Day 24 – Autumn colours and…snow monkeys!

Today, a journey into the Japanese Alps, a colder climate, finally some amazing autumn foliage and of course the amazing snow monkeys!

Now before you enjoy my blog, I have rewritten a small japanese song… (un)fortunately you don’t get to hear it, and it is based on a little enka song I know by Sayuri Ishikawa …I’ve renamed it

地獄谷 猿景色 — Jigokudani Monkey Scenery

上野発の朝行列車 おりた時から — When I got off the morning train from Ueno
湯田中駅は 山の中 — Yudanaka station was in the midst of mountains
北へ帰る 人の群は 誰も無口で — The people travelling north, did not say a word
山風だけを きいている — All I could hear was the mountain wind

私もひとり 連絡バスに乗り — I was all alone as I got on the connecting bus
露天風呂猿見つめ 泣いていました — Staring at the open-air onsen monkeys I cried
ああ 地獄谷 猿景色 — “A, a, aah! Jigokudani Monkey Scenery”

ごらんあれが かわいそうな 猿子はずれと — “Look at the cute baby monkey!”
見知らぬ人が 指をさす — say strangers, as they point their fingers
かすみでくもるカメラ窓 ふいてみたけど — I try wiping the camera lens clouded by mist
普天風呂に猿 見えるだけ — but all I see in the onsen is monkeys

さよならあなた 私は帰ります — Farewell to you, but I have to go home
猿の音が 胸をゆする 泣けとばかりに — The monkey voices shake my heart, bringing me to tears!
ああ 地獄谷 猿景色— “A, a, aah! Jigokudani Monkey Scenery”

Now if you want to hear the original (slightly superior) version of the song,
here it is on youtube

Well the day begins very, very early I leave the hotel before 7 am, catch the Yamanote line to Ueno, then catch the Nagano Shinkansen to Nagano, transfer to the Dentetsu line for Yudanaka and then catch a bus to Kambayashi Onsen. Each train connection takes me higher and higher into the mountains!  I’m wearing my thermal underwear (well after I lugged it all the way, I should get to use it at least once).  The weather forecast is cloudy with chance of showers….well it is very overcast, but it doesn’t rain…and of course after I leave the sun comes out.

I should have eaten on the shinkansen because there is about only 5-10 mins at each of these connections…but after 3 hours I get off the bus…now I have to walk for 2km (some of it uphill) to get to the monkeys!  I’m sure I can cope until lunch time…I buy a coffee from a Soba shop that is getting ready for business, and the lady says come have lunch please on your way back.  A good idea!

So before I get to the monkeys, let’s have a look at these autumn views first as a warm up…and then I beheld the valley from the mountain of the monkeys…

and now the monkeys themselves…

three “not-so-wise” monkeysthey love to groom each other (it’s the monkey equivalent of gossip)though sometimes you just have to groom yourself…hmmm, was that there before?now grooming can lead to other more interesting things, and I caught one couple in flagranti delicto…(monkeys not humans!) but they stopped as soon as I turned my camera on them, so no naughtly pics on this blog…sorry and of course they love the hot springs!and the onsen is almost as clean as the one in my hotel!they don’t look their best when they first come out of the onsen, dripping wethave you said aawh yet?some of the babies are scared to go in the onsenand some like to stay near the safety of an adultand some just seem to be scared!!!!(hmm, she reminds me of a colleague just after the ARC results were announced!)

and these two look like proud grandparents to me

There were quite a few fights and squabbles which I captured on video, you can check them out when I return.

So just before we go a final groom…have to look our bestThis is the live-cam website on the onsen…

http://www.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/livecam/monkey/index.htm

and yours-truly has been immortalise by the 11am freeze-frame for Nov 9, but you need to look at it within one day, otherwise it will have gone!  A little reward for those 3 people still checking out my blog everyday…some comments please!

Well, I could stay forever, but it is a long trip back…starting with a 2km hike back to the bus stop…and the clouds look ominous

Now after all that the journey back is quite eventful…I of course stop and have Sansai Udon (that’s appropriately mountain vegetable udon…for those not keeping track) and I have timed it perfectly, the bus is due in 10 mins…when we get to the train station the express is due in about 40 mins…but that’s okay…until…

…well it doesn’t arrive…I ask what happened, well apparently the train has hit a car at a level crossing (I think…the explanation  is of course in japanese)…the next train is the LOCAL and it’s due in almost an hour…well, nothing to do but wait…

The local train is full of primary school kids who are fascinated by the foreigners with cameras!oh and the way back from the Shinkansen window I see a black silhouette against the deep red western sky…the shape is unmistakeable…Mt Fuji at last…well, its shape anyway

I’m back at my hotel…tomorrow it’s time for some very classical Noh theatre.

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6 Responses to Day 24 – Autumn colours and…snow monkeys!

  1. Danny says:

    I totally forgot about you once your emails stopped landing in my mailbox! So I will have to go back and read the earlier entries. The monkeys are very cute, and autumn foliage is nice (we had a good year for that here in the UK, too).

  2. Artin Poladian says:

    Congratulations, you have become quite a professional photographer

  3. Nerida says:

    かわいいなあ!!(リオンさんも – そのLIVECAMで!)

  4. Di says:

    Leon, I did not log on after the first time. I too required the e mails it seems. I did often think of you too late (as I was driving home). Loved the pics of the monkeys; I thought I recognised someone too!! Will now go and check out the previous 14 days (maybe not all of them).

  5. Di says:

    Just saw you on the edge of the onsen. I now realise I only have to go back to ~day 14 to catch up.
    It’s been raining here on and off for a while too. Going to Art Sydney this weekend; spent a great couple of days near Bateman’s Bay with Caroline and her sister etc etc. She gave me her little aesus, so maybe I’ll get it up and running soon.

  6. Craig says:

    Ah … 西遊記 Mountain – But where are Tripitaka and Pigsy? Yes I too will need to go back and read – it’s harder to remember without the prompts that email provides isn’t it?

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