Bathing with beasts at Jigokudani snow monkey park

4 Feb

“Hadaka no tsukiai” is the Japanese phrase for “naked companionship,” the bonding that occurs in public baths. In the nude, there is nothing to hide and status means nothing; onsen, or hot springs, may be the most relaxed and uninhibited places in Japan. And here I was baring it all. To a monkey.

The directions to Korakukan ryokan, a rustic inn in the mountains, read like a scene in a Haruki Murakami novel – take the train to Nagano, a bus and then walk two kilometres through the forest. It gets dark quickly. There may be monkeys on the path. Do not look into the monkey’s eyes…

A story about my visit to Jigokudani monkey park and how I ended up sharing an onsen with some monkeys has been published in one of Canada’s national newspapers — The Globe and Mail.

It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime type of trip. I stayed in a ryokan and went to an outdoor, natural onsen for the first time. And there were monkeys! Korakukan is a charming old inn covered in snow in the quiet wilderness. After this bath with a monkey, we wrapped ourselves in warm yukata and were treated to the largest feast with local food and sake. Then it was early to bed under big thick duvets, only to awake to another big traditional meal in the morning. A great getaway from the city.

Read the full story here.

Snow monkey babies!

Snow monkey babies!

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