Uncharted: Japan’s Hinterland and Snow Monkeys

Uncharted: a new series dedicated to exploring the hidden gems of the globe. We’ll help you find secret destinations that elude the majority of travellers. Today’s entry takes us to the remote countryside of Japan to meet an amazing relative.

Japan is becoming a very popular destination for people on gap years. Thanks to the boom in cheap Asia flights, huge numbers of plucky travellers come here to work on volunteer projects or to learn Japanese. If you have a week off from your course or project, you should definitely consider heading into Japan’s hinterland. With a wide variety of climates and geographical features you’ll discover some amazing uncharted locations, fantastic views and, if you look in the rights place, the amazing Snow Monkeys of Japan.

Into The Mist

Japan AirfaresJapan is a huge country with a wide range of climates and rugged geographical features. Indeed, over 70% of Japan’s area is unsuitable for agriculture or inhabitation. This has resulted in densely populated cities, and a sparsely populated countryside. If you take the train from the cities and into the hinterland you will discover an amazing world of dramatic scenery and panoramic views. Mountains, mist, tiny towns and encounters with friendly locals will be your reward if you choose to explore these remote destinations. One particular area to check out is the Central Highlands, which is home to the Japanese Alps; hiking up some of these stunning mountains will literally take your breath away.

If you do head into a remote area make sure you have a guidebook, a camera, some good hiking boots and a bit of the local language – great hikes and conversations in broken Japanese await you if you leave the cities and choose to wander into the countryside.

A Warm Bath On A Cold Day

Japanaese MonkeysCheap airfares have made getting to Asia relatively easy. However, you wouldn’t want to come all this way without seeing some spectacular wildlife, and if you head into the Japanese countryside you’ll have the chance to see something very special. Japanese Macaques are the northernmost living primates (apart from humans of course) and must survive winters which get as cold as -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit). Not only are they hardy, these animals are incredibly clever. So smart that they found a solution for their frosty habitat: a nice warm bath. In Snow Monkey Park, which is located in the Nagano prefecture, you’ll be able to see them as they bathe in thermal spas. By huddling in these locations the monkeys can survive the cold hard winters; it’s not all torment though as you’ll see the monkeys splashing and playing in the warm waters. Snowball fights have yet to break out amongst the primates though, if we understand Darwin correctly, it’s only a matter of time.

Such an amazing site would normally be tracked out by thousands of visitors per day. However, the thermal pools can only be accessed by a two kilometre path. This trail in combination with the park’s remote destination, mean you’re likely to be one of only a few visitors to the site.

Unchartered Japan

So if you are in Japan on a volunteer project, a course or just there to sightsee, be sure to get out to some of its more remote areas. There are literally thousands of tiny unheard of destinations which will prove to be rewarding for their views, people and food. Make sure you don’t miss out on the Snow Monkeys, and be sure to let us know if you see them throwing snowballs.