Postcard from Yamanouchi

In Hokkaido, Just For Fun, Postcards From..., Travel by David13 Comments

A quick postcard from Yamanouchi, near Nagano, Japan. We’re three days into a workshop with Martin Bailey, and have spent those three days photographing the Japanese Macaque, or Snow Monkeys. This is the only place in the world where the monkeys have taken to hot springs, and like the wildlife in the Antarctic, these monkeys are just completely indifferent to human presence. That indifference is a good thing because the monkeys are wildly popular and while I had a tremendous time photographing them, my experience was somewhat dampened by the aggressive behaviour of the some of the groups of photographers that show up here. It’s a lovely spot, though, and after a 30-minute walk through snowy forests, it’s a treat to spend time so close to such interesting animals.

We spent the last couple nights in traditional accommodations, eating delicious food, drinking abundant sake, and enjoying the beautiful natural hot springs baths. By the time I post this we’ll be back in Tokyo and readying for an inhumanely early flight to Hokkaido in the morning. For the next 9 days or so we’ll be photographing sea eagles, swans, cranes, and the beautiful landscapes of this northern Japanese island. And shivering our asses off: the mornings have been -30C lately in Hokkaido.


  1. So beautiful. Especially the third photo where it almost feels they are all meditating. Love the dude with his eyes closed. So calm and at peace.

    Curious though, do they try and interact with you?

  2. Hey Mr. duChemin,

    First, awesome shots! Second, this might have already been covered before, but I was curious as to how your gear (the geek in me… 🙂 ) holds up in -30 C. I hail from Finland myself, so cold is no stranger to me (although I never practiced the art photography in Finland). Other than shortened battery life, were there other challenges-besides the freezing cold!
    Also, I’d love to have your take, if any, about shooting in extreme conditions; does the cold force one to step up and “see” faster? You know, the envisioning process, seeing with the inner eye, the image having heart etc. Sorry about the rambling, hope i’m making some sense.

  3. What do you mean by “aggressive”. I live in Japan and find people very calm and polite, apart from the obaasan’s (old women) who will elbow you out of the way for any excuse.

  4. Ouch! That’s cold……

    The second image with the group of three is priceless

    Such interesting creatures…. hope the aggressive folks don’t ruin their unique lifestyle.

  5. Minus thirty! Yes that is cold, this must make it more difficult to handle the camera, with or without gloves. Yet the photographs are intriguing.

  6. I’ve never been to either Yamanouchi or Hokkaido, but I did spend three weeks in the medieval town of Takayama in the Central Alps, and I have such fond memories of the peacefulness of the Zen temples and gardens. I hope you’ll have a chance to photograph some of the traditional architcture and townscapes. Lucky you!! Looking forward to your next installments.

  7. These animals are wonderful in the hot springs, but I love that you included one of them in the snow, away from the water. I’m used to seeing primates in warmer climes – there is something captivating about seeing them in this context. Thank you for the postcard!

  8. Don’t forget to try some Hokkaido ramen!! It’ll warm you up! Well…at least for a tiny bit!

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