Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Matsumoto

Snow Monkeys II

Cindy planned her trip around the opportunity to see the snow monkeys. The snow monkeys live in Jigokudani Monkey Park. I was very excited she wanted to visit the snow monkeys because we loved the experience when we first went. I booked a tour for us with ITT. We discussed other options, but decided this was the easiest way to take a day trip. We set our alarms for 2:30 am and met the bus at 3:30 am. After a quick stop at main base, we were on our way!

Jigokudani Monkey Park is located in Nagano. It takes about 4.5 hours to get there. We were happy to have the time to sleep a little bit longer.

We were very lucky to have a clear morning. At our first rest stop, we could see Mt. Fuji!

A couple hours later, we were off the bus and ready to set out for the park!

We had a short hike through the snow to reach the actual park entrance. The snow covered hill side was beautiful.

Once we had our tickets, we set out to find snow monkeys!

We didn’t see the snow monkeys actually in the onsen today. Dave talked with one of the park rangers. He’s in the monkey business… he told Dave the monkeys don’t actually like to get wet. So, when the temperatures are warmer, they can get enough heat to stay warm from the surrounding rocks. Regardless, we enjoyed the opportunity to observe the monkeys.

One funny thing the monkeys kept doing was putting their face in the onsen to drink. To do this, their monkey butts were in the air. It made us chuckle.

We had a couple close encounters as the monkeys passed by us.

I took a couple of videos of the monkeys doing their monkey business.

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Having the opportunity to experience the snow monkey park again was fantastic. We truly enjoyed watching them. I thought it was extra special to be able to share the experience with Cindy.

As we enjoyed this once in a lifetime opportunity again, I reflected on how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to live in Japan. It continues to be a life changing and enhancing experience.

All too soon, we had to make our way back to the bus. Our next stop was for lunch. We all enjoyed a hot bowl of ramen.

After lunch, we went to the city of Matsumoto. Here we had a chance to visit the Matsumoto castle. It was HUGE! Cindy struck a pose with the Samurai and Princess.

We enjoyed a walk through the castle and endured the many narrow and steep staircases.

The views outside were beautiful. We even saw someone we knew!

Dave took our picture as we peeked out the veranda window.

The castle was beautiful.

We had a little more time to explore the shops in town before getting back on the bus. First stop, was at the Yahashira Shrine so Cindy could get a stamp.

I struck a pose at my favorite sign.

Soon, it was time to board the bus and start the 4 plus hour journey home. It was a long day and it was worth every minute of the long bus ride. We created a lot of unforgettable memories that I know I will cherish.


The second half of our day on Saturday was spent in Matsumoto. Matsumoto is a city surrounded by mountains in the Nagano prefecture. It was about a 1.5 hour drive from the Snow Monkey Park.

The highlight of our visit to Matsumoto was the Matsumoto Castle. This castle was unlike any castle I have ever seen. Mainly because it was a Japanese castle. 

The weather in the afternoon was perfect allowing for excellent lighting on the castle. We were amazed with the perfect weather we had all day. Clear in the morning so we could see Mt. Fuji, snowed while we were visiting the snow Monkeys and then perfect clouds in Matsumoto. 

The Matsumoto Castle is listed as a National Treasure of Japan. It is often referred to as the “Crow Castle” because it’s black color and roof line give the image of crow wings. 

The castle was built during the Sengoku Period and completed between 1593-1594. For 280 years, the castle was ruled by 23 different lords until the Meiji Restoration abolished the feudal system. In 1873, the castle was sold at auction and prepared for restoration. The main structure was experiencing a significant starboard list. Since 1873b, two significant renovations have occurred. One between 1903-1913 and the other between 1950-1955. An earthquake in June of 2011 caused 10 cracks to form in the walls of the main structure and potential renovations are being discussed. 

Upon entering the castle, visitors are asked to remove their shoes. You are provided slippers to wear while walking around. Dave had a little bit of a struggle finding a pair to fit his size 12. 

The Castle has 6 floors. Each floor is connected by a set of narrow and steep stairs! I wasn’t able to photograph each set because of the crowds. These will give you an idea. 

The view of the surrounding mountains from the sixth floor was beautiful. 

After exploring the castle, we walked around the gardens and had a couple unique photo opportunities. 

We had a little bit of time before needing to catch the bus, enabling us to explore the city of Matsumoto. We found this beautiful temple and I purchased another temple book. Two reasons – 1. I only have 3 spots left in my book. 2. I forgot mine. Ugh. Rookie mistake! 

When we first arrived, we were able to see the end of a wedding. 

We walked through the shopping district and found this cute store! It has my name! 

As always, thanks for reading! Hugs & kisses from Japan! 

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