Must checkout in Japan : Snow Monkey Hotspring Nagano
My experience visiting Snow Monkey Hotspring!
It's Snowing in Nagano 2016 already !!
Nagano was surely a place worth spending many days at. Apart from beautiful nature, winter olympic 1998, crazy amount of hotspring towns, fruit farms and lastly the snow monkey is also one of the main reason why we spent a week just in Nagano only.
Before deciding on visiting the Snow monkey park, we checked the weather forecast and decided to postpone visiting the snow monkey village a day later as it says that it would snow on that day itself.
Well, the weather forecast was accurate enough as we woke up to a beautiful morning with lots of snow !
*Detailed information on how to get there and prices of tickets are listed on the bottom of this blog post.
We started our journey from Yudanaka staying with a friend whom parents live in Malaysia.
Aparently her grandmother lives in Shibu Onsen area so she fetched us in the morning to visit her grandmother ! It was surely a lovely morning looking at the snow but our local friend doesn't seem too happy about the snow. She kept reminding us, it's cold today !
We had a short visit to say Hello to her grandmother and then walked around Shibu town to take some photos as we were worried the snow would disappear later in the afternoon.
Then we went back and her uncle drove us to the parking of Jigokudani(Snow monkey parking area)
So kind of him !! We realised the walk up to there from Shibu Onsen by the road is quite steep and dangerous !
(Ps.The monkeys are not as aggressive as compared to the ones in Asia)
*photos are copyright of Christian Bjerknes
Well, to be honest, we were expeciting fences and barriers like a zoo but it turned out to be like the Monkey park in Kyoto where you can see the monkey and be as close as to them and vice versa. The monkeys don't seem to bother human that much as at times they would just suddenly walk beside or even under you. Yea, monkey with balls.
Are there lots of tourists?
We came in the end of autumn and was super lucky to experience the first day of snow , for Nagano itself. However, I spoke to the monkey park forest rangers and they said the most tourists arrives in winter and Majority are from China or Caucasians. ( They pointed out they can't understand why Caucasians like to come to see hotspring monkeys so much. )
As a matter a fact, we have not seen a huge tourist bus parked at the parking centre. Most tourists were not local Japanese.
*photos are copyright of Christian Bjerknes
We spent around 2 hours in the park area as the forest ranger informed me that 12pm is when they would start feeding the monkeys.
Since I could speak Japanese, i was spending time chatting with them as they had a bonfire to keep themselves warm.
Here are some information of the monkeys which some english speaking tourists came up and asked them about and I had to help out with the translations.
Questions and answers about the Monkeys in Jigokudani (Snow Monkey Park)
How many monkeys around this park area : Around 160+ monkeys.
How old can these monnkeys live ? : Up to 25-26years old
What does the Snow Monkeys eat : Grains,(Mugi むぎ) and their favourite food is Apple !
(Interesting fact): So the Forest park dude told me, they tried to feed a snow monkey banana before but they would not understand what it is at all and totally ignored it !
Where does the monkeys sleep?
Back in the mountain area where they came from.
Is there is King Monkey ?
Yes , there is and he then pointed the King monkey out. I still have no either how he recognises that King monkey !
Is there like any boundaries for the monkeys?
No, there is no boundaries. The monnkeys are free to go whereever they want to
(Yes , that is true as the Grandmother who lives in Shibu Onsen later tells us that she gets naughty monkeys stealing her plantations and fruits. )
Are these monkeys the only type that likes hotsprings?
As far as they know, the forest rangers replies, only these type of monkeys around this area likes hotsprings. They have not heard of other monkey hotsprings in other part yet so far. These type of monkeys learnt to enjoy hotsprings from many generations ago even before Jigokudani became famous globally. Most japanese would come here to see the monkeys and then enjoy the hotsprings in Shibu / Yudanaka Hotsprings.
*photos are copyright of Christian BjerknesThe monkeys sure look like they enjoy the hotsprings. However, do be aware that there are lots of monkey poops everywhere. However, the forest park rangers would clean them once a while. I am not sure how would it be like during winter when the grounds are full of snow. But I did realize the floor did not look that clean and I had to clean my boots when I got back.
Awwww................helping each other !
my Best Monkey pose.
Korakukan Hotsprings which is outdoor and soak in with the monkeys~ ( it's located just before you enter the ticket entrance)
500Yen per hotspring entry.
(9 Altogether) ! A Perfect day for a hotspring !!
How to get to Nagano?
So , if let's say you are coming from Tokyo,
the fastest option would be taking the Hokuriku Shinkansen which takes about 2 hours 45min or driving on the highway about 3 hours plus. depending where you start.
However, there is also a cheaper ride for only 2500 Yen for a Bus ride from Tokyo to Nagano with Willer express which would take you about a 4hours plus ride journey.
Tips: Book the willer express bus ticket online beforehand to secure your seats and get the cheapest available price !
Well, if you are not in a rush to see the monkeys, try stop by Gunma Prefecture for some hotspring visiting in Kusharo/ Ikaho/ Shima Onsen(hotspring) Villages.
Either way, you can choose to spend somedays in Nagano city
Now to get to Snow Monkey village,
From Nagano city, there is a train all the way to the village nearby the Snow Monkey hotspring location.
The express train takes only 38min but the local would be around 1 HOUR Journey ride up to the last stop call Yudanaka Station.
WALK? (1hour 30min)
However, from Yudanaka it's about 2km (about 30min walk)
to Shibu Onsen Village which is the closest town to Jigokudani (aka, Snow monkey hotspring )
However, from Shibu Onsen itself, it takes about another 2km to the parking entrance of Jigokudani-
Which then also another 2km from there onwards to the reach the ticket entrance to the monkey hotspring park.
BUS? (15min ride)
Well, if you want to skip the walking, just take the bus from Yudanaka station -Kanbayashi Onsen Bus Stop
How to Guaranteee yourself for a Perfect day to see Snow Monkeys?
Use yahoo weather forecast and check beforehand for the weather details on the day which is best to see snow monkeys. Well, of course you would want to choose the day which is snowing !
The Best season to visit : Late Autumn-Winter
(In Autumn, the monkeys fight a lot and are quite loud due to the mating season)
Well apart from that, you can also visit the Snow monkey website to view their live webcam!
Q/a: Will the monkeys go into the hotsprings often?
YES, if it is cold. Most of the time in Summer the monkeys will bath less in the hotsprings.