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The famous Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani are in fact Japanese macaques. This is a highly intelligent species of monkey which lives in large troops of over 100 individuals and is what are considered to be ‘matrilineal’ societies, meaning that a specific monkey’s lineage and status is traced through its mother. An estimated 6o to 70% of the monkey troop is female, with different family lineages grouped together within one overall ‘dominance hierarchy’. Though mostly female, at the top of this hierarchy sits an ‘alpha male’ – the No.1 monkey and boss of the troop.


Every monkey within the troop is named by park rangers with its lineage accounted for, with specific monkeys holding the highest ranks. These are the top monkey power players in the park:


Number 1/Alpha MaleTOMAMU 96

The official boss and alpha male of the Jigokudani troop is Tomamu 96 (born in 1996). As the alpha, Tomamu has a strong build and is noticeably larger than most other monkeys. He is very distinctive due a large scar across the bottom half of his face, which causes his top lip to droop over his bottom lip. For this reason, Tomamu is easy to recognize, particularly when he looks directly at you. He often takes a high vantage point above the troop to watch over his dominion and is therefore often hidden from view. However more recently he has regularly been coming into the park and can often be spotted nearby the food box. At feeding time, look-out for the park rangers handing an apple or two to one of the large monkeys. That may well be Tomamu who is appeased by being fed first and more than the others. Though he is ageing, Tomamu remains popular with quite a few of the females who rely on him for protection, making him popular during mating season (autumn). He won’t give up his power without a fight.

Snow Monkeys_180521_0201Snow Monkeys_180711_0280Number-1-monkey

©Jigokudani Yaen-Koen


Number 2: TOAMI 00

Born in 2000, Toami is notably younger than Tomamu and can be considered to be quite young to hold such a prominent position within the troop. Through the 1990s, many males were born into the troop and Toami is one of the youngest of that generation. When Tomamu is not in the park you will observe Toami taking control, quite aggressively at times, as he asserts his power. His distinguishing facial feature is his prominent, protruding forehead. He is young, strong, and already challenging Tomamu for the top job of alpha male. Only time will tell if Toami realizes his goal of becoming monkey No.1.

©Jigokudani Yaen-Koen


Number 3: TOKEI 95-05

The third in line to the throne of the Jigokudani kingdom is Tokei 95-05. Born in 2005 he is younger than Toami and notably younger than Tomamu. Tokei is slightly built with somewhat black fur. Despite his slight and younger appearance, Tokei has a countenance permanently set to threatening. Young and confident, Tokei appears ambitious however hasn’t displayed the drive of Toami to push himself up the hierarchy and therefore is not considered as likely to challenge Tomamu for the top job (at least, not yet).


©Jigokudani Yaen-Koen