Autumn is a wonderful season to visit the snow monkeys of the Jigokudani Monkey Park. The leaves of the trees in and around the park start turning red, orange, and yellow, and the monkeys inch closer and closer to the hot waters of their onsen. The baby monkeys are now much more confident and independent and stray further and further from their family. Seeing a lone baby monkey stumbling around is not a rare sight. The heat of summer is now gone, and the monkeys can finally run around without breaking a sweat so they are more active then in the hot season.
While the monkeys are lovely to see in autumn, one thing that we would like to warn you about though, is the time of arrival of the monkeys. The monkeys come down from the mountains where they have slept when they feel hungry or want to be in the safety of their regular habitat. In autumn though, many wild fruits and vegetables can be found high up in the mountains.
Japan is rich in wild mountain vegetables, roots, and nuts in months of September, October and November. These are also the months that the monkeys work very hard to get as much food as they can. With winter approaching, the Japanese macaques feel the urge to get as much food intake as possible as food is hard to get by in the snowy season. To get their energy levels up as high as they can to survive the harsh cold of Nagano Prefecture, they have to eat large quantities of nuts, fruits, veggies.
This incredible need for food makes the monkeys sometimes reluctant to come down from the food-rich mountains. They need all the food they can find and they only have until mid-November. This means that the monkeys arrive sometimes late to the park, or very rarely but still possible, not at all. In autumn, the timely presence of the monkeys in the park is less certain then other seasons.
Another thing that could cause the monkeys to come down later from the mountains is the fact that autumn is mating season for the Japanese macaques. The mating happens in the mountains, far away from prying eyes.
If you’re planning on visiting the snow monkeys of Jigokudani, please bear in mind that the monkeys could arrive later than usual! See this access page for the timetables you need to plan your trip to the Snow Monkey Park!
If you want to go to the accompanied by a guide to the red/orange/yellow-colored monkey park, please see our tour page here.