Snow Monkeys: Social Life & Status

Snow Monkeys: Social Life & Status

Japanese macaques live in a hierarchic troop in which they inherit their status from their parents at time of birth, and from that time, will spend their lives asserting themselves in an effort to retain or improve their standing. While the troop is between 60 to 70% female, there is a dominant alpha running the show at the top.

The boss

The boss of the Japanese macaques is not the mean-spirited boss that the name alludes to.

He is the leader because of age and wisdom and if it is his time to give the mantle of leadership to a more suitable male, he will do so by leaving of his own accord.

The boys

All males will eventually leave the group they were born into when they mature. Some are faster than others and leave upon early maturation around their fifth or sixth years of life, while others stay younger or longer and leave around ten years of age.

They might join a new group or continue to roam the world alone for a bit. Solitary males will however, look for a female during mating season and try to scare the other males away from the females.

If they have mated with one of the females of the group, they will stay with the group after the mating and become a member of the troop. That is, until they feel like it is time to move away again. Most males join and leave several groups in their life.

The girls

With the Japanese macaques, females bond together. While males leave the troop upon maturation, females stay with the same group for their entire life and have a close relationship with their female family members – mothers, grandmothers, sisters and offspring.

Snow monkeys in summer

There are a great many more females in a troop than there are males. They take care of each other and watch each other’s back when foraging for food or sleeping.

Female rank is determined by lineage and the children take over the rank of their mother.


The family bond between mothers and offspring is strong but the father is not acknowledged in any shape, way or form. Females will mate with several males thus making it unclear who could be the father. But that is not to say that the male does not have a close relationship with the members of the troop. The female is focused on just the direct family while the male will jump in to protect any member of the troop if they happen to be in danger.

Snow monkey in a tree

We think the monkeys are endlessly interesting! From their unique behaviour, to their babies and childcare or their appearance and identifying traits, 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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