Snow Monkeys: Favourite Food & Daily Diet
Japanese macaques are great foragers for food. Highly territorial, monkey troops typically roam within a radius of several kilometres, moving each day to find new food and a new place to sleep. Much like any animal, the search for food – particularly the tasty stuff – motivates the monkeys to keep moving through their local habitat.
The Jigokudani Monkey Park lies within the natural territorial radius of a single troop of monkeys. With an estimated 150 to 160 monkeys in the troop, the monkeys come and go from the park as they please. No other troop would dare enter to the park for fear of getting into a very big fight. While there is nothing forcing the monkeys to come to the park or stay once there, they are incentivized with a little food each day. Not enough to survive on. Just enough to draw them to the park and keep them interested.
It is important to note that the park was established as a conservation area in which the monkeys could be safe from encroaching development. To lure them into the park, they were fed. It took time for local people to figure what they liked to eat but once they did, the monkeys became fond of their park and have been coming ever since! It’s an interesting history and one worth engaging in when visiting the park.
Today, while tourists are welcome to visit the park, it continues it’s important work as a conservation and research facility. As such, the monkeys are fed to lure them to the park but it isn’t enough to survive on, The monkeys still need to forage and fend for themselves.
Foraging in the wild
The monkeys have eat a wide variety of wild food with their exact diet being determined by the season. Autumn is a time of abundance and the monkeys busy themselves by foraging for wild plants, mushrooms, chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, acorns, grapes and other forest food. The monkeys consider all of these foods to be delicious and as such, their behaviour becomes less reliable in autumn as they search deeper into the mountains for the tastiest treats.
Autumn is the season for monkeys to gain weight before onset of the long, cold winter. They need excess fat, because come the snow of winter, they can hardly find anything eat other than bark and plant roots. Offering low nourishment – and apparently not tasting very good – the monkeys need a good supply of body fat to make it through to spring.
The monkeys have a bit of a sweet-tooth and enjoy eating nectar such as witch hazel, beech and black locust. Wild plants and insects such as grasshoppers and cicadas are also popular snacks. While endlessly grooming themselves and their fellow monkeys, it isn’t unusual to see them discover little morsels including lice and lice eggs in their fur. Once discovered these are also quickly gobbled-up.
Feeding at the park
Park rangers feed the monkeys a couple of times each day. Doing so keeps the monkeys in the park for longer, where they can be studied by residents researchers. Visitors to the park will see the rangers move about scattering seeds. Depending on the season, the monkeys are usually fed barley or soybeans, with a special treat of apples in the autumn.
Please note, visitors to the park are not allowed to feed the monkeys. What they are fed and the amount of food is controlled to avoid them becoming reliant on feeding at the park. The food carefully selected for its nutritional properties and as a supplement to the wild diet of the monkeys. We ask that visitors to the park follow these simple rules at all times:
・Please do not feed the monkeys
・Please do not touch the monkeys
・Please do not eat or drink while in the park or on the trail
・Please keep your distance from the monkeys (1 to 2 meters)
・Please do not use selfie sticks or flash photography
We think the monkeys are endlessly fascinating. From their curious and unique behaviour, their babies and childcare or the complexity of their social life, the monkeys of Jigokudani really are worth seeing.
Want to learn more about the monkeys?
Why not book at tour! Operating all year round we are Nagano’s No.1 rated tour and charter operator!
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 operate a variety of group tours that combine a visit to the Jigokudani Monkey Park with other nearby attractions and experiences.
We offer the local knowledge, support, and service that you need to get the most out of your adventure in Japan including private tours and charters to any destination in the region. 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.
Got a question about visiting the monkeys? Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.