Jigokudani Yaen-Koen Snow Monkey Park is located in Yokoyu River Valley which is in the northern Nagano prefecture. The snow Monkey park is home to the Japanese Macaques, the first monkeys in the world to bath in the onsen, natural hot springs in the winter to keep warm. The Jigokudani Yaen-Koen Snow Monkey Park has been open since 1964 and people travel from all over to come and see these monkeys. The monkeys can be found here all year round.
We travelled on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano then changed to the local Nagano Dentetsu train line to Yudanaka. There is also an express bus you can get from Nagano station to the Snow Monkey Park.
From Tokyo it took about 2.5 hours in total and many people do a day trip from Tokyo to the Snow Monkeys however we decided to stay over night in Yudanaka. We were lucky enough to get picked up by our accommodation and taken to the Snow Monkey park but you can get a bus straight from Yudanaka train station to the park for ¥310.
Once you arrive at the bus stop it’s about 1.8km walk to the actual Monkey Park, it’s an easy walk through a forested area, it takes about 30 minutes. During the winter I believe it can become very slippery so snow shoes are recommended. There are no toilets along the route until you arrive at the information centre where you get your ticket from.
You will then arrive at the snow Monkey park and you’ll need to pay, its ¥800 for adults and ¥400 for children to enter and you can stay however long you like (until closing) however once you leave you cannot reenter. Opening hours are 8.30am – 5pm through the summer months and 9am – 4pm in the winter. You are asked not to bring in plastic bags or food as the monkeys often think it’s food.
When we got to the park it was quite busy with tourist but there were hundreds of monkeys. There is a onsen, natural hot springs which the monkeys relax in. Whilst we were there none of them went in it but they were drinking from it. The monkeys aren’t scared of you and come up very close, one even stole someone’s phone a year or so ago, no wonder they get the name cheeky monkeys ha ha! It’s very enjoyable to observe the monkeys going about their business, you can see them snuggling up together to get warm as well as picking at each other.