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11 Essential Tips for Visiting Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani, Japan
Planning a trip to Jigokudani Monkey Park?
Here are 11 essential tips for visiting snow monkeys in Jigokudani that will help you have the best time!
Plan Your Trip During Winter Months
When is the best time to visit Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani?
Jigokudani Monkey Park is open year round. However, If you want to see Jigokudani blanketed in snow and monkeys bathing in the hot springs, then you need to plan your trip during the winter months. Specifically, schedule your trip between the months of December through March.
It usually starts snowing in Jigokudani in mid November, however, do not expect the snow to last throughout the day due to the mild daily temperatures.
If it was my choice, I would shoot for January or February. At that time, the entire park is covered in deep snow and it is absolutely beautiful. Above all, it is cold enough, so that the snow monkeys flock to the hot springs to warm up and soak in the springs for hours.
Check Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani on Live Camera
If you are still debating when to visit Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani, then check the live camera. Also, scroll through some older images to see if you can spot any monkeys.
During spring, summer and fall months, monkeys hang around the pool and occasionally soak in the hot springs. However, if you are looking for iconic images of snow monkeys in the steamy hot pool surrounded by deep snow, then head to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in winter.
Following is a screen shot of the live camera website page. The image you see was taken on July 16th at 4 pm:
Start Your Day Trip from Tokyo to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park Early in the Morning
If you are planning a day trip from Tokyo to see snow monkeys in Jigokudani, then start early in the morning.
The journey is quite manageable, but it takes a bit of time. Plus, it requires some advance planning.
Above all, an early morning start would give you a chance to avoid the crowds and have the place pretty much to yourself.
To summarize, it will take you about 3 hours and 30 minutes to reach the hot springs where snow monkeys hang out and soak in the pool.
- First of all, it takes 1 hour and 20 minutes, traveling on JR Hokuriku Shinkansen, to get from Tokyo to Nagano
- Second, it takes 40-50 minutes, traveling on Nagaden Express Bus, to get from Nagano to the base of Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
- Next, it takes about 20-30 minutes to walk the distance of 1.8 kilometers from the base of Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park to the park entrance
- Finally, it takes another 20-30 minutes to walk the distance of 1.6 kilometers from the park entrance to the hot springs
If you ask me: is it all worth it?
Absolutely! It is a 10 out of 10 kind of attraction!
Plan Your Return Trip from Jigokudani to Nagano
Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is open from 8:30 am to 5 pm (April – October) and 9 am to 4 pm (November – March). If you are visiting during winter months, it is going to start getting dark at about 4 pm. Moreover, keep in mind, that it will take you about 30 minutes to walk from the hot springs to the park gate and another 30 minutes from the park gate to the bus stop. With this being the case, I would recommend that give yourself plenty of time to get back to the bus stop.
According to the winter schedule, the last bus leaves from Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park at 6:15 pm. However, at that time it will be completely dark. I would plan on leaving the hot springs at no later than 3:00 pm and catching the bus at 4:35 pm. The line to the bus starts forming quickly. Make sure to get in line and reserve your spot, so that you manage to get on the bus.
Next, it will take you about 40 minutes on the bus to get to Nagano Station.
Furthermore, give yourself plenty of time to walk from the bus station to the train terminal and board the train that will take you back to Tokyo. Make sure to reserve your return tickets in advance.
Make sure to review my post: Jigokudani Monkey Park – DIY Step-By-Step Guide. It covers the transportation from Tokyo to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in detail!
Buy 1-Day Snow Monkey Park Pass at Nagano Station
When you arrive at Nagano Station, make sure to purchase 1-Day Snow Monkey Park Pass. It is an excellent money savings tool.
In order to buy the pass, follow these step-by-step instructions:
1. First, while you are at Nagano Station, locate the signs pointing towards Zenkoji Exit.
2. Next, once you reach Zenkoji Exit, exit the station and turn right.
3. Finally, walk along the front of the station towards a flight of stairs going down. Take the stairs all the way down.
The ticket office will be on the right hand side. It is clearly marked with big posters advertising 1-Day Snow Monkey Park Pass.
Snow Monkey 1-Day Pass costs 3,200 yen for an adult and 1,600 yen for a child. It covers the bus from Nagano and back, as well as the entrance to the park. If you were to buy it all separately, then it would cost you 1,400 yen for the bus each way and 800 for the entrance ticket to the park. The pass saves you 600 yen.
