If you’re visiting Japan, one possible day trip from Tokyo is to visit the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, where you’ll witness one of the most unique things to see in Japan – snow monkeys soaking in onsen!
Snow Monkeys in Japan
Founded in 1964, the Jigokudani Monkey Park was first established to help keep local macaques (snow monkeys) safe from extinction. Hidden somewhere in the mountains of a region in Tokyo known as Nagano, the park is now a popular tourist attraction where visitors can see these snow monkeys up close.
Jigokudani Monkey Park isn’t like a zoo, as there aren’t any enclosures within the park and the snow monkeys roam freely. But don’t worry as these monkeys aren’t afraid of humans after interacting with them for years, and they will simply avoid you if you’re in their way.
However, there are still rules in place at Jigokudani Monkey Park. Do not go too near to them, or even attempt to touch them as these are still wild animals. No food or drinks are allowed within the hot springs but no worries as we’ll cover more on this later in this article.
How To Get To Jigokudani Monkey Park in Japan
Located approximately 250km northwest of Tokyo, the easiest way to visit Jigokudani Monkey Park is to take the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Nagano station. This is a good option for those who have purchased the Japan Rail Pass or are considering getting one.
The journey will take you roughly 80 to 110 mins, depending on what train you take, and costs between JPY8000 to 9000 one way. If you’re not thinking of visiting multiple prefectures and will probably stay in Tokyo most of the time, it might be better to just pay a la carte prices for the train tickets.
If not, simply opt for the Nagano Area JR pass instead of the one covering the whole of Japan.
From Nagano station, there’s an express bus going directly to the snow monkey park area. Head over to the East exit and look for bus stop no.23. The price for a one-way journey bus ticket cost JPY1500 for adults and JPY700 for a child.
If you think that the bus would bring you directly to Jigokudani Monkey Park, then you’re wrong! From there, you still have to walk quite a distance to reach them.
Look out for the Jigokudani Yaen-Koen Entrance sign, and you’ll know you’re at the right place. It should be near a car park and a café/restaurant. From here, it’s a 1.6km walk to the Jigokudani Onsen Kourakukan Entrance.
While you might be greeted by stairs, rest assured that the 1.6km is a flat path with no elevation.
If it snows, the path does get very muddy and slippery, so do be well-equipped with proper walking shoes. During winter, especially during January & February, the roads might be icy so be extra careful.
The forest trail can be extremely beautiful during snowfall, so do take some time to appreciate it and take it all in.
At the end of the trail, you’ll reach the Jigokudani Onsen Korakuken area, where there are lots of wooden houses. If you cross the bridge, it’ll lead you to the onsen area, but for the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, simply head straight where you’ll spot the steepest climb for this trail.
After climbing the flight of stairs, you’ll be able to spot the ticketing counter, where you can purchase tickets for entry to the areas filled with monkeys. For adults, the entrance fee is JPY800, and JPY400 for children aged 6 to 17.
Inside you’ll also find lockers that can be used free of charge to store your items before heading into the snow monkey onsen. Do note that you’ll need a JPY100 coin deposit to be able to lock the locker.
Here are some pics of the snow monkeys we encountered in the park! There are over 150 monkeys roaming the area, and you might even encounter one or two fighting among each other.
Snow Monkey Park Review
Because of the nature of these monkeys, we highly recommend visiting during colder weather days. If you visit on a snowy day, the photos and experience will definitely be better! The monkeys tend to soak in the onsen when it’s cold, so winter (Dec to Feb) is the best period to visit.
There’s also a live camera feed available to check if there are any snow monkeys out and about, but we also used it to check if it was snowing.
If you’re not confident to travel to the Snow Monkey Park by yourself, no worries as various platforms offer day trips to Jigokudani Monkey Park, such as this one by Klook.
Overall, we feel that Snow Monkey Park is worth a visit!
Jigokudani Yaen Koen (Snow Monkey Park)
6845 Hirao, Yamanochi, Shimotakai District, Nagano 381-0401, Japan
8:30am-5pm (Apr to Oct), 9am-6pm (Nov to Mar)