Snow Monkeys: Behaviour You’ll See At The Park

Snow Monkeys: Behaviour You’ll See At The Park

The monkeys of Jigokudani are most famous for their unique behaviour of soaking in hot springs. But it is just one of several interesting behaviours to observe while in the park:



Without doubt the thing that the macaques are most famous for is their fondness of a hot ‘onsen‘ (natural hot spring) on a cold day. Having learned the behaviour through observing humans doing the same, the monkeys of Jigokudani Monkey Park are the only troop in the world known to have taught themselves how do enjoy an onsen.


While they spend the most time in the hot spring during winter, the monkeys engage in this behaviour throughout the year, with younger monkeys enjoying swimming and splashing in the warmer months of spring and summer.


Visitors to the park are certain to see the monkeys engage in an endless regime of grooming. Grooming helps social bonds between monkeys and reflects their status within the troop. While also performing the basic function of being hygienic – indeed visitors to the park will notice how clean the monkeys appear and they lack of odour – it is perhaps most important in bonding families or as an expression of interest between potential mates.

Regardless of the time of year that you visit, you are certain to witness the monkeys picking at their own fur or grooming anothers.


Just like humans, almost all the communication between the monkeys is non-verbal. Facial expression and body-language make up most of the communication between them, complemented by an array of vocal calls. The loudness and tone give the call the emotion with screeching convey aggression and fear.


Young monkeys are incredibly playful and is most obvious in the eagerness with which they wrestle everyday, all day. Even the midst of winter you will find infants rough-housing it up, sometimes to the dismay of their mother. The wrestling could, especially in the case of males, end up in wounds and screaming as they are not really careful in their playfulness. Wrestling and play-fighting is done in jest but plays an important role in teaching the younger monkeys how to assert themselves within the troop. As they mature, they skills they learn will be put to more serious use in the scraps and squabbles that determine social status within the troop.

But while younger, observing the younger monkeys tussle and roll-around en-masse is one of the most adorable behaviours you will see in the park.


Monkeys love sunbathing. They warm themselves by laying with their backs on the ground and exposing their bellies to the sun. Sometimes by themselves but just as often with their families, the monkeys love to doze and relax in the sun.This is especially true in winter, during which time the monkeys will take full advantage of the sun to stay warm.


Snow monkeys mounting

The monkeys regularly mount each other. Obviously one of the main purposes of this – especially in autumn – is mating. However, visitors to the park might be confused to see a male mount another male or a female mount a male or another female monkey. This is do to assert dominance. Lower monkeys will not protect and subject to this behaviour of dominance. This extends to young monkeys – too young to breed – who can sometimes be see mimicking the behaviour by quickly mounting each other



There are plenty of quarrels between the monkeys. There is a definite ranking system which dictates what one’s place is in the monkey world but sometimes snow monkeys want to get ahead in the pecking order. Rising in rank and ascertaining authority over the other are the main reasons for fights between the Japanese macaques. Fights between males tend to be short and sharp while females engage in longer squabbles that might go on for years. This is reflective of the overall behaviour patterns of males and females. Males will typically leave their troop of birth once they reach sexual maturity / prime fighting age and often move between different troops or spending long periods by themselves throughout their lives. For this reason, males know their stay in any one troop is likely limited and only worth expending a certain amount of energy to retain their status. The females on the other hand usually stay in their troop of birth for life and thus have much more interest in establishing and keeping their status. They have long memories and play the long game, with fights often continuing between individual rivals over years.


The monkeys are naturally curious and introduction of any new object to the park will provoke considered investigation. So standby, anything new in the park is sure to be met with lots of prodding until its presence fades into the background and the young monkeys can start searching for their next entertainment.



Based in Nagano and operating all-year-round, we offer a number of group tours that include a visit to the monkey park. All tours are led by locally-based guides and combine a visit to the park with another great destination, activity or event including lunch or dinner. Our tours are fun, interactive and family-friendly. For a more information and a listing of all tours on offer, click on the banner above or the button below.

Of course, we also offer private tours and transport to the monkeys and 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 schedule. All vehicles are fitted with a protective screen – separating the driver from passenger and luggage area – and our drivers wear protective masks, allowing you to move between your destinations in comfort and safety.


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 your adventure in Central Japan and help you discover even more!

Got a question about visiting the monkeys? Click the ‘INQUIRY’ button below or contact us and let’s get planning together!



Need assistance while at the park? The Snow Monkey Resorts Info & Gift Shop is located at the entrance of the trail leading to the Jigokudani Monkey Park. Offering a range of services including winter rentals and English language information, luggage storage, along with monkey merchandise and souvenirs including official Snow Monkey Resorts products, the SMR Info & Gift Shop has you covered when visiting the park. Open from early October until late May, 9AM to 5PM, English-speaking staff can answer your questions on your way to and from the park including bus timetables and information about nearby attractions.



Can’t make it to us? Let us come to you! Our Snow Monkey Resorts Online Shop has you covered for all your monkey needs including official merchandise and travel products. We ship both inside Japan and internationally. All your monkey needs are now just one click away!

Snow Monkey Park