From Tokyo: How to Get to the Snow Monkey Park
As one of the world’s great cities, Tokyo offers visitors so many things to do, see and experience that it is tempting to spend your entire time in Japan exploring the capital. A truly huge metropolis, Tokyo is home to outstanding museums and galleries, temples and shrines, markets, shopping, dining and nightlife.
It is without doubt, the financial and political heart of the nation. Yet for many Japanese, Tokyo doesn’t encapsulate the essence of the country. That spirit lies in the villages and traditions of rural areas such as Nagano. Lying to the north-west of Tokyo, Nagano is the gateway to Central Japan – a place of dramatic mountains, abundant farmlands, heavy snow in winter and of course, the Jigokudani Monkey Park.
Open all year round, the monkeys come to the park in all seasons. Winter is a time of heavy snow, as the ski resorts of Nagano attract visitors from all over the world. As the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano’s pedigree is well-known. Home to around 80 resorts, visitors are spoiled for choice including Shiga Kogen – Japan’s largest resort and the nearest to the monkey park.
Outside of winter, Nagano and Central Japan offer some of Japan’s best outdoor experiences including the iconic Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, the stunning alpine valley of Kamikochi, and the Nakasendo Trail. Spring brings the regions beautiful cherry blossoms into bloom, and through summer and autumn the fruit of Nagano fills the orchards while tables are full of culinary delights, before the stunning leaves of autumn wash over the landscape.
To put it simply, there are many reasons to make the quick and easy journey from Tokyo to Nagano, starting with a visit to the monkey park. To reach the park from Tokyo is a two-stage journey via Nagano Station:
1 / From Tokyo Station or Ueno Station, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Nagano. All services heading north on the Hokuriku Line stop at Nagano, taking 80 to 110 minutes depending on which service – Kagayaki, Hakutaka or Asama – you choose.
A one-way fare costs approximately JPY8,500 and all services on this line are covered by the Japan Rail (JR) Pass, JR East Pass and JR Hokuriku Arch Pass. The daily shinkansen schedule from Tokyo to Nagano can be accessed via our ‘Hokuriku Shinkansen Timetable’ page.
2 / Once at Nagano Station, follow the directions below.
Accessing the park via Nagano Station
1 / use the Nagaden Snow Monkey Express Bus directly from the station to the monkey park
Starting from Nagano Station, the express bus costs JPY1500 each way and takes 45 minutes (to the park) and 55 minutes (back from the park). In comparison, the express train from Nagano Station to Yudanaka Station takes around 45 minutes and costs JPY1290, followed by an 8 minute local bus ride, costing JPY310 – meaning that the option of an express train + local bus will cost a total of JPY1600 and take at least 55 to 60 minutes (depending on train and bus timetables).
*Please note, the Nagaden express bus, train and local buses are not covered by the Japan Rail (JR) Pass, JR East Pass or JR Hokuriku Arch Pass.
Using the Nagaden Express Service from/to Nagano Station
The Snow Monkey Express operates from Bus Stop No.23, on the east side of the station. Simply line-up for the bus and once onward you buy your ticket directly from the driver – JPY1500 one-way – and cash only.
To check the bus schedule, please refer to our ‘Nagaden Express Bus Timetable’ page.
Using the Nagaden Express Train from/to Nagano Station
The journey takes approximately 45 minutes and costs JPY1290. Local services from Nagano to Yudanaka are only slighter cheaper – at JPY1190 – but take substantially longer and require passengers to transfer trains. As such, we always recommend using an express service to reach Yudanaka.
For the train schedule, please refer to our ‘Nagano Dentetsu Line Timetable’ page.
Once at Yudanaka Station you need to jump-on a Nagaden local bus for the final leg of your journey to the park. Two local bus lines – the Kanbayashi Line and Shiga Kogen Line – head to stops nearby the monkey park. The ride is only around 8 minutes and costs JPY310 per adult and JPY160 per child. The ride back from the park takes a little longer – around 15 minutes – due to a different route and stops. Yudanaka is a small station and the buses operate from directly outside. You can’t miss them!
For the local bus schedule, please refer to our ‘Nagano Dentetsu Local Bus Timetable’ page.
Recommended Accommodation in Nagano City
Given the distance and time taken to reach Nagano from Tokyo, we recommend staying in Nagano City for at least one night, from where you can explore destinations including Togakushi and the city’s near-1400 near old Zenko-ji Temple. When staying in Nagano City,we recommend Hotel Kokusai 21.
One of Nagano’s most established international hotels with a reputation built on attentive service, in-house services, Western-style amenities and English-speaking staff, Kokusai 21 is our recommendation for guests wanting the convenience, comfort and service of an international hotel in the heart of the city.
Visit the Monkey Park on a Guided Tour
We offer a range of group tours including visits to the Jigokudani Monkey Park. Led by locally-based guides, our tours are designed to transport you to and from the park in comfort, while making the day entertaining and engaging. Basically, we want to turn your visit to the park into an experience you love.
Tours start and end at Nagano Station, making them easily accessible from Tokyo and one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the region. Start and end times are set to work with the Hokuriku Shinkansen schedule to and from Tokyo, allowing many guests to join us as a day-trip form the capital.
Operating all year round we offer a range of group tours through winter, spring, summer and autumn – including to the monkey park and many other regional destinations. Tours are led by locally-based, English-speaking guides.
We can also provide private tours and charters to any destination, with customised itineraries to suit your travel needs and interests. We have the expertise and experience to help you get the most out of your time in the region, including transport to and from the monkey park along with any regional destination.
Our drivers and vehicles are fully certified, allowing us to transport you to and from your preferred destinations, in combination with any activity that suits your interests and schedule.
We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide. We’d love to be part of that experience and help you discover even more!
Why choose us?
Awarded a 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for our 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour – recognised as one of the Top 10 Experiences in Japan – we have the local knowledge and experience to help you get the most out of your time in Nagano.
Got a question about visiting the monkeys from Tokyo? Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get planning together!