• Japan 2023 Trip Itinerary (still updating)
  • Nov 1 – Arrival at Nagoya, around Nagano Station, Stay : Sotetsu Fresa Inn Nagano-Zenkojiguchi
  • Nov 2 – Bus trip to visit the famous Snow Monkey Park, Nagano, Stay : Sotetsu Fresa Inn Nagano-Zenkojiguchi
  • Nov 3 – Easy trek at Togakushi 5-shrines, Nagano, Stay : Sotetsu Fresa Inn Nagano-Zenkojiguchi
  • Nov 4 – Drive rented car to Hakuba and hiked to Hakuba Happo Pond, Stay : Hotel Hakuba
  • Nov 5 – Morning walk to Zenkoji Temple, relaxed at Hakuba Mountain Harbour and Oide Park, Stay : Hotel Hakuba
  • Nov 6 – Drive from Myoko to Joetsu, Ben-ten Iwa rock and crab feast, Stay : APA Hotel & Resort Joetsu Myoko
  • Nov 7 – Drive to Kiyotsu Gorge and Naena Falls, Stay : APA Hotel & Resort Joetsu Myoko
  • Nov 8 – Drive around Lake Nojiri, train ride to Lake Suwa and Tateishi Park, Stay : Beni-ya Hotel
  • Nov 9 – Train ride to Shizuoka and Nihondaira Terrace sunset, Stay : Nippondaira Hotel
  • Nov 10 – Walk around Shizuoka Station, Stay : Nippondaira Hotel
  • Nov 11 – Train ride to Fuji City, walk around Atami City, Stay : Super Hotel JR Fujiekimae Kinenkan
  • Nov 12 – Shy Mount Fuji, cheap seafood at Co-op and Numazu City festival, Stay : Super Hotel JR Fujiekimae Kinenkan
  • Nov 13 – Mount Fuji, Shira-Ito Falls, Fujisan Sengan Shrine, Mount Fuji World Heritage Center, Stay : Super Hotel JR Fujiekimae Kinenkan
  • Nov 14 – Mount Fuji, Hamamatsu Station and bus to hotel nearby airport, Stay : Hotel Route-Inn Tokoname Ekimae

I peeked at the weather forecast on my phone at 5 am—it was clear! After an ice bath, I found myself outside, wandering the quiet streets of Nagano City, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sunrise. However, Nagano is surrounded by tall mountains, so the sun only makes an appearance around 6:30 am, and its color is a bright yellow, which isn’t as appealing. After makan at a nearby park, made by way back to the hotel.

Morning arrives at Nagano Station
A lone train warming up the engines at 5am
Breakfast option with the excellent MAchi cafe coffee
A red bicyle
Onigiri (riceball) breakfast is never wrong

We enjoyed a relaxing breakfast next to our hotel and then lined up for the bus to the famous Jigokudani Monkey Park—a place I had been longing to visit since my first trip to Japan in 2006.

View from our hotel – Sotetsu Fresa Inn Nagano-Zenkojiguchi
English breakkie at 森乃珈琲店 曇り時々晴れ 長野駅前店

There are two ways to get to the park from Nagano Station: one involves taking only a bus, and the other is a train and bus combo. We opted for the direct bus-only route and lined up at Bus Stop number 23 at the East Exit of Nagano Station.

The bus requires no booking, it is first come – first serve, so do arrive early and line up. Since it was a weekday, the bus was full of foreigners like us. We do not need to pay anything as payment will be made when getting off the bus.

East Exit of Nagano Station
Nagaden bus arriving on time at Bus Stop 23 (East Exit)
Full bus with middle walkway seats

The bus ride took about two relaxing hours. Upon arrival at the bus stop with a large, glass cone-like building (looking abandoned). Get ready the correct amount of 1,400yen and pay the driver when alighting the bus. Tip: Near the tour bus parking, there is a toilet— use it because there won’t be another one until a 30-minute walk later. The walk through the cedar forest was incredibly nice and peaceful, with only the sounds of birds, rustling leaves, and a nearby river.

Directions are quite clear upon disembarking from the bus
Easy walk with minimum elevation changes
Cedar trees adorning the path
Just next to a raging river
Building with a geyser spout.

After reaching a large building by a river with a geyser spout, we could clearly see a sign that said “Snow Monkey Park” and some stairs. We were near. Up the flight of stairs was the entrance/souvenir building. Adults had to pay 800 yen, and children 400 yen. Then, it was monkey time! Many of them could be seen loitering in the area, foraging, cleaning, fighting, and, if lucky, bathing. The monkeys don’t bathe all the time, and while we were there, only a handful went in for a dip. Those who did were like celebrities, with cameras all aimed at them. Despite the monkeys being the center stage, one must not forget to admire the beauty that surrounds this small monkey onsen pond.

Geyser spout with some monkeys loitering
Visible from the geyser are stairs to the Snow Monkey Park
Entrance building (800yen for adult / 400yen for children)
Lucky sonova…
The pond is not very big with limited standing space, don’t fall in and NO SWIMMING
Monkeys everywhere and DO NOT FEED THEM
After abit, some decided to dunk into the famous onsen pool
Little star of the day
A very beautiful valley
All sorts of antics from the monkeys and humans.

After an hour or so, we walked back the way we came, having another session of forest bathing. The sun peeking through the dense cedar foliage made the walk even more magical. Personally, I enjoyed the short walk as much as I did with the monkeys.

A small statue on the way to the park
We couldn’t get enough of the forest tho
Good choice in the Ricoh GRIII
Enza Cafe – wonderful vibe

We were hungry and decided to eat first while waiting for the next bus to arrive. Stopping by Enza Cafe, we had a sumptuous meal outdoors, coupled with the autumn leaves—pure bliss. Apart from red leaves falling into our coffee and ramen, we finished off with a delicious apple pastry—it was one meal to remember. And for the first time in Japan, I saw a Malay sign reading “Sila tutupkan pintu.” Yeah!

We knew the dine-in was going to be great with such wonderful setting
Ramen of the best quality
Autumn leaves surrounding our table
Rare occasion with malay words
Clearly marked bus stop location
The bus stop area with the unmissable cone-shape glass building
Warm setting sun greeted us upon reaching Nagano City – back to bus stop 23

We reached Nagano Station as the sun was setting, casting a beautiful yellowish glow inside the bus. We ate our soba dinner at a nearby noodle shop – Shinsyu Juwari Soba Ten 海鮮居酒屋 浜焼太郎 長野駅前店 – just adjacent to Nagano Station, as we had had enough walking for the day. A new discovery for us was that after the soba meal, the shop provided us with a bowl of water used to boil our soba, called Sobayu (literally translated as soba water). I think it was our first time drinking sobayu.

Shinsyu Juwari Soba Ten 海鮮居酒屋 浜焼太郎 長野駅前店 – recommended , cheap too
Wifey had the Zaru Soba with tempura
I had the soupy soba
After we finished our soba, we poured the soup used to cook the soba into our tea for the sobayu experience

After over 20,000 steps, we called it a fruitful night and slept like pigs.

  • Useful links:
  • Experience :
    • Arrive early to the bus stop and line up. It is first come, first serve.
    • Bring comfy walking shoes for the trek between the bus stop to the monkey park
    • Monkeys are harmless, they do get up close, just ignore them and take pictures, they are so used to cameras it is oblivious to them.

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