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The Jigokudani Monkey Park (nJ쉎, Jigokudani Yaen Kōen) offers visitors the unique experience of seeing wild monkeys bathing in a natural hot spring. The park is inhabited by Japanese Macaques, which are also known as Snow Monkeys. It is located in the monkey's natural habitat, in the forests of the Jigokudani valley in Yamanouchi, not far from the onsen towns of Shibu and Yudanaka.

The park has one man-made pool around which the monkeys gather, located a few minutes' walk from the park entrance. Visitors will likely already encounter monkeys along the path to the pool. The monkeys live in large social groups, and it can be quite entertaining to watch their interactions. Accustomed to humans, the monkeys can be observed from very close and almost completely ignore their human guests. Naturally, it is prohibited to touch or feed the monkeys.

The park has a small information center with information mostly in Japanese. However, there is a small explanation of the alpha male system of the monkey troop in English, as well as portraits of the park's present and former alpha males, dating back dozens of years. There is a live camera beside the monkey pool that is accessible online.

Although the park is open all year round, the bathing monkeys are particularly photogenic when the area is covered in snow. There is usually snow in the region from December to March, and the best timing for a visit is January and February. Monkeys enter the bath around the year, but they sometimes need some encouragement to do so by park wardens throwing food into the pool, especially during the warmer seasons of the year.

Jigokudani, in which the park is located, means "hell valley" and is a common name for Japanese valleys with volcanic activity. Although its landscape is not as dramatic as some of Japan's other jigokudani valleys, Yamanouchi's Jigokudani does produce a few steaming hot springs. There is a ryokan called Korakukan in the valley, which visitors will pass along the way to the monkey park.

Getting there and around

There are two approaches to the Monkey Park: one requires a 25-40 minute walk through the forest, while the other requires a 10-15 minute walk from the nearest parking lot.

The first approach involves taking a bus to Kanbayashi Onsen from Yudanaka Station (10-15 minutes, 310 yen, 1-2 buses per hour), Shibu Onsen (5-10 minutes, 190 yen, 1-2 buses per hour) or Nagano Station (40 minutes, 1500 yen, 4-10 buses per day). Buses along the Yudanaka-Kanbayashi Line stop at "Kanbayashi Onsen" bus stop, while other buses stop at the "Snow Monkey Park" bus stop, a short walk away. From Kanbayashi Onsen, it is a 30-40 minute walk to the monkey park. The walking trail is passable around the year, but sturdy footwear is recommended especially in winter.

The alternative approach involves a 10-15 minute walk from a paid parking lot just to the west of the monkey park. However the narrow road from Shibu Onsen to the parking lot is not served by public transportation and gets closed in winter. Although rather time consuming, it would be possible to walk to the parking lot from Shibu Onsen in about 45-60 minutes when there is no snow.

Some lodgings in Yudanaka and Shibu offer their guests free rides to the parking lot.

How to get to and around Yamanouchi

Hours and Fees

Hours

8:30 to 17:00 (April to October)
9:00 to 16:00 (November to March)

