If you’re like me and have seen pictures on the internet of snow monkeys bathing in hot springs and want to know where to find them, you’re looking for Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano. While many visit Nagano to hit the slopes – especially in the winter -, I did the day trip to Jigokudani Monkey Park from Tokyo for the chance to see wild monkeys bathe in the hot springs like humans! Here’s a guide so you too can witness this incredible natural phenomenon during your trip to Japan.
- What is Jigokudani Monkey Park famous for?
- When is the best time to visit Jigokudani Monkey Park?
- How far is Jigokudani Monkey Park from Tokyo?
- How to get to Jigokudani from Tokyo
- Jigokudani Monkey Park
- FAQs about Jigokudani Monkey Park
- Is Jigokudani Monkey Park worth visiting?
- Things to Do Near Jigokudani Monkey Park
What is Jigokudani Monkey Park famous for?
Jigokudani Monkey Park attracts researchers and tourists who come to the park to observe Japanese snow monkeys bathing in the onsen. The park is home to ~160 Japanese macaques – a type of monkey native to Japan characterized by their red faces – who leave the mountainous clifftops every day to relax in the hot springs to keep warm, stay clean, and ease muscle pain.
Jigokudani is one of the few places in the world where you can get really close to wild monkeys – which is by design. The park was created in 1964 a few years after the monkeys were first observed bathing. Now solely used and inhabited by the monkeys, Jigokudani Monkey Park and its hot springs are a protected area to safeguard the monkeys and their natural habitat.
When is the best time to visit Jigokudani Monkey Park?
Although the park is open year-round, I’d only visit in winter. Jigokudani is magical when it snows, which starts in December and lasts until March. One of my all-time favorite travel moments was watching the snow fall on the monkeys as they bathed and rested every so peacefully. If you too want to see monkeys in a winter wonderland, plan your visit in January and February when the park experiences consistent snowfall.
From pictures and reading this review, I personally wouldn’t go during the summer. I read that the park wardens throw food into the water to coax the monkey to bathe since they’re less likely to do so when it’s warm. For me, a big draw of the park is seeing the animals do whatever they want to do with minimal human interference. You can always check the live camera to see what the park will look like around the time of your visit.
How far is Jigokudani Monkey Park from Tokyo?
Jigokudani Monkey Park is in Nagano prefecture, which is about 3-4 hours by train one-way. The park is not close to Tokyo and requires precise timing to avoid hours of waiting around for transportation. Though challenging to visit on a whim, the park is doable as a day trip with some planning.
How to get to Jigokudani from Tokyo
There are a few different options for each transportation leg to get from Tokyo to Jigokudani:
- Take the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo Station to Nagano Station.
- Take the bus from Nagano Station to the Snow Monkey Park (Jigokudani Yaen-Koen) bus stop.
- Walk from the Snow Monkey Park bus stop to the park
Here’s what we did that got us from Tokyo -> Nagano -> Jigokudani in 3.5 hours with minimal waiting (<10 minutes) between each transportation leg.
Getting from Tokyo to Nagano Station by Train
The fastest option to get from Tokyo to Nagano Station is the Hokuriku-Shinkansen from either Tokyo Station or Ueno Station. The shinkansen ticket is covered by the JR Rail Pass, which I strongly recommend all eligible visitors purchase in advance of their trip to Japan. Without the JR pass, one-way tickets are about $60-65 (¥8,140).
There are multiple Hokuriku-Shinkansen trains that run per hour and can take anywhere between 80-110 minutes to get to Nagano Station. Many trains will get you to Nagano in under 1.5 hours (some as quick as 1 hour and 19 minutes) but there are also trains that can take as long as 1 hour and 47 minutes. Use Google Maps to figure out which train number is best for you and how long it’ll take you to get to Nagano Station. If you want to see what all the train options are, here’s the Hokuriku Shinkansen Timetable curated by Snow Monkey Resorts which I found more user-friendly than the JR website.
⌛TIME SPENT: 1-1.5 hours
📍ADDRESS: Tokyo Station → Nagano Station l Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Nagano Station
Getting from Nagano Station to Jigokudani Monkey Park Bus Stop
Once you arrive in Nagano, you have 2 bus options that will take you to the monkey park. You can:
- Take the Nagaden Snow Monkey Express Bus directly from Nagano Station (45-55 minute bus ride)
- Take the train on the Nagano Dentetsu line to get to Yudanaka Station and hop on a local bus (45-minute train ride & 8-minute bus ride). Note, neither option is covered by the JR Rail Pass.
For a day trip, I recommend taking the Snow Monkey Express Bus. The bus is easy to find and you won’t have to worry about the local train and bus schedules. The express bus runs every hour (see here for the timetable), which is generally on time. I would recommend arriving about 5-10 minutes early because I did see it leave before the stated departure time. If you happen to miss the express bus and take local transit to Yudanaka, here’s the local bus timetable for reference.
