Japan

Visiting Snow Monkeys in Japan

Planning and preparing itineraries are my strengths, I love to do it and it makes our trips not only interesting but also easier. When we booked tickets to Japan for the middle of summer, my Japanese friends reacted the same to that information – Ooooh summer? Summer in Japan is hot, very hot! Which made me happy, I wanted hot, I like hot. And because it was supposed to be after the rainy season, I couldn’t wait for that great weather.

– Maybe we should take the advantage of that and do some hikes there? So I added a few to the itinerary.

It was 35°C at 10 am. Not a cloud in the sky. Try hiking in those conditions. I only then understood what my Japanese friends meant. It was HOT, hiking was off the table and we needed plan B.

– We could go to see snow monkeys. Sans the snow, but should be fun anyway.

The Snow Monkey Park, Jigokudani Yaen-koen, is located in a mountainous area of the northern part of Nagano Prefecture. For one-third of the year, the area is covered by snow. The steep cliffs, remote location, and hot springs were chosen by Japanese macaques as their home. Currently, about 200 monkeys inhabit the park. [check the live camera]

visiting Snow Monkeys in Japan

In order to get to the park, you need to make your way to Nagano Station (if you’re traveling around Japan on JR Pass, you can use it up to this point). From there you have to catch a Dentetsu Line train to Yudanaka and a local bus to Kanbayashi Spa or express bus direct to Kanbayashi Spa. Both options are not covered by JR Pass, so you need to purchase a 1-day Snow Monkey Pass at the Nagano Station. The pass costs JPY2900 for an adult, JPY1450 for a 6-12 years old child and includes unlimited use of the express bus, Dentetsu Line train, local bus & admission to the monkey park. It’s in a form of a small booklet with all the most important info (timetables, map, park guidelines etc).

visiting Snow Monkeys in Japan

No matter which transport you choose, there is only one way to get to the monkeys from Kanbayashi Spa – walking. It is about 2 kilometers through a forest and takes approximately 30 minutes.

visiting Snow Monkeys in Japan

visiting Snow Monkeys in Japan

Show your pass/ buy a ticket at the entrance and you have unlimited time to walk around, take photos and watch monkeys play.

visiting Snow Monkeys in Japan

visiting Snow Monkeys in Japan

visiting Snow Monkeys in Japan

visiting Snow Monkeys in Japan

On hot summer days, there is nowhere to hide from the sun. Don’t forget to use sunscreen, bring a hat and drink lots of water.

It’s a fun thing to do no matter what time of the year you visit, but it won’t take more than half a day (unless you’re a very late riser). On our way back we chose to travel by the direct express bus to Nagano Station and spend the rest of our day in Nagano. From the small map included in our pass, we had a little bit of trouble to determine which bus stop is the right one for the express bus – if you find yourself in this situation, just remember this photo:

visiting Snow Monkeys in Japan

Also, I wouldn’t worry too much even if you’re not on the right stop. Bus drivers are very helpful, they stop anyway and check where you want to go.

—- visit my facebook for more photos —-

edit – this photo cracked me up on the way to the monkeys:

snow monkey park

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Christine @ Cooking Crusade
    September 30, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    OHhhhhhhh man. I’ve visited Japan 5 times and I’ve never visited the snow monkeys but i REALLY WANT TO. This post has given me super Japan wanderlust again…. This is definitely going on the bucket list!

    • Reply
      Aga
      September 30, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      I wish I could go there again in winter – snow monkeys in the actual snow.

  • Reply
    2 weeks in Japan with a Rail Pass – our itinerary – a matter of taste – food & travel blog
    January 23, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    […] already wrote about the Snow Monkeys. You won’t be able to do the whole trip on JR Pass and an extra cost of ¥2900 is […]

  • Reply
    10 things to do in Sulawesi, Indonesia – a matter of taste – food & travel blog
    May 8, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    […] comfortable in front of cameras, keen to pose for photos and gave us quite a few peep shows too. Seeing macaques in Japan before, I expected a bunch of misbehaving monkeys, but they seemed much calmer and kind of majestic […]

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