Winter (Dec-Mar) at the Jigokudani Monkey Park
Nagano’s reputation is one of Japan’s premier winter destinations is well-established. Host of the 1998 Winter Olympics and home to around eighty ski resorts, winter sees an influx of visitors from around the world. Draw to Nagano by its dramatic mountains, huge snowfall, hot springs and friendly atmosphere, there are lots of reasons to travel here in winter. On this page you will find the following information:
Hugely popular in winter, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is one of Nagano’s top attractions and one that can be easily combined with other great activities and destinations. Nagano boasts a huge number of ski resorts and hot spring towns making it Japan’s premier winter destination. We hope you choose to join us here in Nagano this winter!
For information regarding opening times, entry tickets and access please refer to our ‘Snow Monkey Park Information’ page, while our ‘The Snow Monkey FAQs’ page answers the most common questions when planning a visit. For a glimpse of what to expect in winter, our monthly capture blogs capture some of the typical monkey antics: January 2020 / February 2020 / March 2020 / December 2020 / January 2021 / February 2021 / March 2021.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN WINTER
December to March is the most popular time of year for visitors. Cold temperatures and heavy snow encourage the monkeys to spend a lot of time in the onsen or otherwise huddle together to stay more. The monkeys behaviour is winter is very reliable. Expect them to be in the park by opening at 9AM. They should remain in the park all day however it is always worth noting that they are wild animals, therefore their behaviour cannot be guaranteed. Days of heavy snowfall can affect when they come and go from the park.
The weather will be cold and the park and trail will be affected by snow and ice. Warm clothing and appropriate footwear are essential. It is always worth be prepared for the walk to the park in winter with rental boots and winter clothing are available at the Snow Monkey Resorts Gift & Info Shop.
Located just down the hill from the trail entrance, Enza Cafe is open everyday and serves a delicious and warming menu of both Japanese and Western favourites – the perfect stop before or after the walk to the monkeys to enjoy a sit-down meal, drink or takeaway snack.
From early-December onward, visitors can expect the first snow in the park with temperatures falling rapidly – expect a temperature of between 0°C to 10°C during the day – before late-December sees winter take hold with a likely daytime temperature of only 0°C or below. In January and February the temperature can get as low as -10°C to -15°C. For information regarding other seasons in the monkey park, please refer our ‘Snow Monkey Park Throughout the Year’ page.
RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES IN WINTER
Host of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games and home to around eighty ski resorts, Nagano’s winter credentials speak for itself. Winter is all about enjoying some of Asia’s deepest powder, best skiing and snowboarding, and all manner of fun in the snow. Here’s some of the best things on offer:
SHIGA KOGEN – JAPAN’S LARGEST SKI RESORT
The nearest ski resort to the monkey park, Shiga Kogen is Japan’s largest and highest ski resort. As such, Shiga Kogen offers an unmatched expanse of terrain to explore and conquer – around 80 courses, spread over a huge variety of terrain connected by more than 50 chairlifts and gondolas. In total, Shiga Kogen offers around 600 hectares of terrain and 80+ km of trails covered by one all-mountain pass.
Shiga Kogen is both the largest and highest ski resort in Japan. Boasting the highest chair-lifted ski run in Japan – reaching 2307 metres at Yokoteayama – Shiga is notably higher than the nearby resorts of Nozawa Onsen, Myoko Kogen and Hakuba. The altitude and topography of the mountain means that Shiga is blessed with Nagano’s most reliable and longest season.
Want to try something different to skiing and snowboarding? We offer two winter tours to Shiga Kogen in combination with a visit to the monkey park including family-friendly snow fun activities and snowmobiling. For more details, see ‘Join A Winter Tour’ below.
VISIT ANY OF NAGANO’S FANTASTIC RESORTS
Home to around 80 ski resorts, visitors to Nagano in winter are spoiled for choice. While we are big fans of Shiga Kogen, we are just as keen on many of the other fantastic resorts dotted throughout the region. Around an hours drive from Shiga Kogen, Nozawa Onsen is a popular resort with a lively village. Particularly well-suited to snowboarders, the resort has a youthful atmosphere with lots of restaurants and facilities catering to international visitors.
Of course if you want resorts setup for international visitors, then head to Hakuba. Home to multiple resorts, Hakuba Valley is Nagano’s most international winter sports destination. Blessed with some great terrain including epic backcountry, Hakuba is popular for many reasons. But be warned, it is popular… you won’t find the quiet runs of Shiga Kogen here!
ATTEND A WINTER FESTIVAL
1 Day Tour
|1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Zenko-ji Winter Illumination|
|Time||12:55 – 20:40|
|Meeting Place||Nagano Station Information Board|
In December, the Zenko-ji Omotesando Illumination brings the temple and ancient thoroughfare leading to it into radiant light and vivid color. Starting with the road leading to the temple, and then the temple itself, the historic centre of the city will b bathed in purple, violet and silver – an illumination of the mind and imagined Buddhist paradise on Earth.
