Jigokudani Monkey Park: A Guide to Japan’s Snow Monkeys

May 31, 2023 18 Min Read
Jigokudani Monkey Park

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the Jigokudani Monkey Park and offer tips and advice to help you make the most of your visit. Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply looking for a unique and unforgettable experience in Japan, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is not to be missed.

Jigokudani Monkey Park located deep in the rugged mountains of Nagano Prefecture in Japan, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is a unique natural attraction that draws visitors from all over the world. The park is famous for its troop of snow monkeys, who can be found relaxing in the park’s natural hot springs and playing in the surrounding snow-covered forests.

The snow monkeys of Jigokudani have become beloved symbols of Japan’s natural beauty and wildlife, and have been featured in countless photographs, documentaries, and even movies. But seeing these playful and curious creatures in person is an experience that simply can’t be replicated on a screen.

Visitors to the Jigokudani Monkey Park can observe the monkeys as they soak in the warm water of the hot springs, groom each other, and play in the snow. The park offers a unique opportunity to witness these animals in their natural habitat, all while enjoying the stunning mountain scenery of Nagano Prefecture.\

Here are some tips and tricks to help you plan your trip to Jigokudani Monkey Park:

The Jigokudani Monkey Park is a natural reserve located in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, famous for its troop of wild snow monkeys, also known as Japanese macaques. The park is a popular tourist destination and offers visitors a chance to observe the monkeys as they relax in the hot springs and play in the surrounding forests.

When is the best time to visit Jigokudani Monkey Park?

here are some key points regarding the best time to visit Jigokudani Monkey Park:

  • The best time to visit is during the winter months, from December to March when the snow monkeys are most active and can be seen soaking in the hot springs.
  • During the winter months, the temperatures in the park can be very cold, with heavy snowfall, which makes the hot springs all the more inviting for the snow monkeys.
  • Visiting the park during the winter months also allows visitors to experience the beautiful winter scenery of the surrounding mountains and forests.
  • However, visiting during the winter months also means dealing with larger crowds, as this is the most popular time of the year for visitors.
  • It is recommended to book accommodations and transportation well in advance if you plan to visit during the winter months.
  • The shoulder seasons of November and April can also be good times to visit, with fewer crowds, but more variable weather.
  • The summer months, from May to October, are the least popular time to visit, as the snow monkeys may not be present in the park during this time, and the temperatures are warmer.

What is the best way to find budget accommodation near Jigokudani Monkey Park?

Finding budget accommodation in Jigokudani Monkey Park can be challenging, but there are a few ways to make it easier:

  1. Research online: Look for budget accommodations on travel websites, such as, Hostelworld, or Agoda. These websites often offer discounts and promotions that can help you save money.
  2. Check with the park: Jigokudani Monkey Park has a website where you can find information on nearby accommodations, including budget-friendly options. They also offer a list of recommended accommodations on their website.
  3. Consider staying in nearby towns: Yamanouchi and Shibu Onsen are two nearby towns that offer budget-friendly accommodations. Both towns are just a short bus ride away from the park and have a variety of options, including hostels and guesthouses.
  4. Book in advance: To get the best deals on budget accommodations, it’s recommended to book in advance, especially during peak season. This will give you more options and help you save money.
  5. Look for package deals: Some tour companies offer package deals that include transportation, accommodation, and park admission. These deals can be a great way to save money and simplify your trip planning.

How do I get to Jigokudani Monkey Park?

Jigokudani Monkey Park is located in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Here are some ways to get there:

  • The easiest way to get to Jigokudani Monkey Park is by taking the train. From Tokyo, take the Shinkansen bullet train to Nagano Station. The journey takes around 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on the train. Once you arrive at Nagano Station, transfer to the Nagano Dentetsu Line (also known as the Nagano Electric Railway) to Yudanaka Station. This leg of the journey takes around 45 minutes, and the train ride itself is a scenic experience as it passes through rural villages and mountainous landscapes.
  • From Yudanaka Station, take a local bus or taxi to Kanbayashi Onsen, which is the starting point of the hiking trail that leads to Jigokudani Monkey Park. The bus ride takes around 10-15 minutes and costs around 310 yen ($2.80 USD) one way, while a taxi ride takes around 5-10 minutes and costs around 1,500-2,000 yen ($14-$18 USD) one way.
  • Alternatively, you can take a direct bus from Tokyo to Jigokudani Monkey Park during the winter season (December to March). The bus departs from Shinjuku Station and takes around 4-5 hours, depending on traffic and weather conditions. This is a good option if you want to avoid transfers and have more flexibility with your schedule.
  • If you prefer to drive, you can rent a car and drive to Jigokudani Monkey Park. However, keep in mind that the roads can be narrow and winding, and there is limited parking at the park. If you do choose to drive, make sure you have a valid international driving permit and check the weather and road conditions beforehand.
  • Once you arrive at the park, you will need to hike for about 30 minutes through the forest to reach the hot spring area where the snow monkeys bathe. The hike is well-marked and not particularly difficult, but it can be slippery in winter, so wear appropriate footwear and dress warmly. Along the way, you may encounter other wildlife such as birds, squirrels, and rabbits, so keep your eyes peeled.