Snow Monkey Resorts advertises 2-Day Pass for 3,500 yen. Unfortunately, the pass cannot be bought online. I recommend that you check the current offers once you get to the ticket office in Nagano.
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Dress Warm for Your Winter Visit to Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani
Foremost, if you are visiting snow monkeys in Jigokudani in winter, keep in mind that it will be cold and it might snow.
The temperatures in December, January and February during the day are on the average 30 degrees F or -1 degrees C.
So, dress warm!
Here are my recommendations:
1. First of all, wear a baselayer – a smartwool baselayer (lond sleeve top and leggings) will keep you nice and toasty
2. Next, wear a long sleeve top over your baselayer top and fleece lined pants over your baselayer leggings
3. If you need another laying piece, then add zip front top.
4. Make sure you have a quality jacket. My favorite are 3-in-1 jackets, because they give me flexibility to remove or add the components based on the weather conditions.
5. Furthermore, I suggest good quality wool socks to keep your feet warm and dry.
6. Above all, I recommend good quality hiking shoes that have a good grip. When I visited snow monkeys in Jigokudani in late December, the path leading to the the hot springs was slippery and covered with a mixture of snow and ice. In addition, there is a small stream that occasionally flows along the path and it makes the path surface wet and slippery.
7. Finally, do not forget a hat and some gloves.
Since we are on the subject of dressing up, I would like to recommend that you do not take any rolling suitcases with you. The best choice would be a shoulder bag or a day backpack. In addition, I would not recommend any strollers or wheelchairs. The path is up the hill and and the surface is rough in many places.
Expect Large Crowds at Snow Monkey Park
Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park gets very busy. Be prepared to share the small space with a lot of tourists.
My recommendation is arrive as early as possible. If you are there in the morning, you might have the place all to yourself. As it gets later in the day, expect a lot of people and fewer opportunities to get some good pictures.
Rent Crampons, Coats, Boots and Umbrella if Necessary
It is imperative that you are prepared for the hike up to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park. We talked about dressing warm and wearing proper shoes. However, if you need to rent a winter coat or boots, then once you reach the entrance to the park you will be able to rent it.
Specifically, I would recommend renting crampons and an umbrella.
In my opinion, the crampons are lifesavers! Notably, the temperature fluctuates throughout the day. The minute the sun is out, it warms up and the snow starts melting. The next minute, the melted snow freezes creating a sheet of ice. So, even if you have good winter hiking shoes, it is still a good idea to get the crampons.
In addition, it makes sense to rent an umbrella, if there is a chance of some snow or rain. It will protect you and your equipment.
Stay Calm, Do Not Touch or Feed the Snow Monkeys
Be prepared for the monkeys to run around, jump in and out of the pool and chase each other, or maybe, even get in a fight. It is important that you stay calm, quiet and do not upset the monkeys.
In all honesty, they startled me several times when I was so focused on taking pictures, and they ran and played right behind me or jumped unexpectedly out of the water.
In addition, do not try to touch the monkeys. Keep in mind that they are wild animals.
Furthermore, do not give them any human food. The caretakes feed them several times a day with one of their favorite foods which is barley.
Get a Camera with a Good Zoom to
Capture Great Photos of Snow Monkeys in Jogokudani
You will take hundreds of pictures during your visit to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park!
The monkeys will keep you busy snapping pictures left and right.
Honestly, it is a never ending progression of activities that are too cute not to capture on a camera like youngsters wrestling with each other, or families huddled together.
The monkeys are on the move constantly, either descending the cliffs of the mountains, jumping across the creek, playing in the snow, climbing trees and walking on the paths, or just peacefully enjoying the warm pools.
In addition, shoot close to create stunning portraits.
Make Sure to Eat, Rest and Warmup
There are several places that you could rest and warmup and get something to eat as well. The first one is a gift shop next to the entrance/exit to the park that has an area set up with a space heater and you can get some hot water here as well.
Another one is Enza Café; it has variety of options to eat and you can take a takeout if you are pressed for time and need to catch the bus back to Nagano.
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Now, I want to hear back from you! Have you visited snow monkeys in Jigokudani? Do I need to add anything else to the list?
Or, maybe you a planning a trip to Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani?
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