:: Tags: Japan 2010, Photo, wildlife
A snow monkey stares over the edge of a hot spring (Japanese macaque, Macaca fuscata). Jigokudani Yaen-Koen in Yamanouchi, Japan.
During our honeymoon, Pam and I spent a full day in the snowy mountains near Nagano photographing Japanese macaques. The so-called “snow monkeys” are a troupe of around 160 macaques that soak themselves in an onsen (hot spring) about 40 minutes up a mountain (on foot) from Shibu Onsen, a historic hot spring area in Yamanouchi, Nagano prefecture, Japan.
Although I had seen images of these macaques for years, actually being there to photograph them in person was really special. The macaques I’ve interacted with in other places of the world seem to be focused on getting food (and hats, and sunglasses, etc.) from tourists, but these macaques completely ignored us. Sure, there were one or two aggressive individuals who didn’t like eye contact, but we could literally stand a few inches away from the rest of them without incident.
When we arrived at Shibu Onsen, I was worried because very little snow had fallen. Luckily, snow poured out of the heavens overnight and throughout the entire next day. We awoke to more than 6″ of fresh snow on the ground — perfect, for photography.
I plan on writing a comprehensive guide on photographing snow monkeys soon. Until then, enjoy these photos! (read more »)