It’s been a strange old winter here in Nagano and at the Snow Monkey Park. The usually reliable snowfall came as late as anyone can remember but when it did eventually arrive, it fell in abundance and quickly covered the park and surrounding mountains in fluffy, white magic. Once underway the snow season has continued to be quite unpredictable, punctuated by large dumps of snow followed by not very much at all.
Now, as we steadily cross the days of February off our calendar, the weather is warming, the sun is out, and it feels very much as though winter is coming to an unusually early end! Of course none of this bothers the monkeys, who unlike us fragile humans, don’t seem too bothered by the weather and carry on their happy lives come snow, sun, or anything in between…
Through February, our guides have welcomed many new guests and some old friends returning for their second visit to the Snow Monkey Park. A common question among guests is, what are the monkeys foraging for underneath the snow?
The monkey troop inhabiting the park is in fact wild. There is nothing confining them to the park and they are free to come and go as they please. First and foremost a research and conservation facility in what was already the natural territorial radius of this one troop, the park provides the monkeys with a small amount of feed each morning (and again during the day) to incentivize them to come regularly. Preferring barley seeds, soybeans, and (on a good day!) apples, the monkeys were first fed as a way of luring them back into the mountains and away from human settlements.
The practice has continued to this day and the sight of the monkeys digging through snow and throwing blocks of ice aside is merely them searching for that morning’s freshest seeds and beans!
With food hard to come by in winter, it’s not enough to survive on but a strong incentive to come every day to get a quick meal and then soak in their own hot spring. Once seated in the hot, hot water the monkeys can indulge in their other favorite past-time, endlessly grooming themselves and others in search of stray seeds, twigs, and insects stuck in their coats.
This curious (and seemingly endless) habit is actually an important method for bonding with family members and potential mates, and strengthening the social bonds that keep the troop together. All-in-all, a little food and a warm bath equal a very good deal for the lucky monkeys of Jigokudani through February and the other winter months!
Winter might be coming to an end however the monkeys aren’t going anywhere! Snow Monkey Resorts is Nagano’s top-rated tour provider, operating all year round including tours to the world-famous Snow Monkey Park and other great destinations. Our popular 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour operates throughout the year and approaching quickly, our spring-only 1-Day Snow Monkeys & Cherry Blossom in Nagano Tour combines a visit to the monkey park with lunch and afternoon enjoying one of the most quintessential Japanese past-times, blossom viewing.
The white landscapes of winter will shortly recede and the new year’s growth will emerge, typified by the cherry blossoms Japan is so famous for! There’s never a bad time to visit the park and having just enjoyed another winter we are looking forward to another beautiful March and April. We hope to see you here!