A visit here is highly recommended. Just a short trip away from Nagano, Nozawa Onsen and Shiga Koen, near the beautifully traditional village of Kanbayashi, you will find yourself at the car park; from there it is around a 20 minute walk through beautiful forest to the entrance. You will know you are nearby when you come to a steaming river with a rustic onsen building on the opposite side. You can pay to go in the onsen, and apparently monkeys might even come in with you. But don’t let it distract you from your goal. Carry on the same side of the river as you came from, follow the trail another few minutes to the entrance.
The monkey park has been open since 1964 in a place called Jigokudani yaenkoen. Jigokudani means “Hell’s Valley” – the area was named for it’s steep cliffs and the steam rising from numerous hot springs. It seems like a harsh environment in Winter with the considerable snowfall but they don’t seem to mind at all, and with an onsen to soak in the life of a snow monkey looks pretty good!
The monkeys, indigenous to Japan and found throughout the country, are very intelligent. They have been observed learning new skills, and the speed with which other monkeys in the group acquire the new behavior and teach others is incredible. Here at Jigokudani, these Japanese Macaque monkeys have become seriously famous for soaking in hot pools, and they play host to thousands of visitors each year. You can even see what they are up to pretty much live by clicking on this link.
Come in the warmer season and you still might get to see monkeys in the hot pools, if not only because the staff put food in their to entice them in. And you might be lucky enough to see baby monkeys playing with their mums, and with each other.
Snow Monkey Onsen Times & Prices
Jigokudani is open year-round.
Summer (Apr-Oct): 8:30am-5:00pm
Winter (Nov-Mar): 9:00am-4:00pm
Adult 500 yen, child 250 yen, 5 & under free
How to Get to the Snow Monkey Onsen, Jigokudani
From JR Tokyo Station, take the JR Shinkansen to Nagano.
From JR Nagano Station, take the Nagano Dentetsu train to Yudanaka.
From Yudanaka, take a bus or taxi to Kanbayashi Onsen.
From there, it’s around a 30 minute walk to the entrance to Jigokudani yaenkoen then another 30 minutes to the park itself. A taxi will cost around 2,000 yen and is worth it for the unfit – it’s a lot of uphill.
Exit the Joshinentsu Highway at the Shinshu Nakano I.C.
Follow Route 292 towards Shiga Kogen.
The monkey park is well signposted, follow the sign “Kanbayashi Onsen the monkey park”. The carpark has a toilet, and there is a shop serving great snacks, light meals and fantastic traditionals such as gohei mochi. It is a short walk to Jigokudani Yaenkoen entrance, and around 30 minutes to the park itself.
- Jigokudani Yaenkoen – snow monkey onsen park direct link
- Kanbayashi onsen – some amazing ryokans, a real experience
- Snow Japan – some great photos taken at the park
- Wikipedia – information about the Japanese Macaque