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.
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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