Monkey spas and city views.

This morning our breakfast was served in the same private room as put dinner the previous night. It was similar food but included a boiled egg, everything was cooked slightly differently though. It was quite a change from cornflakes.

Next we decided to use our ryokan’s Onsen facilities. Males and females were kept separate so we had to split up for this activity. An Onsen is a public bath. You are required to go in naked after washing down first. It is certainly an experience sitting in the geothermally heated hot spring water with no clothes on. I was quite glad I was alone, the plus of having a private Onsen in you accommodation.

After checking out we started trekking up to Jigokudani. The Onsen staff were very keen for us to get a taxi as they were worried we wouldn’t make the walk but we ignored this and set off. The way up was hot and uphill but it was along a road is it was all easy terrain which took us about 30-40 minutes. You could take a car up to the car park but then you still have to walk the last steep bit.

Jigokudani is famous for its snow monkeys. Many of the travel guides say this is just a tourist trap and perhaps it is but most of the tourists were Japanese and the monkeys were adorable.

The snow monkeys are Japanese macaques and by the time we got to them at 12ish they were just being fed which meant they were all swarming around the main viewing area. Due to the fact there was no snow and it was actually quite warm in the sun only a couple of the monkeys got in the hot spring but we were able to watch them eating, fighting and playing in front of us. Warning: many monkey pictures to follow!
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Once we’d had our fill of monkey watching we walked back down the mountain and got a bus back to Yudanaka station to start the trip back to Tokyo past the scenic backdrop of the Japanese Alps.
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In Tokyo we checked out Tower records, a massive CD and DVD store, checked back into the Shinjuku Washington hotel and then popped down the block to the Park Hyatt Tokyo. On the 52nd floor of the hotel is the New York bar and grill recognisable from the film “Lost in Translation”. Up here we had some dinner, really tasty but you paid for it!, and some cocktails. The real draw though were the views- panoramic across the Tokyo skyline which was all illuminated for the night. It was spectacular and in my opinion put the night views from the Empire State Building in New York to shame. We left early (before 8pm) to avoid paying the high cover charge and headed back to our hotel to go to bed as we had an early start the next morning.

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