After a long journey, we finally arrived at Yamanouchi. Craig Shaw, our English-speaking liaison from Snow Monkey Japan picked up us from Yudanaka train station and took our weary selves to Biyu no Yado, the ryokan (or Japanese inn) where we would be staying during our visit. Craig also works at Biyu no Yado, which made it convenient.
At Biyu no Yado, we got the traditional room as we wanted a more authentic experience. We love the switcheroo-service that the staff do during meal times. During dinner time, they will prepare our futon for sleeping. While during breakfast, they would tidy up the futons and restore the room to its day-time state.
Dinner and breakfast were included in the room cost and the meals are a real spread.
The little complimentary traditional sweets we received were also such a joy.
Pockets of Japan are well-known as hot springs or onsen areas. The highlight of staying at Biyu no Yado is definitely the onsen baths. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we took all our baths in the communal baths while we were there!
On the morning of 12th April 2011 our adventure was certainly made even more interesting. While getting ready for breakfast, we experienced a 5.5M local earthquake. It was a pretty big earthquake that lasted for a couple of seconds. It was certainly shocking and worrying, but despite the continuing little aftershocks during the day, we proceeded to carry out the activities we planned for our stay. After breakfast, we went to Jigokudani Monkey Park to see the snow monkeys.
We had to do a bit of climbing to see the monkeys and after a big earthquake, the last thing you would want to see is a sign like this …
We also saw signs that warned us of possible animals we might encounter during the walk … which luckily we did not encounter.
Once we got into the park, it was quite amazing really. Wild snow monkeys running around as we walk. At Jigokudani Park, the visitors can get really close to the monkeys. When we arrived it was feeding time… imagine a herd of wild monkeys running around beside you chasing after the caretaker… Amazingly, the monkeys ignored the visitors and went on as if we were not there. There were a number of rules to be followed when visiting the snow monkeys.
1. No eating while walking.
2. Don’t disturb the monkeys.
3. Don’t carry any bags. Although apparently the monkeys are not interested in our cameras, so cameras are ok.
4. Don’t stare at the monkeys in the eye. Craig told us, the monkeys are like the mafia part of the town.
We were warned if we do not follow the rules, the monkeys would attack!
We also explored Yamanouchi town. We visited the Good Fortune Route where we saw the giant “The Goddess of Mercy of World Peace”. Reading the information, I thought it was quite apt that we were on our honeymoon.
We had a lovely lunch at Tokumi. The owner asked us if we were afraid of the nuclear situation. Later we realised, most places that we visited in Japan, the locals would ask us the same question.
So, after experiencing a 5.5M earthquake what else did we do? We went snowshoeing up on Mt Yokote (known locally as Yokote Yama), which is part of Shigakogen, a national park in the area. I asked Craig, who was our guide for this particular activity if it was safe to go up a snow mountain with earthquake and all. He jokingly told me it is better to be at the top during such time. Going up to Yokote Yama was certainly one of the best highlights of our honeymoon. It was an amazing experience.
To get to the top of Yokote Yama, Craig asked Takesou-san, who owned a bakery right on top of the mountain to take us up there. As you can see from the photos, the roads were still closed off for visitors as it was still being cleared of snow. Takesou-san has a special car and the skills to drive through the slippery roads.
We also got to ride a snow mobile! It was amazing!
Takesou-san’s bakery and cafe at the top of Yokote Yama.
Once we reached the top of the mountain, we met two beautiful Siberian Huskies… Momichi and Silver. Silver is the friendlier one.
After a brief reprieve at Mt. Bakery, we then proceeded to snowshoe our way down the mountain.
We saw the sunset from the top of the snow mountains of Yamanouchi. We made our way back in time for dinner.
Then the next day after breakfast we continued on our Japan journey. The next stop? Nagoya!
Photos from Jennifer and Tony’s collection with help from their liaison Craig Shaw.
Ms Gingham says: I’m just loving following Jennifer’s adventure around Japan! How beautiful does snowshoeing down the mountain while watching the sunset look? I just hope that bulldozer wasn’t Takesou-san’s “special car”!
Jennifer says: “I’m not sure how to describe myself really, as I’m interested in everything and anything. I’m currently undergoing my post-graduate studies and as a creative outlet have my own mini label me.u, where I make jewellery/accessories. Despite having the wedding done now, I still love looking at all things bridal! So I still troll around wedding sites looking for all things pretty!”
Read Part 1 of Jennifer and Tony’s Yamanouchi Adventure.