The Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park offers visitors the unique experience of seeing wild Japanese Macaques monkeys, also known as snow monkeys. Unlike a zoo, there are no fences separating the monkeys from the humans here, which means you will get to see them in their natural habitat.
The park is located in the Valley of the Yokoyu River, which takes its water from the Shiga-Kogen Highlands of the Jyoshinetsu-Kogen National Park in the northern part of Nagano prefecture. According to their website, people started calling the area jigokudani, meaning “hell valley” because of it’s big cliffs and fountains of hot water; and the name stuck!
Established in 1964, the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is the only place in the world where macaque monkeys bathe in hot spring water. Not only is it an extremely popular place for tourists visiting Japan, it is also an ideal place for researchers and photographers to study the macaque monkeys up close and personal.
I will probably write another post with tips for those interested in visiting the park. We had sort of a hard time planning this trip and I would love to share more about our experience. Stay tuned!
Thankfully we had some time to take pictures of the monkeys in the hot spring, before it was feeding time!! As soon as the buckets of food came out, all of the monkeys got out of the water. This happens around lunch time, so maybe try and arrive before or after noon. Most of them didn’t really get back in the water after eating, so we walked around and then headed back.
We stopped by the gift shop to buy the souvenirs I collect, a post card and a magnet. We also grabbed some local Kit Kats in Shinshu Apple flavor. We then stopped at a cafe we spotted next to the bus stop/ parking lot to grab a quick lunch. We were pleasantly surprised by it, even though it was a bit pricy, we drank really good coffee and ate delicious sushi and ramen.
Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
Address: 〒381-0401 Nagano Prefecture, Shimotakai District, Yamanouchi, Hirao, ６８４５
Hours: 9AM – 4PM (Everyday)