1 Day Tour
|1-Day Tour From Hakuba & Nagano: Nozawa Fire Festival & Snow Monkeys|
|Time||11:45/13:00 – 23:45/01:00|
|Meeting Place||Hakuba Happo Bus Terminal / Nagano Station|
Taking place every year on January 15th, the ‘Nozawa Onsen Dosojin Matsuri’ or ‘Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival’ is one of Japan’s three famous fire celebrations and a rowdy affair in which spectators can’t help but get caught-up in the chaos! This extremely popular event attracts thousands of visitors so you need to plan ahead, especially if you want to stay in Nozawa on the day around the festival. Accommodation is fully booked well in advance of the festival so make sure to book early to avoid disappointment!
1 Day Tour
|1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Zenko-ji Tomyo Lantern Festival|
|Time||12:55 – 20:50|
|Meeting Place||Nagano Station Information Board|
In the first week of February, the Nagano Tomyo Festival runs for one week and brings the city’s most important cultural site, Zenko-ji Temple, into vivid light. First held in 2004 in commemoration of the 1998 Winter Olympics, the festival has quickly become a popular event on the city’s calendar. The festival consists of a week of nightly events, with the nighttime lighting of the temple an act of ‘tomyo’ or offering light to the Buddha and paper lanterns lining Nakamise Street. We provide tours combining a visit to the monkeys with all three festivals. For full details regarding all available tours, please refer to our ‘Tours’ main page.
SOAK IN AN ONSEN
Nagano and Central Japan is blessed with many onsen that can be enjoyed all year round. Scattered throughout the region, the greatest concentration of hot springs can be found in traditional towns including Kanbayashi Onsen, Shibu Onsen Nozawa Onsen, Yamada Onsen and Bessho Onsen along with Okuhida Onsen, Gero Onsen, Kusatsu Onsen and many others. Onsen can be enjoyed all year round with winter being perhaps the most magical. Sitting in an onsen as the snow falls around you is truly fantastic. With so many hot springs to choose from in Nagano, we recommend making your onsen experience high priority while visiting in winter.
JOIN A WINTER TOUR
1 Day Tour
|1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake In Nagano|
|Period||All Year Round|
|Time||09:35 – 17:35|
|Meeting Place||Nagano Station / Hakuba (winter-only)|
As Nagano’s No.1 rated tour and charter operator, we are happy to provide a variety of tours each winter combining a visit to the monkeys with the regions most unique attractions – starting with our always popular 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple and Sake Tour. In winter, we offer a free shuttle service to and from Hakuba allowing guests to join our most popular tour, with the option off pick-up in Nagano and drop-off in Hakuba (or the reverse order) including luggage transport.
1 Day Tour
|1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Snow Fun In Shiga Kogen|
|Period||Dec – Mar / Everyday|
|Time||09:20/10:20 – 16:30/17:30|
|Meeting Place||Nagano Station / Yudanaka Station Area|
Our 1-Day Snow Monkeys & Snow Fun in Shiga Kogen Tour and 1-Day Snow Monkeys & Snowmobiling in Shiga Kogen Tour operate from December until March and combine morning snow fun activities or snowmobiling in Shiga Kogen before enjoying lunch at a nearby restaurant before heading into the monkey park. These are some of our most popular tours of the year, suitable for both children and adults.
1 Day Tour
|1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Snowmobiling in Shiga Kogen|
|Period||December to March|
|Time||07:45/09:00 – 17:30/18:30|
|Meeting Place||Hakuba / Nagano Station|
As also shown above, we offer a range of tours to the winter festivals of Nagano including the Nozawa Fire Festival and Zenko-ji’s illumination and lantern festival. With so much on offer, head to our ‘Tours’ main page for full details.
25 THINGS TO DO AROUND THE PARK & WHERE TO STAY
Often referred to as the Snow Monkey Park, you’d be forgiven for thinking the park is only open and the monkeys only venture there in winter. While it’s true they are most famous for their winter antics, the monkeys come to the park all year round and there are just as many reasons to visit in spring, summer and autumn. Located in the beautiful rural enclave of Yamanouchi and within easy reach of Nagano City, visiting the park can be easily combined with plenty of nearby destinations and activities, as a day-trip or multi-day visit. Our ’25 Things To Do Around The Jigokudani Monkey Park & Where To Stay’ page has lots of great tips and suggestions of what’s on offer throughout the year.
BOOK WITH US! NAGANO’S NO.1 TOUR & CHARTER OPERATOR
Based in Nagano and operating all year round, we are a registered travel agent and the region’s No.1-rated tour and charter operator. We have the expertise and experience to help you get the most out of your time in the region including any destination or activity listed above starting, of course, with the monkeys! We offer a range of group tours with the option of booking a private tour to the monkeys. As a registered travel agent, we can package your trip to Nagano and Central Japan including group and private tours, ski packages, accommodation, private charters, restaurants, ticketing and more!
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. All vehicles are fitted with a protective screen – separating the driver from passenger and luggage area – and our drivers wear protective masks, allowing you to move between your destinations in comfort and safety.
For guests wanting to access the resorts in the comfort of their own transport, we can arrange a private tour or charter customised to fit your needs, starting and ending at any destination. We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide – whichever works best for you!
Why choose us?
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 – Snow Monkey Resorts is Nagano’s No.1 tour and charter operator.
Got a question about visiting the monkeys? Contact us at email@example.com and let’s get planning together!