight.
Once the snow started to fall we lasted another half an hour and then went back inside the visitor center, bought some postcards and a couple cups of hot chocolate to warm up. Then we went back out there for another half an hour before we started the trek back.
Once we were back at the start of the walk we headed down the street and caught a cheap bus back to Yudanaka. We decided to stay one more night at the ryokan and got up nice and early to bus it Shiga Kogen Heights.
Both Tim and myself loved Yudanaka, it is a small town, but everyone was really friendly. We will definitely go back there one day as there are lots of spas to try out and it is a very pretty town.