“Madapow” at Madarao Kogen and Tangram

January 27th, 2017 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities, Report, Seasonal Topics

The Northern Nagano valley opens up behind the Madarao Kogen hotel.

The Madarao and Tangram ski resorts sit between Iiyama City and Shinano-machi in Northern Nagano prefecture on opposite faces of Mt. Madarao. They are interconnected and you can ride both resorts in the same day with the 5,000 yen “Mountain Pass.” They resorts are medium-sized with well-rounded courses that suit all levels of skiers and snowboarders. Smooth pistes, moguls, and terrain parks are all available, but these resorts’ specialties are trees and powder, often referred to locally as “Madapow.”
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5 Great Winter Festivals in Nagano

December 9th, 2016 by
Category: Events, Information, Seasonal Topics

Enjoy fire festivals, illuminations and more in this winter wonderland.

Winter is here. Snow is falling steadily up in the mountains and people around Nagano are bringing out their kotatsu tables, kerosene heaters and nabe pots. Once again, it’s that time of year for skiing, hot springs and great winter festivals. Why stay inside when you could warm up in front of a magnificent fire festival or in the company of Japan’s many spirits?

Make some wonderful memories this winter with some of the festivals below!
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Winter 2016 Illuminations and Festivals

January 29th, 2016 by
Category: Culture Art, Events, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

Areas of Nagano prefecture are getting ready for a series of festivals in February, and in that spirit I thought I would put together a list of current and upcoming events for the Winter season. Tear yourself away from the ski resorts for a night and visit some of Nagano’s other scenic spots!

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The State of Nagano Skiing this December

December 18th, 2015 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities, Report, Seasonal Topics
The beautiful northern alps are covered in snow, but green still shows in the valley.

Hakuba's mountains are beautifully covered in white.

Areas around the globe have been experiencing some crazy weather over the past month due to the dreaded El Niño effect. Wintery parts of the world have been unusually warm and green, and some areas of Japan have been reaching highs of 25℃ or more. It has also meant a late winter for Nagano prefecture, but don’t fear, folks: winter is here. The mountains are capped in white and ski resorts are open for business. Soon enough, your breath will be visible in your apartment and your shampoo will be freezing overnight.

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Shiga Heights Ski Resorts after 2 ft Big Snowfall Downtown

March 15th, 2014 by
Category: Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

I went skiing in Shiga Heights Ski Resorts February 22. It was one week after big snowfall in Nagano, so the ski courses were covered with wonderful natural snow. We (five Japanese, one from America, and one from Britain) really enjoyed skiing and snowboarding in the best condition.

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Jigokudani Snow Monkeys now with Snow!

December 12th, 2013 by
Category: Information, Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

The world-famous “Snow Monkeys” of the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park are cute any time of the year soaking in their onsen bath. But it’s when it snows is when they are truly in their most photogenic element. And that area has started to get their winter snow fall, so now is your chance!

Winter bus schedules are now in effect, so I updated the train and bus matrix to get you from Nagano Station (and by extension, onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada) to the monkey park trailhead, Kanbayashi, and back for an easy day trip.  (Note: This is just a partial schedule.  Check at the Information Center at Nagano Station for full train and bus schedules.)

We just had a visitor from Sydney, Australia make the trip. He said he ‘only’ took about 200 pictures of the monkeys. The snow made for a dramatic backdrop, especially on the walk from Kanbayashi through the beautiful evergreen forest.

“Monkeys, Monkeys, Everywhere!” Best Snow Monkey shots this winter

April 12th, 2012 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing
 Monkeys, monkeys, everywhere.

Snow Monkeys in pairs–
“Mother and Baby”

Baby monkey and Mother in snow

“Friends always together”

Snow Monkeys grooming–
“Well-Cared-For Child Monkey”

Bathing in a hot spring, onsen–
” So many Monkeys bathing together!”

Wise-looking Monkeys–
” Deep in thoughts “

People happy watching the Snow Monkeys
” Worth visiting!”

