Snow Monkeys in the Hot Spring
The monkeys of the Jigokudani Monkey Park are famous for one big reason – they are the only troop of monkeys in the world known to bathe in hot springs. Why they do this is interesting and worth understanding before visiting the park for yourself!
In general, much like cats, monkeys don’t like the water and will generally try to avoid getting wet. So why then do these monkeys not only enter water, but enjoy soaking for such long periods of time? It’s another case of monkey see, monkey do!
The unique behavior of soaking in the hot spring is one that was learned through watching humans to the same. The history of the Snow Monkey Park is itself interesting. Established in 1964, the development of the park preceded the monkeys developing a fondness for hot springs.
While the park was created for conservation purposes and for protection of the monkeys, once in the park, the monkeys observed humans enjoying the outdoor ‘onsen’ (natural hot spring) at a nearby guesthouse called Korakukan (pictured below). Located just outside the park entrance, along the forest trail leading to and from Kanbayashi Onsen, Korakukan still operates today.
This guesthouse had long been popular with the monkeys’ primate cousins – the humans – for many years due its natural mineral properties. Through watching humans soak in the onsen, the monkeys became curious about our behaviour and soon enough, they were jumping in for themselves!
It wasn’t long until the first photo was taken of this unique spectacle, bringing the snow-bathing monkeys to the attention of the Japanese public and soon, the world! The rest as they say, is history.
The park is now exceptionally popular with visitors from all over the world. Most popular in winter – when the monkeys spend the most time in the hots spring – they do in fact come to the park all year round. Recent research has indicated that the monkeys don’t merely bathe for pleasure, with pregnant females – or those attempting to get pregnant – spending the longest time in the onsen in winter as a form of stress relief.
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.