Monkey See, Monkey Spa

Monkey See, Monkey Spa

So, a man and a monkey are in a hot tub . . .

That’s usually the start of some bad joke. Unless you are in the Japanese village of Jigokudani.

It is there, outside of Nagano in the Japanese Alps, where travelers can stay at the Korakukan Inn, a wonderful little Japanese-style hostel. The inn has a rotemburo (outdoor hot springs) that is for guests only. Though, apparently, no one has informed the local primate population of this policy. Stay at the Korakukan, go for an early morning bath in the winter months, and you may well be sharing the tub with a monkey.

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At least the monkeys at Karakukan’s hot spring leave room for you. Further up from the inn is the Jigokudani Monkey Park. In the winter, the hot springs there are completely packed with monkeys looking to keep warm. It is a spectacle to behold. The monkeys wash themselves, kick back with their arms resting on the hot spring’s rim, and generally carry on like humans would—we half expected one of the monkeys to pull out the sports section from a newspaper and start reading.

Monkeys bath year round but are especially prevalent (and photogenic) in the winter months when the hot springs are essential for the monkeys to keep warm. The monkeys are used to humans and won’t bite. But they will make off with any belongings you leave unattended. So hold on to your stuff to prevent, you know, any monkey business.

Getting There:
Nagano is well served by train. From the Nagano Dentetsu Yudanaka Station there’s a bus to the entrance to the Jigokudani Monkey Park. Click here for further info.

Where To Stay: The Korakukan offers the only accommodations in town. But you’d probably want to stay at this rustic minshuku (family-run Japanese-style house) even if there were other options. It serves superb food and is a great value at around ¥10,000 (about US$110, €85) per night including meals. Pack light. The only way to the Korakukan is by way of a 2 km (1.25 mile) walking path.

For other great high-value accommodations around Japan check out Hostelbookers.

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Related posts:
The Monkey Waiters of the Kayabukiya Tavern ← north of Tokyo
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Onta, Japan – The village that goes thump in the night
The World’s First All-Pet Airline
5 Cool, Luxurious (and Inexpensive) Hostels
GPS For Your Dog
The Best Camera Backpacks

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Responses

  1. Michela says:


    Twitter:
    I’d never heard and see snow monkeys…this place looks amazing, great pics !

    [Reply to this comment]

  2. Luc J says:

    I hope it’s not with our tax money that those monkeys are relaxing in the spa! While we are working!

    Hope they don’t pee in the water either ;)

    [Reply to this comment]

  3. Spot Cool Travel Stuff says:

    Tim,

    In the first draft of this post we actually had three paragraphs on the monkey but decided to delete them because, while we are experts on travel, we are not expert zoologists.

    As I understand it:

    There are over 230 kinds of monkeys, and they can be very different from each other. One genus of monkey is the Macaca; these are the only monkeys that can withstand freezing temperatures. The monkeys at Jigokudani are, logically enough, of the Japanese Macaca species, otherwise known as the “Snow Monkey”.

    (If you follow U.S. politics you may have heard of the “Macaca Moment” that sunk George Allen’s senate campaign).

    Snow Monkeys will, on occasion, bathe to get clean. But, mostly, they go into the various natural hot springs around this part of Japan to stay warm. If you go and visit Jigokudani in the winter (which I highly suggest!) you are also likely to see monkeys huddling together in larger groups for warmth and also staying warm by engaging in, um, varous X-rated monkey activities.

    [Reply to this comment]

  4. Tim says:

    What type of monkey is that? I thought monkeys didn’t like water. I know the human race climbed over those monkeys to create a Hot Tub like this. I don’t think a monkey could use it though. Too much hair. Uuugh. :(

    [Reply to this comment]

  5. Carley says:

    When you say that you spot cool stuff you aren’t kidding. This place looks amazing.

    [Reply to this comment]

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