A Visit To The Valley Of The Snow Monkeys Japan 28 January 2020

The view from our hotel window when we woke up, not a flake the night before.

Bit of a shock when we woke up this morning, a winter wonderland outside, about four inches of snow! The lodge staff were already out clearing the drive but as fast as they cleared it more snow fell. A Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker was at the fat feeder just outside a window and allowing us super views.

A family of Japanese macaques looking cold despite the lack of snow here.

We ate breakfast as the snow came down and wondered if we would be able to reach the Snow Monkeys today in these conditions, a touch ironic! But we needn’t have worried the staff did a great job on the lodge driveway and once on the main road it was passable but still tricky. After about an hour and half drive the snow stopped and before long we were in sunshine and no snow to be seen! The scenery got better and better as we climbed into mountains, snow-capped peaks bathed in sunshine below a blue sky. We arrived at the Snow Monkey valley and parked a lot of tourists here. We then walked up the valley, on a good level track for about 1.5km to reach the hot springs where the monkeys hang out. These Japanese macaques, known as Snow Monkeys, come down to the hot springs in the winter to bath and keep warm and are a huge attraction for visitors. We felt a little cheated that there was no snow, especially after so much in the early morning, but still enjoyed watching antics of the macaques as the bathed in the steaming waters, groomed each other and the young ones played and chased each other. Took way too many photos here but they are very photogenic particularly in the hot springs, even without snow on their heads!

The snow monkeys are very cute when they are in the hot-springs grooming each other.

Like this more natural shot away from the crowds around the springs.

The snow monkeys are very popular indeed, got lots of photos of hats!

Much of the rest of the day was spent traveling to Komatsu, we did have time to check some rice fields where there were plenty of swans. The majority of the birds here were Bewick’s Swans but was also a family of Whooper Swans and picked out one Whistling Swan, the North American counterpart of the Bewick’s Swan. Other “regular” birds we enjoyed included Bull-headed Shrike, Meadow Bunting, Vega Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, Large-billed Crow and Eastern Buzzard.

North American Whistling Swan with Bewick's Swans in the rice fields.

Our first Japanese sushi bar and a great night it was too, lots of laughs!

That evening we ate in a sushi bar, another experience, with the food we ordered being delivered by “train” that passed our table, a series of flashing lights on the table indicated which of the passing dishes were ours! Don’t worry there was Western style foods on the menu too, even chips! The food was ok and we had a great laugh. Then back to our “cosy” hotel rooms – good job we didn’t bring any cats, no room to swing one! But the hotels were always spotlessly clean, as was everything in Japan even the public loos all immaculate.

Check back soon for more blogs about our birding adventures.

Ring Ouzel male May 2015

March is a great time to look for Ring Ouzels in North Wales, join us!

We have two spaces, due to a cancellation, on our five day Best of North Wales tour 21 -25 March 2020 based at a lovely hotel in Trefriw, Conwy Valley. Lots of birds, superb scenery, great food and lots of fun await you. Come and join us!

We would love you to join us on our Birdwatching Trips, please see our tours pages and if you have any questions at all please fire away here….


We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds in beautiful places with you soon!

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