As host of the 1998 Winter Olympics and home to around 80 ski resorts along with the famous hot spring-bathing monkeys of Jigokudani, Nagano is synonymous with winter. Offering abundant snow in close proximity, Nagano is Japan’s premier winter destination.
Each year we look forward to welcoming many new and old friends from all over the world. We love our home region and want to show-off everything it has to offer – starting with the Snow Monkeys. Located in the foothills of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is home to the only troop of monkeys in the world known to bathe in hot springs (known as ‘onsen’ in Japanese). Thousands of visitors flock to the park each winter to witness this remarkable sight in what is considered a “must-see” destination when visiting Nagano in winter.
Naturally, we love the monkeys and enjoy nothing more than taking many visitors to the park each winter. Well… there is one thing. Being from Nagano we know just how much there is to see and do each winter and with that, we’ve designed the following special event tours to combine a visit to the Snow Monkey Park with local winter, evening festivals.
Each tour offers pick-up and drop-off in Hakuba and Nagano and are led by English-speaking guides. So go local and keep things light and bright this winer with the following three tours:
Nozawa Fire Festival & Snow Monkey Tour – January 15th only
As one of Japan’s three major fire festivals, Nozawa Onsen’s ‘Dosojin Matsuri’ draws ever-increasing crowds each winter to witness the madness of locals either defending or attempting to destroy a huge wooden shrine.
Men aged 24 and 42 (considered bad luck years) defend the wooden structure from other town residents, who attempt to set it alight. Fuelled by belief, bravado and a lot of ‘sake’ the battle continues into the night before the shrine is finally set ablaze.
Including pick-up and drop-off in both Hakuba and Nagano, a visit to the Snow Monkey Park, early dinner, and attendance of the festival, this is one of our most popular tours.
Snow Monkeys & Zenko-ji Tomyo Lantern Festival Tour – February 6th to 11th
Notably quieter than the fire festival, this tour includes an early afternoon visit to the monkeys followed by lunch and then onto Nagano’s near-1400 year old Zenko-ji Temple. In the midst of winter, the temple comes to light in the warm glow of paper lanterns and light displays.
The festival commemorates Nagano’s role as host of the 1998 Winter Olympics while also offering light to the Buddha – a form of thanks and act of merit in Buddhism. You will have time to explore the precinct before meeting-up with your guide to enjoy a warming winter dinner.
Including pick-up and drop-off in both Hakuba and Nagano, a visit to the Snow Monkey Park, both lunch and dinner, and attendance of the festival, this tour brings warmth and brightness into the cold of winter.
Snow Monkeys & Zenko-ji Winter Illumination Tour – February 22nd to March 1st
Passing the midpoint of winter, Zenko-ji will again be bathed in light with the Winter Illumination Festival.
Normally held in December each year, this year’s illumination has been moved to the last week of February allowing visitors coming to Nagano later in winter to witness the temple bathed in purple, yellow, red and gold – a representation of the Buddhist paradise on earth.
This peaceful evening festival is a memorable way to enjoy the city – and its famous temple – in the crisp winter night, all led by an English-speaking guide and capped-off with the Winter Illumination Dinner Course at Monzen Terrace Enya.
Including pick-up and drop-off in both Hakuba and Nagano, a visit to the Snow Monkey Park, both lunch and dinner, and attendance of the festival, this brings some much needed light into the second-half of winter.