Snow Monkeys: Warm Pools in the Ice and Snow

Ben Reports:

After a fabulous feast last night we were surprised to be hungry again early this morning and ready for breakfast. What a breakfast! None of the familiar, traditional stuff that we are accustomed to start our day. Instead we had beans, rice, fish, soup, seaweed, and a thickish sticky sweet rice something that maybe resembled a porridge.

It was delicious, and after eating our fill we were ready for the 30 minute picturesque hike to the pools. It is still very cold here with temperatures well into the minuses, and when we arrived at the pools the Macaques were huddled in the water, relishing the warmth. We spent ages with them using different lenses and techniques to capture a variety of shots. We then used an off camera flash to create images with rim and back lighting, and achieved some great effects.

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We were just about to go for lunch when we spotted a little group all huddled tightly together, all facing inward, with their tiny babies to the centre of the circle. We waited for them all to face in the same direction for a good group shot but each time we thought we were going to get the shot one or other of the group looked down or away. This continued as we tried again and again – and again. We were just thinking of giving up, and lunch was sounding very attractive, when suddenly a fight broke out between some monkeys on the hill behind us. The group turned in unison to watch the dispute … and we had our shots.

Our traditional lunch was simply amazing. We sat on tatami mats and ate our delicious noodle dishes with chopsticks.

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There was nothing familiar in sight, and our green tea also emphasised again the uniqueness of our location – and made the moment even more special.

When we returned to the pools the macaques were either in the water or gathered along the snowy banks.

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Across one of the pools we could see a large group of youngsters playing in some fir trees. They chased and pushed each other, swung on the branches, caught a tail, teased one another and generally created mayhem – and plenty of fabulous photos.

The macaques are fed during the day, and when the curator in charge of feeding approaches along a pathway that follows a stream the monkeys get into position to wait for him. Then as he strews food, the monkeys leap back and forth across the stream to gather as much as possible from each side. You can just imagine how busy our cameras were, catching all the action.

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Now we are back at our inn, and after the beautiful but icy cold day in the open we are more than ready to soak in a lovely, warm onsen. After that, supper awaits …