Monkeys – Lots of Monkeys!
One of the biggest attractions in Nagano, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is within easy reach of Hotel Sunny Shiga and accessible using public transport. 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. 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 springs) 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!
The monkeys come to the park almost everyday of the year. Hugely popular, the park is at its busiest each winter with visitors flock to the park to see the unique sight of monkeys in the snow and bathing in their onsen. The only troop of monkeys in the world known to have naturally learned the behaviour of bathing in hot springs, this is a truly unusual experience.
This curious sight draws visitors from all over the world and can lay claim to being one of Nagano’s most unique experiences. 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.
Located only 30 to 40 minutes drive (depending on winter weather and road conditions) from Hotel Sunny Shiga, the monkey park can be accessed using the local bus service which stops in front to the hotel and runs to and from Yudanaka Station.
Guests staying at Hotel Sunny Shiga also have the opportunity to spot another troop of monkeys that moves through Shiga Kogen with regularity. Following a regular trail through the forest and across the ski runs, the monkeys regularly pass by the hotel and are fond of sunbathing on the roofs of cars in the car park.
Another unusual and entertaining sight, guests are regularly entertained by monkeys literally on the doorstep of the hotel. Just make sure you follow the hotels direction to keep doors and windows firmly shut when they monkeys are there, to avoid unexpectedly sharing your room with them!