Closed

No closing days

Admission

800 yen

Hotels around Yamanouchi

    • Yudanaka Seifu-so
      A traditional ryokan with wooden building by Yudanaka Station. Unique onsen - private, open-air, apple, leaf baths etc.
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    • Senjukaku
      Luxury
      Boasting open-air hot spring baths, a heated indoor pool and beautiful Japanese gardens, Senjukaku offers traditional Japanese-style accommodation that has a historic charm. Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is a 15-minute drive away. Offering mountain views, all rooms are fitted with traditional tatami (woven-straw) flooring and a low table with seating cushions. In-room amenities include a flat-screen TV and a fridge. The en suite bathroom comes with a hairdryer and free toiletries. Free WiFi is available in all rooms. While staying at Senjukaku Ryokan, guests can unwind at the spacious public bathing area or reserve one of the cosy family baths for private use. There is an art gallery space at the lobby, showcasing Japanese drawings. A gift shop is also available on site. The ryokan serves various seasonal Japanese dishes, prepared with organic vegetables and local beef. The property offers free pick-up shuttles from Yudanaka Station, an 8-minute drive away.
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    • Yudanaka Onsen Yamazakiya
      Mid-range
      Only a 10-minute drive from Snow Monkey Park, Yudanaka Onsen Yamazakiya offers simple Japanese-style accommodations with free Wi-Fi. Guests can refresh in the public hot-spring baths or relax by the traditional garden. A free shuttle is available from Yudanaka Train Station, which is a 5-minute drive away. The air-conditioned rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. Each room comes with a TV, a fridge and an electric kettle with green tea bags. Japanese Yukata robes are provided and guests can enjoy views of the river or of the traditional stone-paved streets. Bathrooms and toilets are shared. Local products can be purchased at the souvenir shop and relaxing massages can be requested for extra costs. A karaoke room and ski storage is available. Traditional multi-course meals are served for dinner and a Japanese set-menu for breakfast. All meals are served at the dining room. Yamazakiya Yudanaka Onsen is a 30-minute drive from Shiga Kogen Sun Valley Ski Resort and a 60-minute drive from JR Nagano Train Station. If requested 1 day in advance, a free shuttle is offered to Snow Monkey Park.
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    • Sakaeya
      Mid-range
      Located in the centre of Shibu hot-spring area and a 5-minute drive from Yudanaka Train Station, Sakaeya offers Japanese-style accommodations. Guests can enjoy the on-site indoor/outdoor public hot-spring bath and wear the provided colourful Japanese Yukata robes. You can watch monkeys bathing in hot-spring water at the Snow Monkey Park, a 10-minute drive away. The air-conditioned rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. Each comes with a satellite TV, a safety deposit box and a fridge. They include a private toilet, while bathrooms are shared. Guests are welcomed with a complimentary sweet snack and green tea upon arrival. Guests can relax at the shared lounge or shop for traditional gifts at the souvenir shop. Photocopying and luggage storage services are offered at the front desk. Free Wi-Fi is available at the public areas. A traditional multi-course is served for dinner and a Japanese set-menu for breakfast. Sakaeya Ryokan is a 10-minute walk from Heiwa Kannon and a 20-minute drive from Shiga Kogen Sun Valley Ski Resort. Zenko-ji Temple and JR Nagano Train Station are a 1-hour drive away.
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    • Daymaruya Ryokan
      Budget-friendly
      At Daymaruya Ryokan, guests can enjoy hot-spring baths and traditional Japanese-style accommodations with free wired internet access. A free shuttle is available from Yudanaka Train Station, which is a 5-minute drive away. The air-conditioned rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. Each includes a TV, a fridge and an electric kettle with green tea bags. Comes with a private toilet and Yukata robes. Bathrooms are shared. The property offers free luggage and shuttle services upon request. Free WiFi is available near the reception and common area located on the second floor. Japanese meals featuring local ingredients are served at the guestsf rooms with a personal Nakai-san attendant service. Ski and luggage storages are available at the front desk. Ryokan Daymaruya is a 15-minute drive from Snow Monkey Park and a 25-minute drive from Shiga Kogen Ski Resort. Heiwa Kannon is a 10-minute walk away.
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    • Yudanaka Yasuragi
      Mid-range
