Japan is one of the world’s most visited countries. In Asia, the country is also one of the chosen destinations to experience winter and snow wonders. Snow is really magical. My world stops and mind relaxes every time I’m spacing out while looking at snowfalls in slow mos. But… I don’t like winter trips; I hate packing bulky garments just to keep me warm. Regardless, since my birthday falls in winter season and I want to have a birthday trip, I disregarded the feeling and took my lazy butt off bound to Nagano to tick off one in my bucket list destinations — the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park.
If you haven’t heard about the place, perhaps you have seen pictures of monkeys swimming in onsen/ hot springs? Well, these monkeys can only be found in Japan. It’s the only place in the world where monkeys bathe in hot springs. It’s truly a marvel to see first-hand how these mammals behave under such extreme low temperature. These wild monkeys are specifically called Japanese macaques or “snow monkeys” and naturally inhabit this area in northern Nagano through the ages.
Japanese Macaques Facts
- These monkeys are excellent swimmers.
- They have thick furs that allows them to adapt up to a -20 degrees Celsius environment.
- They’re so fond of warm baths and so they go down to natural hot springs during daytime.
- Red colored-faces mean they reached adulthood.
- They live in large groups called “troops” and they are known as one of the cleverest species of monkey.
- They are omnivore monkeys.
- During winter time, they gather and hold each other tightly to prevent heat loss.
- They produce different types of sound for communication. The sounds depends on the location that monkeys inhabit (ie., dialects in human language).
- They reach sexual maturity at the age of 4 years. A female gives birth to a single baby after around 6 mos of pregnancy.
- They can live up to 30 years (in captivity).
How To Get There
- If you’re from Tokyo, you can take and ride Hokuriku Shinkansen bound for Nagano.
- From Nagano Station, go to the window inside the Nagaden Nagano Station for the 2-Day Pass for Snow Monkey Park (Jpy3,500). This station is located underground directly next to JR Nagano Station. Just follow the directions indicated on the signs around the station.
- Upon receipt of your pass, you can now choose which mode of transportation you want to take to get there.
- By express bus. This is I think the most convenient ride to take. From Nagano Station, you just have get on, wait for 47 mins and just get off at Snow Monkey Park Bus Stop to start your walking journey to the Park. Just present your Pass to the bus driving upon getting off.
- By train.
- By car. I highly discourage to choose this one. Hmmmm… I can drive. I just despise driving on snow-covered roads. Imagine the hard time and stress you’ll have in focusing and controlling the car to arrive safely. 😀 On our trip, I had actually driven my car to Matsumoto station, parked and left it there and took the train to Nagano. Nagano is known for having heavy snowfalls during winter.
- Walk for 1.8 km (30 mins) from bus drop off point to the Snow Monkey Park.
The Beauty of 2-Day Pass for Snow Monkey Park
The convenience of purchasing the pass are the following:
- Free admission to the Snow Monkey Park (one-time use only)
- 2-day UNLIMITED use of Nagano Dentetsu Line
- 2-day UNLIMITED use of Nagaden Express Bus (Nagano Station- Snow Monkey Park)
- 2-day UNLIMITED use of local Nagaden Bus (Yudanaka Station – Kanbayashi Onsen/ Snow Monkey Park
Enjoy and have fun!