Jigokudani Park - The monkey onsen

Jigokudani Park is a famous hot spring area near Nagano. The name Jigokudani (地獄谷 lit .: “Vale do Inferno”) is due to the steam and the boiling water that bubbles the frozen floor.

It is famous for its large population of wild snow monkeys that go to the valley during the winter, when snow covers the park. The monkeys they descend from the steep cliffs and the forest to sit in the hot springs, and return to the safety of the forests at night.

Jigokudani park - the monkey onsen

Jigokudani Park Attractions

Jigokudani Park offers visitors the unique experience of watching wild monkeys bathe in a natural hot spring.

The park is inhabited by a kind of Nihonzaru (日本猿 lit .: “Japanese monkeys”), which are known as Snow Monkeys.

It is located in the natural habitat of this species, in the forests of the Jigokudani valley in Yamanouchi, not far from the cities of Shibu and Yudanaka.

The park has an artificial pool where monkeys gather, just minutes from the park entrance.

The park has a Japanese information center. However, there is an explanation of the alpha male system of monkeys in English, as well as portraits of alpha males.

Jigokudani park - the monkey onsen

The monkeys of Jigokudani park

Although the park is open all year, monkeys are particularly photogenic when the area is snow covered.

There is usually snow between December and March, and the best time for a visit is between January and February.

Monkeys usually go into the bath, but they need some encouragement from park rangers throwing food in the pool.

Accustomed to humans, monkeys can be watched closely and generally ignore their human guests. Touching or feeding monkeys is prohibited.

Visitors are likely to encounter monkeys along the way to the pool. Monkeys live in large social groups, and it can be quite fun to watch their interactions.

Jigokudani park - the monkey onsen

 

Access to Jigokudani park

There are two paths to the park. One requires a 25 to 40 minute walk through the forest, while the other requires a 10 to 15 minute walk from the nearest parking lot.

The first approach is to take a bus to Kanbayashi Onsen gives Yudanaka Station (10 to 15 minutes), Shibu Onsen (5 to 10 minutes) or Nagano Station (40 minutes). 

Line buses Yudanaka-Kanbayashi stop at the bus stop Kanbayashi-Onsen. Meanwhile, other buses stop at Snow Monkey Park

In Kanbayashi-Onsen, it is a 30 to 40 minute walk to the monkey park. The walking trail is passable around the year, but resistant shoes are recommended especially in winter.

The alternate route involves a 10-15 minute walk from paid parking just west of the monkey park. However, the narrow road from Shibu Onsen for parking is not open for public transport and is closed at Winter.

Although it takes time, it is possible to walk to the parking lot Shibu Onsen in about 45 to 60 minutes.

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