After spending a few days in Tokyo, Khoa and I took the shinkansen over to Nagano to see the snow monkeys. Technically, they’re called “Japanese macaque,” but everyone knows what you’re talking about when you say “snow monkey.” Khoa had wanted to photograph them for a long time, so I’m glad that we were finally able to make it out to Nagano. Unfortunately, April had already come to melt most of the snow, but it was still really exciting to see the monkeys lounging in the onsen even without a background of white.
We went to the Jigokudani Monkey Park two days in a row. It was pouring rain the first day, so I did my best to hold our flimsy clear umbrella over Khoa (and his camera) as he excitedly took pictures. It didn’t do much good because Khoa was more focused on taking the best possible picture than staying dry. He kept moving out from under the umbrella to capture a shot as I frantically tried to catch up to keep him from getting soaked to the bone.
We were fortunate to wake up to sunny skies the next day. After hiking for about twenty minutes, we arrived at the Monkey Park and were greeted by very energetic monkeys. They seemed to perk up thanks to the nice weather.
The monkeys aren’t bothered by their human visitors at all and barely interact with them. I say “barely” because while Khoa was standing next to a trio of baby monkeys, one reached out and monkey slapped Khoa’s leg. I couldn’t stop laughing! Other than occasionally monkey slapping park patrons, the macaques seem happy to just lounge around or play amongst themselves, allowing photographers to get very close.
Khoa and I loved visiting the Jigokudani Monkey Park and we hope to be able to go back again. Maybe Khoa’s monkey friend will remember him and give him a little slap for old times’ sake.