If you are skiing in Nagano-ken this winter, spend half a day visiting the Jigokudani Monkey Park (地獄谷野猿公苑). I took the kids there last winter, and we all had a great time seeing the monkeys and hiking into the valley. It is about 25-30K from Nozawa-onsen or Shigakogen ski areas making it an easy drive. Another alternative is to sign-up with a travel companies that offers day trips from these resorts or even Hakuba (about 2-hour drive). There is also a bus from Nagano station that will take you within walking distance (details below).
Jigokudani Monkey Park
The name Jigokudani, meaning “Hell’s Valley”. It is called “Hell’s Valley” due to the steaming billing water that bubbles out of the frozen ground, and the valley cliffs covered in snow and ice. The hike from the parking area is about 2K gradual up-hill winding path. If you go with a small child, I advise taking a sled you can pull to make it easier and more fun! Also, take some drinks and snacks to rest in the heated rest house in Jigokudani Monkey Park. We trekked up the 2K path which took about 45 mins in the snow. Once you go through the entry you walk down a very slippery path to the onsen area (watch out for all the monkey poop which Baby slipped in :-(). There were monkey everywhere digging in the snow, climbing on the cliffs, and sitting complacently in the onsen baths. I would guess there were over 100 monkeys of various ages from babies to old grandfathers. The snow monkeys are all Japanese Macaques who come out of the mountains in the winter to forage for food, in warmer months they stay in the mountains. The monkey’s really do not care humans are in their space, they are all very calm and go about their own business eating and bathing. Fun experience if you need a break from skiing.
Take lots of photos close-up of all the relaxed monkey. Great half day of hiking and seeing cute monkeys. Highly recommend.
They have a great new website that has a live camera (website renewed on 12/2015). Fun to watch if you can’t go in person.
Jigokudani Monkey Park Details
address: 6845 Oaza Heion, Shimotakai-gun, Yamanouchi-machi 381-0401, Nagano
open: seven days a week; winter season (between November – March) 9:00-16:00
cost: 500 yen per adult, 250 yen child (age 5-12), under 5 free
access: Train & Bus from Tokyo -> JR Tokyo sta. – (Nagano Shinkansen) – JR Nagano sta. – Nagano Dentetsu Nagano sta.- (Yudanaka line) – Yudanaka sta. – (Nagano Dentesu Bus for Kanbayashi) – Kanbayashi Onsen – (by foot 30mins) – Jigokudani Yaen-koen (total time about 1.5 hours from Nagano station)
Jigokudani Monkey Park
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