carved wooden monkey with lucky coins

Happy New Year! Photo by Charles Paxton

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japanese_monkey_imagewebHappy New Year was the first phrase I learned in Cantonese and I enjoyed using it a lot. I have to admit that while monkeys may not be my favourite animals, they do have a lot of charm if you meet them on their terms and admire their inquisitive, sometimes mischievous adventurism.

My favourite encounters with monkeys took place in Japan’s wonderful Hell Valley in Nagano prefecture where The Japanese Macaques are famous for indulging in luxurious hot mineral baths (Onsen). Their ability to warm up in these hot baths allows them to live far further north and higher up than would otherwise be possible.

My wife, Kimmie and I spent a very happy Christmas at Jigokudani hot spring resort and we’ll never forget the delightful sight of the “Snow Monkeys” bathing in the hot springs just like us. It really is a fantastic wildlife watching opportunity and few hotels can boast such fine scenery and naturally heated water. The valley derived its name from the steaming geothermal spring water and geyser (see below) that wreath the valley in steam.

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Geyser venting steam at Jigokudani Hot Spring Resort. A stay here is a wonderful Japanese cultural experience, especially when there’s snow on the ground. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

 

 

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It’s a wonderful opportunity to photograph the Japanese Macaques amid their mountain scenery.

Bathing Japanese Macaque or 'Nihon Zaru' enjoying the natural hot springs in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

Bathing Japanese Macaque or ‘Nihon Zaru’ enjoying the natural hot springs in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. C.Paxton photo and copyright.