Snow Monkeys: Physical Characteristics

Snow Monkeys: Physical Characteristics

With an estimated 150 to 160 monkeys in the troop, there is a dominant alpha at the top and descending hierarchy monkeys below him. Younger monkeys inherent the status of their parents and from the day they are born, monkeys enter into world in which they must assert themselves to gain and maintain status.

While an alpha male rules the troop, the troop itself is 60 to 70% female. It is hard to distinguish between males and females physically while they are young. Behaviour is the best indication of gender with male monkeys seen to love play-fighting, wrestling, climbing and chasing each other from the relatively young age of 3 to 4 months. Young females are typically calmer and often play by themselves or get another female to play with them.


As the monkeys mature, it is easier to see the physical difference between the sexes. Males are somewhat bigger than females and enjoy a muscular build while females are rounder in shape. Both have two buttock pads but the ones on the female are further apart. As the monkeys mature sexually and start breeding, gender becomes even more apparent. The boys sport all the usual equipment and are therefore easy to identify from behind while the girls nipples become elongated from feeding their babies.

Females will spend most of their lives with their mother, sisters, aunties and cousins while males, once sexually mature, typically need to leave their troop of birth. They will spend much of their lives by themselves moving between troops and trying to assert themselves.

Japanese macaques have opposable thumbs so they can grasp things between their fingers and thumb, much like humans. But unlike humans, they can also grasp things like this with their feet, which are long in comparison with their hands. When it gets colder the monkeys curl their feet up and try to not let their feet touch the cold snow as the palm of their feet, and hands, are very sensitive to temperature.

We think the monkeys are endlessly interesting! From their unique behaviour, to their babies and childcare or the complexities of their social bonds, the monkeys of Jigokudani are truly curious creatures. Needless to say, we are very fond of them.

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 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.


Snow Monkey Park








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