      A small 6-room inn with Ryokan meals and cosy interiors, Yasuragi is just a few minutes drive to Jigokudani Monkey Park and an 8-minute walk from Yudanaka Train Station. Hot-spring baths are featured. Free WiFi is available throughout the property and free pick-up service from Yudanaka Station is provided. Yasuragi Innfs Japanese-style rooms have tatami (woven-straw) floors, futon beds and a flat-screen TV. Each room is air-conditioned in summer while heating and a kotatsu leg-warming table are available in winter. A fridge, an electric kettle and yukata robes are provided. All guests have access to the on-site hot spring public baths, and they can be reserved for private use. (please inquire at the front desk for more information.) Shiga-Kogen Ski Park and North Shiga Ski Park are both a 15-minute drive away. The property offers a free shuttle to nearby locations upon request, including Yudanaka Train Station. Parking is free. There is a convenience store right behind the inn.
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    • AIBIYA
      Budget-friendly
      Offering a barbecue and ski storage space, AIBIYA is located in Yamanouchi in the Nagano Region, 4.1 km from Jigokudani Monkey Park. Each room at this property features air-conditioning and heating, and low beds with individual lights. All rooms have a tatami (woven-straw) floor where guests can unwind and relax. Free WiFi is available throughout the entire property. Ryuoo Ski Park is 6 km from AIBIYA, while Hasuike Pond is 7 km away. A complimentary breakfast is served, consisting of bread, yogurt, seasonal fruits and coffee. Guests will also find a shop featuring local artworks on site.
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    • Yudanaka Tawaraya Ryokan
      Luxury
      A 5-minute walk from Yudanaka Train Station, Tawaraya offers Japanese-style accommodations with free Wi-Fi and a flat-screen TV. Guests can relax in the indoor and outdoor hot-spring baths and wear colorful Japanese Yukata robes. Massages can be requested for an extra cost. The air-conditioned rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. A safety deposit box, a fridge and an electric kettle with green tea bags are included in each. Rooms come with a private toilet but bathrooms are shared with all other guests. An outdoor hot-spring bath can be reserved for private-use and guests can enjoy looking out into the traditional garden. Dry cleaning and daily newspaper services are available at the front desk. Local products can be purchased at the souvenir shop. Traditional multi-course meals featuring local ingredients are served for dinner and a Japanese set-menu for breakfast. All meals are served at the dining room. Tawaraya Ryokan is a 10-minute drive from Snow Monkey Park and a 15-minute walk from Heiwa Kannon. Shiga Kogen Ski Resort is a 30-minute drive away.
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    • Suminoyu
      Mid-range
      Located in the Shibu hot-spring district, guests can enjoy indoor and outdoor hot-spring baths at Suminoyu. Massages can be requested and a footbath is also available for extra relaxation. A free shuttle is offered from Yudanaka Train Station, which is a 10-minute drive away. The air-conditioned rooms have tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. A TV, fridge and an electric kettle with green tea bags are provided in each. Rooms come with a private toilet but bathrooms are shared. Free Wi-Fi is accessible at the lobby and local products can be purchased at the gift shop. Luggage storage is available. Japanese dishes featuring local ingredients are available at the ryokan. Dinner is served in a private dining room. Suminoyu Inn is a 10-minute drive from Snow Monkey Park and a 25-minute drive from Shiga Kogen Ski Resort. Heiwa Kannon is a 15-minute walk away.
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    • Minshuku Miyama
      Budget-friendly
      Minshuku Miyama offers Japanese-style accommodations with free Wi-Fi. Guests can relax in the public outdoor hot-spring baths and wear Japanese Yukata robes. A free shuttle is available from Yudanaka Train Station, which is a 10-minute drive away and must be reserved at time of booking. The rooms feature heating facilities, tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. A fan, a TV and an electric kettle with green tea bags are included in each. Bathrooms and toilets are shared. A Japanese set menu is available at the dining room. Breakfast and dinner are served. Miyama Minshuku Inn is a 15-minute drive from Snow Monkey Park and a 10-minute drive from Heiwa Kannon. Shiga Kogen Ski Resort is a 20-minute drive away.
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    • Wafu no Yado Masuya
      Mid-range
      On just a 5-minute drive from Yudanaka Station, Wafu no Yado Masuya features beautiful Japanese-style rooms, hot spring baths and free Wi-Fi. Some rooms boast a private outdoor hot spring bath. Masuya Wafu no Yado is a 15-minute drive from the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, as well as from the Heiwa Kannon (Peace Statue). Zenko-ji Temple is an hourfs drive away. The spacious, bright rooms at Masuya are comfortably furnished with tatami-mat flooring and traditional futon bedding. They come with a seating area, satellite TV and a fridge. Guests at the Wafu no Yado can soak in spacious indoor and outdoor hot spring baths, or take a flower pressing class. Ladies can choose from 50 colourful gowns to use. The Japanese hot spring experience is complete with award-winning multi-course dinners, served in private dining rooms. Delicious local specialities can also be ordered separately.
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