Ever since I remember watching Nat Geo, for me visitng Jigokudani the snow monkey land in Japan was a must. Last April I had the chance to visit the “Hell’s Valley” and spent 2 days with these amazing primates. The following pictures are my favourites from the thousands I took during the visit (to choose wasn’t that easy! 🙂 ). I hope you make time to visit them while in Japan.
How to get to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park?
The snow monkey or japanese macaque live in the mountains of Jigokudani. The place is famous because if the surrounding hot springs.
In the past the nearby towns had issues with monkeys that because of the cold winter came to swim in the public hot springs and contaminated them. This is why in 1964 the government built the Jigokudani park. This way the monkeys could have their own hot spring and this way they stopped them going to the towns. Talk about human-animal collaboration, brilliant idea if you ask me!
To reach the snow monkey park you need to head first to Nagano and from there take the train to Yudanaka station in Yamanouchi. I stayed in Nozaru hostel which is a 30 minute walk from Yudanaka station and 30 minute walk away from the Jigokudani snow monkey park. In my case I took a great budget bus company Willer Express from Tokyo to Nagano and then public transport to Yudanaka station. From there on I walked/hiked pretty much to every place, even to the snow monkey park itself.
Expect crowds in the middle of the day but if you get there as soon as the place opens then you can be almost by yourself. Also in case you are visiting in a warm month, during the morning you have better chances to see the swim. For more information on the entry fee and other details please head to the official website: http://en.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/
Note: even though the snow monkeys are in a so called “park”, they are wild animals who live in the mountains and should be treated as such. Don’t go too close to them. It is okay if they come close to you but not the other way around.
Jigokudani The Snow Monkey Land
(Even if no snow)
By April snow was gone, as the temperature already reached about 20C degrees during the day. However it did get a bit cold in the evening/night to down to 2C. So by hiking very early in the morning to the park, there were really high chances of seeing them swim in the hot springs, warming up after the cold night.
Then the rest of the day I used it to hang out around them. Active in the morning but relaxing in the afternoon. The afternoons where perfect to get those intimate family pictures.
Family portrait. Big bro, little bro and proud mama. . Sorry if my feed becomes full of snow monkey business for some time but I absolutely love them. Hiked again today to their mountain in Jigokudani to be around them for a second day and could recognize familiar faces. Japanese macaques are incredibly smart with a complicated society and hierarchy. Just like us, each of them with a character of their own.
Chasing portrait opportunities where a lot of fun too. Snow monkeys tend to move a lot so you need to first decide who your character will be. Then, wait for the perfect angle.
Then something I didn’t expect, they are incredible jumpers! Defying the law of gravity and you can tell they really don’t like cold water.
I leave you with a last glimpse of baby cuteness. Thanks for reading and feel free to go through more photoblogs here. If you enjoyed the read I would be really happy to know! You can find me here @_estebansoto_. Pura Vida!