As we have recently highlighted, there are many reasons to visit the Snow Monkey Park in summer. The monkeys continue to come to the park in good numbers, there are far fewer visitors than in winter, and the adorable baby macaques are now very active, making a visit to Jigokudani between June and September well worthwhile.
With winter now a distant memory, the park and surrounding region are lush with the deep green of summer, days hum with the pulsating buzz of insects, and farmers toil through sweat and heat as crops begin to mature under the summer sun.
Summer in Japan is a time of heat, humidity, and above all else, festivals. Referred to as ‘matsuri’ in Japanese, festivals take place throughout the year but have a particular association with summer, in which time families and friends gather as communities and celebrate together. It’s a wonderful time of year to extend your visit to the Snow Monkey Park, to explore the region and meet the locals, and there’s no better way to do so than getting along to the Yudanaka Summer Festival.
Running from July 28th until August 19th in Yudanaka Onsen*, this is a fun calendar of nightly events including ‘taiko’ (traditional drums) performances, local bands, lotteries, street vendors and games, and karaoke – sung enthusiastically (the good, the bad, and the ugly) by festival-goers. In the warmth of the evenings, it’s the perfect time to be outdoors, meet old friends and new, chat, eat, drink, and dance!
While the famous festivals of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto draw tens of thousands of visitors, it is the local matsuris of small towns and villages that best reflect what Japan is about – strong communities working together and having fun as one. Originating centuries ago, the custom of ‘obon’ (or simply ‘bon’) is a time in which Japanese return to their home villages to honor the spirits of their ancestors including visiting family graves and welcoming the spirits into their homes.
While this may sound a little grim however it’s anything but that, with obon being a time for celebration and the dance performed in unison with ancestors who no longer with us. This is best demonstrated by the performance of traditional ‘bon-odori’ folk dance, which the community performs together. Anyone is welcome to join and don’t worry if you don’t know the steps, they are simple and someone is guaranteed to instruct you!
Throughout the festival, Yudanaka’s GOEN restaurant (as pictured below) will be open their beer terrace – a great place to relax and take in the atmosphere. Conveniently located opposite JR Yudanaka Station, there’s no better place to enjoy both craft beers and local sake, and a range of food and snacks that complement your drinks.
GOEN offers guests a relaxed place to rest their feet (and perhaps find their feet again!) and is popular with both locals and visitors. The menu is in English with friendly staff who are happy to converse and help you make the most of your visit to Yudanaka.
The festival takes place in Yudanaka Onsen from July 28th to August 19th 2018. Both Yudanaka and the Snow Monkey Park are readily accessible by both train and bus from JR Nagano Station. Numerous trains operate each day – including Nagano’s famous Yukemuri-class – along a scenic rail line, a great way to enjoy the surrounding countryside as you make your way to the park and festival.
For further information regarding the train timetable please refer to our access page. For those heading to the monkey park, once at Yudanaka Station, you need to jump on a local bus for the quick journey to the park itself.
Nagaden also operate express buses (as pictured below) directly from JR Nagano Station to nearby the Snow Monkey Park. No advance booking is needed. You simply buy a ticket from the driver once on the bus, which will drop you at Kanbayashi Onsen, nearby the park.
Express buses can be accessed via JR Nagano Station’s East Exit and depart from Bus Stop 23. Furthermore information regarding the bus schedule can be found through our access page.