17 April 2014

Day 6: Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park

Day 5: Kaiseki Dinner at Kokuya Ryokan

# Cooked seaweed and vegetables
# Slice of yam with mushrooms
# Broiled salmon
# Steamed vegetable salad with onion dressing
# Cooked bottle gourd with chicken starchy sauce
# Half boiled egg - boiled it in our hot spring
# Boiled local tofu
# Seaweed with wasabi
# Steamed rice
# Miso soup
# vegetable pickles
# Fresh juice
# Seasonal fruits

We start our day with yummy breakfast at Kokuya.  Japanese style breakfast with grilled salmon and half boiled egg that the yolk ooozed out just like what I wanted and few other light condiments on the table.

Today, we went to visit the famous Monkey Park not so far from where we stay about 10 minutes by car.  There are two options to go there, by bus or by taxi.  We chose the short way where we catch taxi and take awalk about 15 - 20 minutes through the forest to the Monkey bathing place.  While with the bus you need to walk another 30 minutes from bus stop to arrive in the park. 

When we were walking in this quite forest heading to the Monkey spa place, we could hear some scratching noises behind the bush.  And shockingly, we saw the first snow monkey just munching some leaves there.  He stared at us abit but then looked away and ignored us like we were noone.  They are not scare of human but please do not feed or touch them as they are still wild animals.

Since then we met more and more monkey around the bush and some of them even block our way but they do nothing when we walked pass them.  But if you want to encounter them like this in their natural habit, please come early before they all gone to the hot spring bath.  Apparently, if you go from another way (walk from bus stop), you won't see any monkeys around there as that way are more busy with people.

Snow Monkey on Hot Spring Bath

We probably come in the wrong season.  Monkey Park would be the most beautiful when visited in winter.  As plenty of monkeys soak up their body in the small hot spring onsen to avoid the coldness and their head are covered with white snow and their faces are blushed from spa.  Something very unusual and really amazing to watch.

However, as we come here in early November when it is just the starting of winter season.  The weather was still pretty warm for the monkeys.  So they tend to running around or lying down on the ground, which pretty ordinary, just like human enjoying the summer heat.

Snow Monkey

To get back to our ryokan, we then used a different way.  We wanted to catch a bus this time at Kanyabashi Onsen bus stop.  We walked and walked and walked, we spotted one seems like a bus stop with noone there and on the quite road.  Our instinct told us, it wasn't the bus stop.  So we walked a little bit further, definitely got lost.  We didn't know where actually to catch the bus from, as we came with taxi earlier today and it totally from different way.

Then we saw a lady, local resident there.  We at first just asking the direction to go to Shibu Onsen, but then she was nicely offered to take us back to our ryokan.  What a lovely lady she is.  Memory that I won't forget!!!

The World of Snow Monkey

Summer season (generally between April - October) 8:30-17:00
Winter season (generally between November - March) 9:00-16:00

Entry Ticket: 500 yen

Stay tuned for the next blog still in Japan:
Day 6: Tokumi, Shibu Onsen

14 April 2014

Day 5: Kaiseki Dinner at Kokuya Ryokan


By 6pm, we made ourself ready heading to the dining room in the ground floor.  At the front door, we were so impressed by seeing our name on the dining room board.  Small little attention to detail is so touching. 

Then the lady lead us to our private room and the waiter served the food one dish after another.  All together there are 13 courses dinner meal.

Persimmon and Apple with Grated Tofu Dressing
Assort of Appetizer
# York Mustard dressing of Kyoho Grape
# Assorted of deep fried food (The dead leaves which had drifted in the garden)
# Duck and onion with olive oil dressing
#Candied ayu
#Local salmon with yolk potato suhi
# Deep fried ears of rice

Sashimi - Sliced of red salmon and arai
Arai is the thing to make fresh slice of raw carp to wash in cold ice water and to have shrunk body.

Baked local chicken, matsutake-mushroom, prawn, sea bream and chestnut in pottery casserole

Soy bean milk Chawan-mushi
This Chawan mushi is a little special than the ordinary one, is a pot of steamed soybean milk with cheese and cashew nut.

Roasted miso flavour beef wrapped in leaf

Tofu of crab and chrysanthemum with ginger miso

Deep fried Nameko-mushrooms with grated yam

Variety of local mushrooms and vegetables with vinegary dressing

Zaru soba spices, wasabi, green onions, grated radish
 Soba-yu is the hot water that they got after boiling soba noodle.  They mentioned that after we finish soba noodle, we then should drink the soba yu, in addition to soba soup usually.

# Steamed rice - the new rice crop of the year
# Soup with conger pike and water shield
# vegetable pickles

Chestnut Parfait

We had a really high expectation in this kaiseki dinner, however, we left a little dissapointed by the end of the meal.  I gotta admit that their food decorations were absolutely stunning, a piece of art work in there.  But taste wise is hit and miss.  I understand that they want to let the produce itself to shine on the plate with freshness and clean taste.  Unfortunately, the dishes are lacking in flavours, although not all the dishes, some were quite good though like the assorted appetizer and miso beef.

However, their hospitality was certainly a top knot quality.  Very polite, friendly and prompt service.

Snow Monkey Cloudy Sake

Once we were back to our room.  The futon beds are nicely done for us.  Look very thick and soft.  We surely will have a good night sleep tonight.  Octie Appetie everyone and see you again tomorrow for more journey in this little town.

Stay tuned for the next blog still in Japan:

12 April 2014

Day 5: Shibu Onsen

Day 5: Kokuya Ryokan, Shibu Onsen (Part 2)

Red bean manju

Shibu Onsen is a little peaceful town about 45 minutes from Nagano by train.  This place is far different from the hustling bustling Tokyo, in here the town only have roughly couple thousands people and very famous with their public baths and also visiting Snow Monkey Park is highly recommended if you stay here. 

One of the temple in town

Curry restaurant
Irori Fireplace
Omoshiroya Yugijo (shooting gallery and cork guns)

Tiny laneway with cobblestone street
Spend some relaxing time strolling around the tiny laneway in this town is amust.  With wearing kimono and Geta, absorbing the authentic Japanese atmosphere and old architectures.  Feel really romantic and indulgent in the charms and nostalgic of this town.

There are 9 public baths in Shibu Onsen town and they are free for you to use if you stay in one of the Ryokan in Shibu Onsen and more privilegely you still can have an access to public bath at night.  Otherwise, if you don't stay here overnight, you can buy the ticket for public baths from the information centre.

Public Bath

Foot bath

Loving this moment

Stay tuned for the next blog still in Japan:
Day 5: Kaiseki Dinner at Kokuya Ryokan