💡TIP: Buy the Snow Monkey Pass at Nagano Station. When you get to Nagano Station, you’ll want to follow signs for the Nagano Dentetsu Line. Take the escalator down to the local train station and turn left to get to the Nagano Dentetsu ticket window. Here, you can buy the Snow Monkey Pass for about $28 USD (¥3,600) which covers the cost of park admission and transportation (including the express bus, local bus, and local train).
⌛TIME SPENT: 45-55 minutes
📍ADDRESS: Nagano Station → Snow Monkey Park bus stop → Jigokudani Monkey Park l Take the Nagaden Snow Monkey Express Bus to the Snow Monkey Park bus stop.
Walk from the Bus Stop to Jigokudani Monkey Park
All bus options will stop at the Snow Monkey Park bus stop, which is about a 39-minute walk to Jigokudani Monkey Park. There are a few signs that will point you toward the park, with a few notable landmarks along the way:
- Bus Stop → Snow Monkey Resorts Gift Shop: It’ll take you about 12 minutes to get to the Snow Monkey Resorts Info & Gift Shop, which is a souvenir shop located at the trail entrance to get to the park.
- Snow Monkey Resorts Gift Shop → Jigokudani Monkey Park Ticket Booth: From the gift shop, it takes about 15-20 minutes to get to the admission gate. On your way, you’ll pass the Korakukan Jigokudani before arriving at the booth where you can buy your ticket or show your monkey pass. Do note that the trail can get icy or muddy so it’s helpful to have high-traction shoes if you’re traveling during rain or snow season.
- Jigokudani Monkey Park Ticket Booth → Main Pool: Once admitted, it’s a short, 5-10 minute walk to the main pool area where you’ll find the monkeys relaxing! The park provides free lockers, which you can access right after entry. I didn’t know this so I paid to store my bag at the gift shop.
⌛TIME SPENT: 40 minutes
📍ADDRESS: Snow Monkey Park bus stop → Jigokudani Monkey Park l From the bus stop, follow the signs to walk to the park.
Jigokudani Monkey Park
Once you enter the park, you’ll see monkeys everywhere! They hang out in the forests, along the trail, in the hot springs, and down by the river. They’re also curious creatures and may come really close to you – it goes without saying that feeding and touching the monkeys is prohibited.
You’ll spend most of your time around the main pool where the monkeys primarily bathe. We were at the park for an hour and a half just watching the monkeys relax, preen, and play with each other. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life to simply watch the monkeys be in their home.
⌛TIME SPENT: 1-2 hours
📍ADDRESS: Jigokudani Monkey Park l 6845 Hirao, Yamanochi, Shimotakai District, Nagano 381-0401, Japan
FAQs about Jigokudani Monkey Park
When is the park open?
The park is open all year but may close periodically based on weather conditions. Check the official website to stay up to date on any changes in operating hours. During the summer (April to October), the park is open from 8:30 AM until 5:00 PM. From November to March, the park opens around 9:00 AM and closes around 4:00 PM.
what is the snow monkey park entry fee?
The entrance fee for Jigokudani Monkey Park is about $6 USD (¥800) for adults. But remember, if you bought the Snow Monkey Pass, the cost of your ticket is included.
Can you bathe with the monkeys?
No, the park’s hot springs are strictly for the monkeys. The closest experience you’ll get is at Korakukan Jigokudani Onsen, an outdoor hot spring where the monkeys roam around.
Is Jigokudani Monkey Park worth visiting?
100% yes – Jigokudani Monkey Park was a highlight of my trip! As someone who loves animals, it was an experience of a lifetime to be so close to these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. If you’re planning to spend a few days in Nagano, the park is definitely worth a visit. As a day trip from Tokyo, it is a trek (almost 4 hours one way) so I would only recommend it for animal enthusiasts – like me!
Things to Do Near Jigokudani Monkey Park
If you have more time to spend in Nagano after visiting the monkey park, here are some places you can visit as part of your day trip:
- Take a bath at Shibu Onsen: Shibu Onsen is one of Nagano’s oldest and most picturesque hot spring resorts that has a public bathhouse available for day trip visitors. It’s a 20-minute walk or a 6-minute bus ride from the Snow Monkey Park bus stop. I really wanted to do this after the monkey park but we had to head straight back to Tokyo for dinner.
- Shiga Kogen Resort: Shiga Kogen is Japan’s largest ski resort and home of the 1998 Winter Olympics. If you get an early start, you might have time to hit the slopes at Shigan Kogen resort or play in the snow at Shiga Kogen Maruike Snow Activity Park. The main transportation hub of the resort is a 27-minute bus ride from the monkey park.
- Zenkoji-Temple: Zenkoji is a famous temple in Nagano and one of the most important religious landmarks of Buddhism in Japan. The temple grounds are massive, well-curated, and lively, especially around Nakamise Street which is lined with restaurants serving local eats. The temple is a 13-minute subway ride from Nagano Station.
I hope you find this guide helpful so you too can make the day trip from Tokyo to Jigokudani Monkey Park! As usual, feel free to leave comments if you have any questions & I will always reply 😊
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