Many of the travel stories that come out of Japan highlight the country’s spring and summer months. Images of Japan during its warm seasons depict cherry blossoms, green fields, blooming flowers and blue water, but winter tourism in the Land of the Rising Sun is just as beautiful.
Raymond Patrick, who is based in New York but travels frequently, recently completed an assignment for Aston Martin Magazine shooting in three different locations in Japan during its winter season. The story included shots around the city of Matsumoto (and the luxurious Kai Matsumoto resort) and photos of skiers and snowboarders taking advantage of fresh powder in the town of Hakuba, but perhaps the most interesting location and shoot was in Joshinetsu-Kogen National Park. The park is home to the wild Japanese Macaque, also known as the “snow monkey.” The monkeys are well-known for their tendency to bathe in the valley’s natural hot springs (sounds relaxing!).
Raymond’s photos of this seemingly unnatural behavior got the cover spot for the issue of the magazine, so we caught up with him to hear more about the trip:
Were there any challenges involved with this shoot? How did you overcome them?
In Matsumoto it rained for two days—we needed snow for the shoot and the rain kept washing the snow away. Basically, we just had to be very flexible and work around the weather to get the shots we needed. Furthermore, we had to be flexible with hotels because sometimes, if we needed to stay longer to wait for snow hotels would be booked up and we may have to stay elsewhere.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
The snow monkey part of the story. We had to park and hike about 30 minutes on a trail, and then you come to this area where you’re looking down on the building, and behind it is the hot spring where the wild monkeys bathe. I’d heard about it, seen pictures and always wanted to go, but the thing I was shocked at was that it’s so small; there was only one area there where the monkeys were.
At one point, the rangers throw out all this feed … the monkeys just go ballistic, trying to get as much as they can. At least three times the monkeys were fighting amongst themselves. They got extremely aggressive with each other, so that was scary. Their humanlike movements are pretty incredible.
Any final thoughts?
The whole trip was fantastically beautiful. That whole entire mountain is covered with snow—there are 19 ski resorts in Shiga Kogen and they are all connected. You can start on one end and ski the entire length of the resorts. One thing I love on a trip is when you can really connect with people. It makes a huge difference.
To see more of Raymond’s work, visit raymondpatrick.com.