Our Friday adventure may have really been "plan B". A number of places had put on the list but there was some desire to go to Jigokudani, the Snow Monkey Park, and view Japanese macaques soaking in the hot springs.
We set off to Nagano in the northern Japan Alps and the GPS led us to a road that was closed with a chain across. Luckily we found a local person who could direct us to another narrow winding path up the mountains and there was a parking space available for our van.
But ... we were not there yet, The hot springs were way up a long trail ... supposedly 25 minutes long.
Maybe on a warm day in summer ... but the trail was mud and ice with water on top in the sunnier spots.
We met quite a few hikers from New Zealand and Australia picking their way back down through the mud, "Keep going", they said, "you are about half way, but it is worth the hike".
Sure enough, in the snow along the trail, there were monkeys picking something to eat from the snowy trail.
We learned later from one of the people working there that the monkeys are kept coming back by throwing barley grain in the area.
There were monkeys sunning themselves on the rocks.
There were monkeys grooming each other.
There were monkeys soaking in the hot springs.
There were young monkeys playing chase.
You couldn't look in any direction without seeing monkeys. You could actually get rather close, though were warned not to interact with them.
Unlike humans, monkeys didn't have tattoos that might ban them from the hot springs.
Monkeys were drinking from the hot springs and maybe picking grain out of the water, because some were eating.
When they climbed out all soaking wet, they groomed and didn't seem to be cold at all.
Here is a wet monkey grooming another.
One person working there offered to take a picture of our group.
Leia was bummed because she wanted to stay longer so would not join the photo.
Zia kept a sharp eye out for birds while on the trail and got Leia to tag back down.
It was getting a bit late in the afternoon.
Paul had planned for us to visit a town where there is a statue of a famous Sumo wrestler
with the name of Ryden. (well, same Japanese name but different spelling)
As things turned out, there was an argument with the GPS and being rather heavy traffic at the end of the month, one can not switch lanes at the last minute as we had done more than once.
We ended up going 20 kilometers past our exit .
Luckily, the man at the toll gate stamped our ticket and told us how to make the turn back to the other direction gate. He ran across the road and handed us the stamped ticket so we did not have to pay for that section of the round trip. That is an all-time first for me! Toll roads are not cheap and we could have been made to pay double. Maybe he was being nice to an old foreign lady who was tired and lost but it was a kind move for which I was grateful.
As it was, it was very late when we got home, after dropping Norie and Leia at the train station. She had planned Saturday and Sunday for Ken's family at her home and needed to get back to make final preparations.
Sunday the family met for dinner at a tofu restaurant.
We had a room to ourselves in a small building in a garden.
Ryden and played a game with some little beanbags that travel in my handbag... which hand has the object.
We kept busy until all the food was gone and then we walked to a nearby garden for cherry blossom viewing.
The garden had two huge weeping cherry trees. This picture was taken by Leia's Papa so he is not in it. There was a picture taken on Zia's camera by a woman in the crowd but as the camera was quite heavy, the picture turned out blurry.
Behind our group is only a small fraction of that gigantic tree, all lit up for the night-viewing public.
There were many props beneath the weeping branches and the date on the sign was 1704. Maybe that was the garden's date but the tree must have been very old to be so huge.
Monday was the day to pack up and say good bye. My, how the time did fly by!
Ken cut a snowflake for the tree skirt while he was here. (top right)
I took the picture draped over the fence of the lot I am weeding. Down at the bottom of the fence there are five tulip bulbs just poking out of the rocky soil.
There are a few grape hyacinths coming up from seeds I gathered from my garden. I didn't know they could go from seed to flower in one season but sure enough, there is one flower spike opening just this week,
Well, not a lot of quilting for a quilt blog,but I think I had a good reason. Nothing better than family time!