Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monkeying Around with Wild Snow Monkeys in Nagano and Touring Matsumoto Castle

First, I want to say hi to Trasie with an "S." Thanks for introducing yourself on the trip, it was wonderful to meet you!!!

Second, isn't Bob's hat awesome? Greg, he thanks you for it...he never did wear it on the bridge of the USS Los Angeles, but it did come in handy that day. He has it hanging on the coat rack now and said that's going to be his winter hat. Sydney loves it too and you'll see in the pictures she was wearing it just as much as he was.

We took an ITT trip to Nagano [Sound familiar? The 1998 Winter Olympics were held here] to see the Wild Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Yaenkoen. This was by far the most fun we've had on a trip. All the other ones we've gone on have been fun too, don't get me wrong, but this one was just special. It wasn't historical or cultural like the others have been. Well, the first part wasn't anyway...our second stop was Motsumoto Castle and that was more educational. Bob was in heaven though since it was set up like a museum in some areas. He read and studied every display just like he usually does, whereas Keanna and I attempted to climb up the steep steps in our socks and provided slippers (I wore them, Keanna didn't). The picture of the monkey at the above left was taken with my little camera, the one I use primarily for video. I'm happy with how it came out, but can't help but wonder how much better it would be had I taken it with my Rebel.

All of the pictures I took are in my Shutterfly album if you'd like to see them. The monkeys are wild, but they do lounge around in a manmade
onsen or hot spring. Some were relaxing, some were preening and some were running around amongst us. One even hit Bob in the butt because he was leaning against the fence one monkey was walking along, and apparently Bob was blocking the way. We were warned ahead of time not to make eye contact with them since the monkeys view it as a threat and/or challenge. They don't mind cameras though so that's a good thing! Keanna passed by one, but apparently got too close. She must have spooked him because he turned raised an arm and moved in her direction. She ran to Bob, the monkey took a few steps towards her and then the monkey turned in the other direction. I was down below taking pictures so I didn't see anything, just heard, "Mommmm, noooo dad, I want mooooommy." But she was fine and Bob did a good job of settling her down. Soon afterward we were taking pictures and monkeys were walking right by us. I love the picture to the right. I didn't notice it right away, but the monkey in the middle is staring right at the camera. The one on the right and in front appeared to have been the dominant male or female.

The walk from where the bus dropped us of to where the monkeys are was about 30 minutes. It's a trail, but there was no snow on the ground so it was easy. Keanna walked the whole thing (1.24 miles or 2 km) and Bob had Sydney on his shoulders for a little bit of it. I can imagine it'd take longer in the snow. You'll see pictures of the trail in the album so that'll give you a better idea of what I'm talking about. There was even a vending machine about 3/4 of the way up! There's also a camera there that posts pictures on their website. My friend Terri (fellow sub wife who I met in Hawaii and now lives in Guam) was able to view them as they came up, saved them and emailed them to me. Thanks Terri!!! I'll post one of them here and the rest can be seen in my album. There I am standing in the back and that's Keanna next to me, then Sydney and Bob next to her.

After the monkeys we ate lunch at a rest area on the expressway. We had to order the food at a vending machine, it spit out a ticket with a number on it, and when our number was called (in Japanese, not English) we picked it up at a counter. I got us a table while Bob stood at the counter looking for what he ordered. Here's a picture of the vending machine. At least it had pictures up at the top. One we went to this summer didn't have pictures and our guide told us what each one was so we knew what we were ordering. After we ate we went to the little store area and found three new Kit Kats. Nagano Apple, Chili Powder and Grape. Major Kit Kat jackpot since we hadn't seen or heard of these flavors before. I got another strawberry flavor too, but not at this rest area. I also saw the largest stick of bubble gum I ever was about the length of my forearm.

From lunch we headed to Matsumoto Castle. It's one of a few castles in Japan that's still in original form. Four castles are considered national treasures in Japan and this is one of them; construction started in 1592. We walked around the perimeter first then headed inside. I really wanted to walk across that red bridge and get a picture of us standing on it with the castle in the background, but that area is under construction until March. So FYI to anyone visiting there in the next few months since you'll run into the same thing.

The flights of stairs are steep inside the castle and it's not recommended for little kids. Keanna had no problem with it except for the one-way stairwell...Bob carried her up and down. Sydney stayed outside with the guide so I was able to enjoy it instead of lugging her. When you enter you have to take off your shoes. They'll give you a plastic bag and you'll carry them with you. They've got a bin of slippers that you can put on if you choose to. I opted to, Bob's feet were too big and Keanna's were too small.

One of my favorite rooms was the Moon Viewing Room. In the picture with the reflection the moon viewing room is the small area on the right side that looks like a porch, and here it is from the inside with Bob and Keanna. Apparently the moon can be seen three times from the moon viewing room. Once in the sky, once in the water below and once in your cup of sake. And they say it can be seen six times if your sake is strong! They've got a small gift shop on the grounds and the door to the right of the shop is an office. If you've got one of the shrine books and collect the stamps that's where to go.

We had a very good time and would like to take the trip again. And for those of you with little ones don't go just because you're told the kids can't handle it. If you want to carry them or you think they can handle the trail going to see the monkeys then go for it. We're so glad we did! And don't forget, if you want to see more pictures just click here to view the album.


jupiter family said...

Happy New Year!

2009 Fireworks show

Inkspots said...

How fun! I feel like we're missing so much.

Terri said...

You need to stop having so much fun without us! :-)