Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
JIGOKUDANI YAENKOEN 地獄谷野猿公苑
LOCATION: Yudanaka Shibu Onsen, Yamanouchi town, Nagano prefecture, Japan
DISTANCE: About 33km from Nagano city, 7km from Yudanaka station, 2.5km from Shibu Onsen
HOURS: Summer (April-October) 8:30am-5:00pm | Winter (November-March) 9:00am-4:00pm
The heavy snow covers the ground for 4 months a year. This place is only accessible via a narrow 2 kilometer footpath through the forest. It is famous for the wild Japanese macaques (snow monkeys). The monkeys are fed by park attendants everyday so you can see them in the hot springs all year round.
It's 1.6km hike to the monkey park. It's not an easy hike, especially if it's raining or snowing, as it's very icy and slippery uphill (about a 45 minute walk). Be sure to wear proper shoes or you can rent a cramp-on as well. There are a very narrow ramp on the left.
Entrance is on top of the hill, there are a small gift shop and toilets in the building. Then you walk down to the river, where the monkeys are feeding, playing, and bathing in the onsen. While we were there it snowed heavily, there was a layer of snow on my eyelashes at times!
There are literally hundreds of monkeys running up the snowy slopes, in the river and bathing in the onsen. They looked so relaxed. Remember NO food is allowed near the monkeys as they will try to take it from you!