Going to Japan is not all about what you do on your board or your skis. It has a wide array of wildlife, and whilst some hibernate throughout the winter others can be seen straight from the chairlifts. All you need is a little luck and to keep your eyes out.Animals you might see if you spend a few days on the slopes are:•the Japanese serow (a very large antelope-goat creature weighing up to 130 kg). They feed on leaves, acorns and the buds of new leaves.•the Japanese macaque (snow monkey) which is the world's most northerly primate. One way it manages to keep warm is by bathing in the hot springs, and there are tours to go and see these monkeys running from Hakuba which you can tag onto your ski tour. Lately they have also been easy to see seen right in the middle of some of the runs on Happo ski resort.•the Japanese hare is endemic to Japan, and changes colour from brown to white in winter. It can be distinguished by the black tips on it's ears•the Japanese Racoon dog is actually a distant relative of the dog, and not a racoon at all. It is omnivorous eating insects, rodents, leaves, bulbs and fruit.•the Asiatic black bear hibernates throughout from October to April so you are unlikely to see it unless you are in Japan for spring skiing. They are very uncommon but if seen should be given a wide berth.•the Red Fox is native to Japan and can be seen from time to time.
Footprints in the snow
Whilst you are on that ski lift, take time to look for animal footprints. They are literally everywhere whenever you pass through a forested zone. Hopefully the pictures below be of aid to you in identifying which animal they are from.