Snow Monkeys: Monkey Love, Babies & Childcare
Affectionately known as ‘snow monkeys’, Nagano’s most famous furry residents are in fact Japanese macaques. Called ‘nihonzaru’ in Japanese, macaques are highly intelligent and social primates which form strong bonds through their lives. Females in particular are very family-oriented, spending a significant amount of time with their mothers, sisters, and aunties.
Grooming / All year round
Social bonds are established and strengthened (in part) through the endless grooming that the monkeys engage in. When you visit the park you will quickly notice that grooming is a time-consuming part of each monkeys’ day, something which you need to engage in if you want to succeed.
Family members will groom each other and come mating season, males and females who interested in each other will do the same – an important step in selecting a mate.
Mating season / Autumn
Reaching sexual maturity from 5 to 6 years of age (males) and 4 to 5 years of age (female), the macaque mating season comes around every autumn – from October to November and into December – just before the first snow of winter falls in the park.
During mate season, males will stand straighter than usual and flex their monkey muscles, intentionally pumping them up to seem more masculine and tough. Females signal to the males they are interested, inviting them to mount. Through mating season, the monkeys will mate with multiple partners, with males higher in the hierarchy being more popular and desirable for potential female mates. Just like us humans, some males aren’t in demand and go ignored, or even actively avoided, by females.
Pregnancy / Winter
Females are pregnant through the cold and snow of winter. Recent research suggests that the females wanting to become pregnant and those which already, spend the longest time in the hot spring as a form of stress release which aids pregnancy. Pregnancy lasts an average of 173 days with females giving birth to one baby every other year.
Babies / Spring
Spring heralds the arrival of the years baby monkeys. Typically born between lat-April to late-June, the newborns are tiny – measuring a mere 15 to 20 cms – and cling to their mothers, who are understandably very protective of their new bubs.
Suckling milk quickly strengthens the babies and before long – literally within 3 to 4 weeks – the little ones are taking their first clumsy steps around the park. These first steps are understandably awkward, with the babies regularly stumbling over rocks and falling-out of small shrubs as they attempt to climb. Within 2 to 3 months the little ones are fully mobile and are drawn to each other, forming adorable baby gangs.
While they will still suckle from their mothers it is at this time that the babies will start to become interest in food and begin foraging for themselves – at first mimicking the older monkeys, regularly gnawing on less than edible items.
After the fourth month the baby snow monkeys will be growing bigger and bigger and become too heavy to cling to their mothers underside. At this point the little ones start to ride on their mother’s back, staying affectionately close to their mums for a long time to come.
If you want to see each year’s babies at their most adorable, spring and summer – from late April until September – are the best times to visit the Snow Monkey Park as the bubs are born, emerge in the park, and quickly gain their confidence to tackle their new world with clumsy enthusiasm and endless curiosity.
We think the monkeys are endlessly fascinating. From their curious and unique behaviour, to their diet and favourite food 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.