Since 1964, the Snow Monkey Park, the official name of which is Jigokudani yaen-koen, has been visited and loved by millions of people from all over the world. As a place where the interesting life of the Japanese Macaques can be observed nearby, and as a place of unique snow monkeys bathing in natural hot spring (Onsen) , Jigokudani Yaenkoen is just so popular both home and abroad even after the March 11th.

My fellow tour guides and I have conducted Snow Monkey Tours almost every week for more than three months. We tried very hard to successfully cope with the task. Cheerful smiles and happy faces of our guests were our best reward!
The Snow Monkey park will have another lovely season; from late April or May, you will be able to see tiny little nowborns  carried in their mothers’ arms. There will be no snow on the path to the park anymore. Enjoy a wonderful day in Nagano!

Shiga Kogen’s Nature Preservation Center and Olympic Memorial Hall

March 10th, 2011 by
Category: Outdoor Activities

People come to Nagano from far and wide to enjoy its natural beauty.  And within Nagano, it doesn’t get much better than Shiga Kogen.  With its majestic mountains and deep forests, not to mention the famous snow monkeys and other wildlife, Shiga Kogen’s wilderness is sure to delight your senses and instill a sense of awe. 
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How to get to the Snow Monkeys this Winter

December 8th, 2010 by
Category: Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

As the famed “Snow Monkeys” of the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park are starting to get their namesake snow this winter, it’s time to take a look at how to actually make the trek to go see them.

Nagano Dentetsu, the main source of public transportation up to the Jigokudani snow monkeys, annonced their new winter schedule, with the changes effective 04-December 2010.

Getting to the monkey park from Nagano Station can be confusing — do you take a bus or train? And if you go by train, how do you get to the park from the end of the line, Yudanaka Station? As many of our guests here at Kamesei Ryokan make day trips to see the snow monkeys, I made a graph that matches up the trains from our local Togura Station to the busses and trains from Nagano Station.  Here’s the graph.  Just ignore the Togura parts if you’re originating from Nagano Station.  And please note that these are just sample times based around going up in the morning and coming back down in the afternoon.  There are other busses and trains at earlier and later times.
snow-monkey1

From Nagano Station
Basically there are three options to get from Nagano Station to the snow monkey park:

1. Express Bus to Kanbayashi (1300 yen)
NagaDen Bus operates 8+ busses a day during the winter from Nagano Station’s East Exit up to the ski fields at Shiga Kogen. They stop at Kanbayashi Onsen (“Kanbayashi Onsen Guchi” stop) which is in the vicinity of the Kanbayashi trailhead. From there it is a 30 minute, mostly flat ‘promenade’ through a beautiful cedar forest.

2. Train to Yudanaka (1,130~1,230 yen)
Nagano Dentetsu provides train service to Yudanaka and Shibu, a pair of classic onsen towns. Service is more frequent than the above-mentioned express busses, and you can choose between local trains (1,130 yen, approx. 1 hour 15 min.) and express trains (add’l 100 yen, as fast as 45 minutes).
NOTE: From Yudanaka Station to the monkey park, you can choose from the following:
A. Local Bus (210 yen)
Roughly matching up with the train arrivals, local busses connect Yudanaka Station to the Kanbayashi trailhead in a quick 7 minutes.
B. “Holiday Shuttle” (800 yen)
Shibu Onsen provides a “Holiday Shuttle” bus from Yudanaka Station directly to the Jigokudani Parking Lot. It is closer to the monkey park entrance than Kanbayashi (15 minutes walk vs. 30 minutes), but is a lot steeper of a walk. Reservations Recommended (tel# 0269-33-3600). The Shuttle runs on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays from December to March, with 6 runs each direction per day.

3. Chuo Taxi (from 2,722 yen per person round trip)
Chuo Taxi is offering a new, hassle-free taxi trip to the snow monkey park from Nagano Station. The cost is 17,000 yen for a regular taxi (4~5 people) or 24,500 yen for a jumbo taxi (~9 people) including transportation to Kanbayashi and back, and stand-by time so you can enjoy the monkeys for an hour. Call 026-282-7777 for reservations.

Finally, two last pieces of advice:  Make sure you have proper footwear (the trail can be slippery and slidey in the winter), and make sure to charge you