After I saw the Capybara hotsprings I shouldn’t be surprised about something like this. Still, it’s quite amazing to read about the Monkey Park in Nagano prefecture, where the snow monkeys leisurely bathe in hotsprings as well. Oh, and be careful if you want to take photos: they might snatch your camera away if they think it’s interesting!
What is so unique about this place is that the snow monkeys are wild monkeys. They are not confined by a cage or anything, and can just come down their mountain whenever they feel like it. And more than fifty years ago, the first monkeys tried the warm water of the hot spring. Since then they have been bathing there whenever they wanted.
Snow monkeys Japan – where to see them?
The snow monkeys reside in the Jigokudani Yaenkoen park near Yamanouchi town, at the base of the Shiga Kogen region of Nagano prefecture. The snow monkey species is native to northern Japan, and can survive winter temperatures of below -15 °C. But hey, why battle against the cold when you can just relax in a hot spring? The brown-gray furry creatures often seem remarkably human-like in that aspect. And no matter how many people watch them (and believe me, there are a lot of them and they come from all over the world) the monkeys just ignore everyone and just do what they want.
Snow monkeys Japan – when to see them?
The best time to visit the snow monkeys would be during winter. Not only are the monkeys more inclined to soak in the hotsprings, you can also add a trip to the largest ski resort in Japan, Shiga Kogen, to your visit. There’s a weather forecast on their website which is updated throughout the year. The woman in the video above said that when it was hot she did not see as many monkeys as she did when she came the year before, during a blizzard. Not that I would advise you to go during a blizzard, but the fact is that when it’s warm the monkeys don’t have the urge to bathe (kind of logical anyway).
Credits: (WT-shared) WT066
Opening hours monkey park Jigokudani
Jigokudani is open throughout the year, although there are different times during summer and winter. During summer (april to october) the park is open from 8.30 am to 5 pm. During winter (november to march) the park will be open from 9 am to 4 pm. The admission fee for adults is 500 yen (around 4 dollars) and for children 250 yen (around 2 dollars).
How to get to the snow monkey park?
If you want to go by train and you’re leaving from Tokyo, you can take the Shinkansen to Nagano. From Nagano station you can then take the Nagano Dentetsu train to Yudanaka. There’s a bus going from Yunadaki to Kanbayashi Onsen, but you can also take a taxi if you want a private ride. From Kanbayashi Onsen it’s still a 30-minute walk to the Jigokundani Yean-koen entrance, so make sure you wear your hiking shoes.
Snow monkey park by car
If you are coming by car then you need to exit the Hoshinentsu Highway at the Sinshu Nakami intersection. Follow route 292 to Shiga Kogen and you’ll see a sign for Kanbayashi Onsen the monkey park. After you’ve parked your car it’s also still a 30-minute walk, so wear your hiking shoes.
Other things so see in Yamanouchi
If you don’t want to travel all the way to Yamanouchi just to see the snow monkeys, then there’s enough other things you can do. The nearby towns Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen are, as the names suggest, centered around a great onsen-experience. And yes, these baths are monkey-free. If you’re done bathing and would like to see the sights, take a hike in Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, which has all kinds of differents hikes and outdoor activities you can do if there’s no snow.
The largest ski resort in Japan, Shiga Kogen, is also located in Yamanouchi. One single ticket gives skiers and snowboarders access to dozens of tracks. Interesting to know is that some of these tracks and runs hosted events during the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. So if you want to feel a tiny bit like an Olympic skier, go there.
For more information visit the Jigokudani website.