On the basis of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program launched in 1971 with the purpose of establishing a scientific basis for the improvement of relationship between people and their environments, Shiga Kogen, which consists of various mountain ranges in which the Snow Monkey Park valley is a part of, has been registered as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1981.
There are 669 biosphere reserves in 120 countries. Each reserve is designated a biosphere after various screening processes conducted by a UNESCO committee to the nomination made by the regional/national government with some periodic review.
Japan has 7 biosphere reserves, including Yakushima in the Kyushu region and the Southern Alps in Yamanashi Prefecture. Among them, Shiga Kogen is one of the oldest reserves which has managed the biodiversity of the area over decades. The area has extended its biosphere registration in 2014.
Located in the north-east of Nagano Prefecture and surrounded by some 2,000-meters-altitude mountains, Shiga Kogen was formed by volcanic eruptions that occurred 3 million years ago. The area comprises of rough terrain, mountain ranges and forests with ponds, swamps, high-moors, and rivers, making it a suitable environment for a wide variety of animals, plants, and insects to coexist. It is recorded that 64 bird species, Japanese macaques, ermines, serows, bears, rabbits, and various types of reptilians, insects, and butterflies inhabit the area.
While Shiga Kogen is one of the most popular ski resorts in Japan during the winter period (Nov – May), it transforms into wonderful trekking site and nature observation area from spring to autumn.
Shiga Kogen usually has a long winter from November to May. Almost the entire area is covered with snow with temperatures ranging from 0 to minus 20 degrees Celsius, thus making Shiga kogen Japan’s representative ski resort area. Spring season starts from June when the snow and frozen lakes have completely melted and the trekking routes are opened for visitors. The so-called “green season”, when hiking in the area is possible, starts from June to the end of October. During spring, you can enjoy lots of flowers/plants coming in bloom after the snow starts to melt. Shiga’s summer offers visitors a relaxing environment for summer retreat before autumn comes around. Autumn is from the end of August until October, when you can enjoy astonishing colorful autumn sceneries.
For those planning on coming to the Snow Monkey Park, which is one part of Shiga Kogen’s biosphere, during the green season and are interested in stretching your legs up to the real highlands of Shiga Kogen, we offer tours in the area. During these tours you get access to one the most representative areas of the Shiga Kogen biosphere reserve. For further information, please go to our tour page and reserve a spot!