SNOW MONKEY PARK INFORMATION
This page includes general information about the monkey park along with opening times, pricing, park rules and access, public transport options, and our guided tours.
Welcome to the Jigokudani Monkey Park
Nagano’s Jigokudani Monkey Park is home to a particularly curious troop of Japanese macaques who have achieve worldwide fame due to a unique, captivating behaviour – they are the only troop of monkeys in the world known to enjoy bathing in natural hot springs!
Established in 1964 as a conservation area in which the troop would be safe within what was already their natural territory, generations of monkeys have now been born and grown to maturity in close proximity to humans, making them very comfortable with our presence. There are no barriers keeping visitors and monkeys separated and due to the park’s long established policy forbidding guests to feed them, the monkeys are non-aggressive and go about their daily activities in a near-natural state. The experience of observing the monkeys in such close proximity – as they literally run around you in total ease – and observing their natural behaviors of grooming each other, foraging for food, nursing their young, and wrestling each other for fun is truly one that will stay with you long after your visit.
Japanese macaques are a highly intelligent and adaptable species of monkey, found throughout the main island of Honshu – from the subtropical south of Kyushu to the cold and snow of the north. While it is their unique behavior of bathing in the hot springs that brings most attention, their intelligence and individual personalities are plain to see in their social interactions, games, foraging for food, swimming, and their casual curiousness about us.
Why are the Snow Monkeys so famous?
While macaques are found throughout the Japanese main island of Honshu, and indeed there are many troops spread through the mountains surrounding the monkey park, this troop is remarkable for its behaviour of soaking in the hot springs – the only monkeys known to do so in the entire world. First captured on camera by Tomio Yamada during the 1950s, the monkeys’ fame went global when a photograph of them appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine in 1970.
The park now attracts visitors from all over the world, who come to observe these curious and intelligent creatures in a near-natural environment. While they are more likely soak in the hot spring, and for longer, in winter, it is their collective character and range of captivating daily behaviors that make the park such a popular destination at all times of the year. These are endearing animals within whom you’ll recognize habits and patterns not so far removed from ours, and as such, the experience of visiting the park is often cited as a highlight and uniquely memorable part of any trip to Japan.
Do the monkeys come to the park every day, including outside of winter?
Yes. The park is situated within the territorial radius of this troop of monkeys meaning that coming into the park is a natural part of their daily activity. Furthermore, park rangers incentivize them to come with small amounts of food each day (further information about why they do this can be found on our ‘History of the Jigokudani Monkey Park’ webpage). The troop is referred to as “snow monkeys” due to their renowned ability to live and thrive in the depths of winter however don’t let this mislead you, they are just as comfortable in spring, summer, and autumn and come to the park at all times of the year.
It is important to note that the monkeys are wild. There are no barriers forcing them to stay in the park meaning that they are free to come and go as they please. It is therefore possible that occasionally only a small number of monkeys will come to the park on a particular day, or very rarely, none at all. While this can occur it is not common and most typically occurs in autumn when an abundance of wild fruits and nuts in the mountains, and mating season, can preoccupy the monkeys’ minds.
Best time of year to visit the Snow Monkey Park?
Nagano and the Jigokudani Monkey Park are places of four distinct seasons. Winter is a time of heavy snowfall before spring brings Japan’s famous cherry blossoms and birth of baby macaques. Summer quickly follows, as the landscape turns deep green and monkeys enjoy a lush and abundant landscape to explore, before temperatures drop and autumn turns the mountains gold, red, and amber with the changing of leaves and first touches of snow on the mountain-tops above.
Each season brings different colors, sights, and sounds, changing behaviors, and reasons to visit. Winter is the best time to see the monkeys soaking in the hot spring while spring and summer are best for observing the baby macaques finding their feet, exploring their new world, and stare back at us with large, glassy eyes full of innate curiosity. Autumn is particularly beautiful with changing leaves and the first hints of winter, and the time of year when the monkeys appear most content with the abundance of wild food available to them.
In summary, they monkeys are here all year and there’s always a good reason to visit.
The park is open every day of the year* however opening hours vary between winter and other times of the year due to changing weather conditions, hours of light, and seasonal behaviour of the monkeys.
April to October / Green Season: 8:30 to 17:00
November to March / Winter Season: 9:00 to 16:00
* The Snow Monkey Park is open 7 days a week and there are no fixed holidays in place. The park might close momentarily in case of events like heavy snowfall or absence of monkeys.
Entrance fees vary for adults, children, and infants:
Adults (18 years & over) = JPY800 per person
Children (aged 6 to 17) = JPY400 per person
Infants (aged 0 to 5) are free of charge
When visiting the park there are several rules to adhere to:
・Please do not feed the monkeys
・Please do not touch the monkeys
・Please do not eat or drink while in the park or on the trail
・Please keep your distance from the monkeys (1 to 2 meters)
・Please do not use selfie sticks or flash photography
The monkey park is accessible via a 1.6KM (or 1 mile) path through the forest, approximately 25 to 30 minutes each way. Visitors must walk themselves in and out of the park along a mostly level and well-maintained trail. It is worth noting that the first 20 meters of the path inclines upwards before becoming level. At the end of the trail visitors must ascend a staircase or steep path into the park. While a wheelchair can be take along the path in fine weather, the final staircase and step path into the park are not negotiable in a wheelchair.
Visitors are encouraged to wear good footwear and clothing suitable to the season. While the walk is generally easy, it is subject to weather conditions including winter, in which time the path will become cover in snow and ice. Please ensure that you are well-prepared when visiting the park in winter.
For further information regarding the walk into the park and winter services including rental boots and jackets along with luggage storage, please refer to our relevant webpages.
Getting to the Jigokudani Monkey Park:
JR Nagano Station is the nearest shinkansen stop (on the Hokuriku Line) to the monkey park and therefore the most common starting point for visitors coming to see the monkeys. From Nagano, you can take either an express bus which will drop you nearby the monkey park or alternatively, take a train to JR Yudanaka Station from where you’ll need to jump on a local bus for the short ride up to the park. Both the express bus and trains – including a limited express and local services – are operated by Nagano Dentetsu (Nagaden) and easily navigable from Nagano Station to the park.
For further information including which service is most suitable for you needs please refer to our blog article – Bus or Train? How to get to the Snow Monkey Park from JR Nagano Station.
English-speaking guided tours:
Snow Monkey Resorts is Nagano’s No.1 tour operator! Locally-based and operating all year round, our experienced guides are knowledgeable about the daily lives and uniqueness of Nagano’s famous snow monkeys and more broadly, Japanese culture and history. We conduct a range tours that introduce Japan, and especially Nagano, in a unique and engaging way. With group, seasonal, and private customizable tours available through the year, combining your visit the snow monkeys with the region’s other renowned destinations and activities is the best way to turn your visit into an experience that will stay with you long after you move on.
We are looking forward to welcoming you to Nagano!