What should I bring to Jigokudani Monkey Park?

When visiting Jigokudani Monkey Park, here are some items you may want to bring with you:

  • Warm clothing: The park is located in the mountains and can be very cold, especially in winter. Dress in layers and bring a warm jacket, gloves, hat, and scarf.
  • Hiking shoes or boots: You will need to hike for about 30 minutes through the forest to reach the hot spring area. Wear sturdy shoes or boots with good traction to avoid slipping.
  • Camera: The snow monkeys are the main attraction at the park, and you’ll want to capture photos of them in action.
  • Backpack: Bring a small backpack to carry your camera, snacks, and water.
  • Water and snacks: You may get thirsty or hungry during your hike, so bring a water bottle and some snacks.
  • Cash: There is an admission fee to enter the park, and you may also need to pay for transportation and food.
  • Towel and change of clothes: If you plan on taking a dip in the hot springs, bring a towel and a change of clothes.
  • Respectful attitude: Remember that snow monkeys are wild animals and should be treated with respect. Don’t touch or feed them, and keep a safe distance.

What kind of wildlife might I see on the hike to the monkey hot springs in Jigokudani Monkey Park?

The hike to the monkey hot springs in Jigokudani Monkey Park is a scenic and enjoyable experience. Here are some details about what it’s like:

  • Length and difficulty: The hike is about 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) round-trip and takes around 30 minutes to walk each way. The path is well-maintained but can be slippery in places, so wear sturdy shoes or boots with good traction.
  • Scenery: The trail leads through a beautiful forest of Japanese oak and birch trees, which is especially picturesque in autumn when the leaves change color. You may also see other wildlife such as birds and squirrels along the way.
  • Crowds: The path can be crowded, especially during peak season or weekends, so be prepared to share the trail with other visitors.
  • Arrival at the hot springs: When you reach the hot spring area, you’ll see the famous snow monkeys lounging in the steaming water. It’s a magical sight to see these wild animals up close and in their natural habitat.
  • Observing the monkeys: Visitors are asked to observe the monkeys from a safe distance and not to touch or feed them. The monkeys are accustomed to human presence and are generally unfazed by visitors, but it’s important to respect their space.

Overall, the hike to the monkey hot springs is a highlight of any visit to Jigokudani Monkey Park and provides a unique opportunity to see and interact with these fascinating creatures in their natural environment.

What are some other things to do in Jigokudani besides visiting the snow monkeys?

There are several other things to do in Jigokudani besides visiting the snow monkeys. Here are a few ideas:

  • Visit Shibu Onsen: This traditional hot spring village is located just a short distance from Jigokudani and is known for its picturesque streets, charming old-fashioned buildings, and many hot springs. Visitors can enjoy strolling through the village and sampling the various baths.
  • Hike in the Japanese Alps: The Japanese Alps are located just north of Jigokudani and offer a range of hiking opportunities for visitors of all levels. Hikes can be done as day trips or multi-day treks, and offer stunning views of the surrounding mountain landscape.
  • Visit Zenko-ji Temple: Located in the nearby city of Nagano, Zenko-ji is one of Japan’s most important Buddhist temples and a popular destination for visitors. The temple complex includes several historic buildings, beautiful gardens, and numerous cultural artifacts.
  • Explore the local cuisine: The Nagano region is known for its delicious food, including soba noodles, apples, and a variety of mountain vegetables. Visitors can sample these local specialties at restaurants and markets throughout the area.
  • Visit the Snow Monkey Park Information Center: Before or after visiting the snow monkeys, visitors can stop by the park’s information center to learn more about the park’s history and conservation efforts, as well as pick up souvenirs and educational materials.

What are some tips for photographing snow monkeys?

