Animal Local Nature

Where to See Snow Monkeys in Japan

You might not have heard "Jigokudani Yaen-koen" but you have probably heard about a place in Japan where you can see "Snow Monkeys" (Japanese Macaque) chilling out in hot springs.

In particular, we introduced Snow Monkey and received a large response to our previous article about 7 Spots to Meet Wild Animals in Japan, underlying its popularity.

In this article, we will introduce Jigokudani Yaen-koen(地獄谷野猿公苑), the one of the few places in the world where monkeys bathe in hot springs!

History of Snow Monkey

Since the establishment of Jigokudani Yaen-koen in 1964(the year of Tokyo Summer Olympic), it has been a worldwide popular place for watching the bathing monkeys in a hot spring and for ecological observation of researchers or photographers, and some of them who visited here have accomplished certain results in the area.

In 1970, a photograph of Snow Monkey has been appeared on the front page of "LIFE" magazine and was reported by the world media. And during the period of Nagano Winter Olympics (1998), many people from overseas visited here, such as athletes, Olympic officials and news media .In these topics, Snow Monkey began to spread, and they became famous.

About Jigokudani Yaen-koen

Jigokudani Yen-koen(地獄谷野猿公園) is located in Nagano Prefecture. It is part of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park (locally known as Shigakogen), and is located in the valley of the Yokoyu-River, in the northern part of the prefecture. The name Jigokudani(地獄谷), meaning "Hell's Valley", is due to the steam and boiling water that bubbles out of small crevices in the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs and formidably cold and hostile forests.

The heavy snowfalls (snow covers the ground for 4 months a year), an elevation of 850 metres, and being only accessible via a narrow two kilometre footpath through the forest, keep it uncrowded despite being relatively well-known.

It is famous for its large population of wild Japanese macaques, more commonly referred to as snow monkeys, that go to the valley during the winter, foraging elsewhere in the national park during the warmer months. The monkeys descend from the steep cliffs and forest to sit in the warm waters of the hot springs, and return to the security of the forests in the evenings.

However, since the monkeys are fed by park attendants, they are in the area of the hot springs all the year round, and a visit at any season will enable the visitor to observe hundreds of the macaques.

Let's go to Jigokudani Yarn-koen to see Snow Monkeys!

Snow Monkey Express

To reach Jigokudani Yaen-koen, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen(北陸新幹線) to reach JR Nagano Station(長野駅) and change to Nagano Dentetsu Nagano Line(長野電鉄長野線) "Snow Monkey Express" and Shigakogen bus to reach the final destination. 

Jigokudani Yaen-koen (地獄谷野猿公苑)

Address: 6845 Yamanouchi-machi, Shimotakai-gun, Nagano Prefecture  381-0401
(1) 7 min Shigakogen bus from Yudanaka Station (Nagano Dentetsu Nagano Line) -> a 30 min. walk
(2) 45 min Shigakogen bus from Nagano Station (Hokuriku Shinkansen) -> a 30 min. walk
Tel: +81-269-33-4379
Opening Hours: April to October:Open from 8:30 a.m to 5:00 p.m November to March:Open from 9:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m ※Open 365 days a year
Entrance Fee: Adult:800 yen Child:400 yen
Home Page:
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Koki Miyashita

Author & Editor