During my recent trip I was able to get up close to some of the most amazing wild animals! In this post I’ll tell you how easy it is to meet the wildlife of Japan, just outside some of its biggest cities. The Snow Monkey park and Miyajima deer Island are my two highlights that I will show you pictures from below. Make sure to follow or subscribe to keep up with my posts and let me know what you think in the comments!
SNOW MONKEY PARK
My number one highlight of our Japan trip has to be seeing the Snow Monkeys of Nagano. These beautiful animals live in the Jigokudani Yaenkoen park (or Snow Monkey park) which I have read has been open since 1964 and welcomed thousands from around the world to observe the beautiful Japanese Macaque monkeys. The park is situated in a valley nicknamed ‘Hell’s Valley’ due to the hot springs there, however this seems to be a haven for the monkeys, especially in the extreme cold conditions they can experience! They seem to completely ignore their human visitors which makes it an even better experience as you really get to see them in their natural habitat, searching for food, washing each other, playing and sleeping! It’s beautiful to see these confident monkeys in their natural habitat, rather than in a zoo. They seem well cared for and unlike other species of monkey will not try to jump on you or steal any of your things – they really seem to keep to themselves and just enjoy their surroundings. Of course it is also important to respect that you are in their home so no feeding or touching is allowed.
I wanted to share with you some of the photos I was able to take here. Most were taken on my Nikon camera however some of these were taken on my phone, which just shows how close I got! You can see below the baby monkeys, families huddling together for warmth, bathing in the hot springs and searching for food! To visit the park its a bit of a trek from Tokyo but is so worth it. You can use the Shinkansen for just over an hour to Nagano, and from here purchase a Snow Monkey day pass which will cover all your train and bus travel to the park. There is also a 30 minute walk once you get there through the woods – it’s definitely a day out that I would recommend booking when in Japan.
MIYAJIMA DEER ISLAND
Now onto another fantastic destination to get up close to Japan’s wildlife. Miyajima island is overrun with tame deer! This beautiful and peaceful Island can be accessed from Hiroshima by a short ferry ride (this is included in JR Rail Passes if you have purchased these for a trip). Known mostly for its stunning temple and shrine, Miyajima island is a popular tourist destination for this reason, however the friendly creatures that live there have definitely attracted even more visitors over the years. Here the humans and deer live happily side by side, with the deer being incredibly tame and will even pose for pictures! I read online that the deer in Miyajima were considered sacred messengers from the gods, and until 1637, killing one was punishable by death! They are still protected today I presume in a similar way that swans are protected in England. You can easily pet or feed these deer however it is not recommended to do either, it is still important to respect that they are wild animals! But all the same they are so beautiful and it’s really surreal to spend a day with them. I would recommend staying at this island if you have the time, it’s peaceful, has stunning views and packed with things to do.
I have been so lucky to see all of these wild animals, being up close to them was very surreal and these have become the best memories of my trip. If you’re visiting Japan then seeing the wildlife is essential and so easy to access by train and boat at good prices! For example if you have a JR pass then visiting the deer is technically free. For animal lovers you will see how well looked after they are here and that’s the most important thing.
I will be uploading lots of content over the next few weeks covering my travels in Japan, so make sure to follow me on WordPress or subscribe by email: both are easy to do at the bottom of the post, homepage or on my sidebar! You can now contact me by email – firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment and like down below. Let me know if you’ve been to Japan and what your favourite parts were!