My mom came to visit me in Japan, and we’re going to spend the next two weeks visiting several cities. I picked her up at Narita on Wednesday, and we spent the evening in a loud izakaya filled with salarymen smoking incessantly. It was the perfect introduction – there were even goldfish swimming under the stone floor.
Today was a bit more on the nature side of things. We took the train up to Myoko Kogen (my home base) yesterday, and, today, Sachiko, my landlady, took us to a sake brewery, a famous mansion with many traditional kimono and Japanese dolls, and a beautiful buddhist temple with Hokusai’s art. But before all that, we went to visit the snow monkeys.
Since it’s bloody cold out, the snow monkeys of Shiga Kogen hang out in the 45 degree celsius onsen (hot spring) all day. As you approach the onsen, the air ripens with the smell of sulphur, and you find a dozen or so monkeys of different sizes soaking in the thermal pool. Pink faced, they are mostly holding onto the edge of the onsen like drunken bathers who have spent too much time in the hot tub. Caught between the choice of steaming hot water or freezing snow, they stretch out while their mates pick bugs out of their hair and groom them.
As for me, after spending all day outside in the cold and windy weather of Nagano, my core temperature needs a boost. This will be a short post as I need to reheat in the onsen downstairs. Hopefully the only pink-faced monkey down there will be me – I don’t need anyone to pick the bugs out of my hair.