Experience the World-famous Monkeys of Jigokudani
Upon entering the Jigokudani Monkey Park, the first thing that many visitors comment on is just how relaxed the monkeys are with our presence. Monkeys scurry about on the ground and in the trees, going about their lives without little regard for the humans walking amongst them. With no barriers between the monkeys and visitors, the park presents a rare opportunity to observe these unique wild animals in close proximity.
Known simply as ‘nihonzaru’ (Japanese monkey), this native species is found throughout Japan – from the sub-tropical south to the cold and snow of the north. These highly adaptable, intelligent creatures are the most northern living monkeys in the world, just as comfortable in the deep snow of Nagano’s winter as they are in sub-tropical forests of southern Japan.
Why so famous?
Established in 1964, the Jigokudani Monkey Park was created as a conservation area and refuge for a troop of monkeys under threat by nearby development. Situated in the natural territorial radius of that troop, the monkeys come and go as they please and happily frequent the park as their daytime home. Once in the park, the monkeys observed something curious…
At a nearby ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouse), the monkeys kept watch over humans bathing in an outdoor ‘onsen’ (hot spring) and it wasn’t long before they tried it for themselves. Immediately fond of soaking in the warm thermal water, the monkeys came to global attention in 1970 when a photograph of a onsen-bathing monkey was featured on the cover of LIFE Magazine. The rest as they say, is history!
To this day, generations of monkeys have continued to come to the park on a daily basis and love to soak in their own onsen. This curious sight draws visitors from all over the world and can lay claim to being one of Nagano’s most unique experiences. The monkeys come to the park through the year – not just in winter – and enjoy nothing more than relaxing in their hot spring.
When not in their onsen, the monkeys remain endlessly curious as they move around the park and between visitors. Their lives are filled with the important business of grooming themselves and each other – at least, the other monkeys they like – or wrestling, foraging and of course, dozing their days away.
The monkeys of Jigokudani are famous for good reason and remain one of Nagano’s most enjoyable experiences.
Want to visit the monkey park on a private tour or charter? Feel free to contact us and let’s get planning together!