Tips for Photographing the Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park

One of the main reasons people visit Jigokudani Monkey Park is to observe and photograph the snow monkeys in their natural habitat. Here are some tips for capturing the perfect shot:

  • Bring the Right Gear: You will need a good camera with a long lens (at least 200mm) to capture the monkeys in detail. A tripod or monopod can also be useful for stabilizing your camera and reducing blur.
  • Visit in Good Lighting Conditions: The best time to visit the park for photography is on a sunny day with good lighting. This will help to bring out the monkeys’ fur and create a more vibrant image.
  • Get Up Close and Personal: To capture the monkeys’ expressions and details, you’ll want to get as close as possible without disturbing them. However, be sure to respect the park’s rules and stay on the designated paths.
  • Be Patient: The monkeys can be quite active, so it may take some time to capture the perfect shot. Be patient and wait for the right moment.
  • Capture Unique Moments: Look for unique moments such as grooming, playing, or cuddling between the monkeys. These shots will help to tell a story and create a more interesting photo.
  • Use the Surrounding Environment: The hot springs and surrounding snow can create a beautiful backdrop for your photos. Experiment with different angles and compositions to capture the monkeys in their natural environment.
  • Don’t Forget the Details: Remember to focus on the details such as the monkeys’ hands, faces, and expressions. These small details can create a more intimate and memorable photo.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to capture stunning photos of the snow monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park. Just remember to respect the monkeys and their environment while you’re there.

Can you bathe with the monkeys at the snow monkey park itself?

Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to bathe in the hot springs at Jigokudani Monkey Park. The hot springs are reserved for the snow monkeys, who use them for relaxation and to keep warm during the cold winter months. However, visitors can still observe and photograph the monkeys as they soak in the hot springs from a designated observation area.

In addition to being prohibited, it is also important to keep in mind that bathing in the hot springs can be dangerous. The water in the hot springs can be scalding hot, and the steam and fumes can also be harmful to humans. Additionally, the monkeys can become aggressive if they feel threatened or disturbed, and visitors should always maintain a safe distance and avoid making direct contact with them. It is important to follow all rules and regulations at Jigokudani Monkey Park to ensure the safety of both the visitors and the monkeys.

Is it safe to visit Jigokudani Monkey Park?

As with any wildlife park, there are certain safety precautions to keep in mind when visiting Jigokudani Monkey Park. However, the park is generally considered safe as long as visitors follow the rules and guidelines set by the park staff. Visitors are not allowed to touch or feed the monkeys, as this can be dangerous for both humans and animals. Additionally, visitors are advised to keep a safe distance from the monkeys, as they are wild animals and can be unpredictable.

In terms of personal safety, Jigokudani Monkey Park is located in a remote area and visitors should take precautions such as carrying a fully charged phone and informing someone of their travel plans. Hiking to the hot springs can also be challenging and visitors should wear appropriate footwear and carry enough water and food.

Overall, as long as visitors follow the rules and take necessary precautions, Jigokudani Monkey Park can be a safe and enjoyable experience.

Are there any rules or regulations to keep in mind when visiting Jigokudani Monkey Park?

Yes, there are rules and regulations that visitors must follow when visiting Jigokudani Monkey Park to ensure the safety of the monkeys and the preservation of the park’s natural environment. Some of the most important rules and regulations include:

  • Do not touch or feed the monkeys: The monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park are wild animals and it is important to maintain a safe distance from them. Feeding them or trying to touch them can lead to aggressive behavior.
  • Do not use flash photography: Flash photography can startle the monkeys and disrupt their natural behavior. It is also prohibited to use tripods or selfie sticks.
  • Stay on the designated trails: The park has designated paths for visitors to follow, and it is important to stick to these paths to avoid damaging the natural environment and prevent accidents.
  • Do not bring outside food or drinks: Bringing outside food or drinks into the park is prohibited to prevent the monkeys from becoming too dependent on human food and to keep the park clean.
  • Keep quiet and avoid sudden movements: Loud noises and sudden movements can startle the monkeys, so it is important to keep a quiet and respectful atmosphere.
  • Follow the park’s opening hours: The park has specific opening hours, and it is important to follow these to ensure that the monkeys are not disturbed outside of their normal routines.
  • Respect the park’s natural environment: Jigokudani Monkey Park is located in a beautiful natural environment, and visitors should take care not to litter or damage the surrounding nature.

By following these rules and regulations, visitors can enjoy a safe and respectful experience while visiting the snow monkeys of Jigokudani Monkey Park.

Conclusion – a visit to Jigokudani Monkey Park

In conclusion, a visit to Jigokudani Monkey Park is a unique and unforgettable experience that is not to be missed. From observing the playful snow monkeys to hiking through the beautiful natural scenery, there is something for everyone to enjoy. To make the most of your trip, be sure to come prepared with warm clothing and appropriate camera equipment for capturing the perfect shots of the monkeys. Keep in mind the park’s rules and regulations, and respect the natural habitat of the monkeys. With these tips in mind, you are sure to have an incredible adventure at Jigokudani Monkey Park.

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