A place deep in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture where you can enjoy Japanese macaque watching and hot springs both at once
Jigokudani Yaen-koen—a surreal place where you can watch wild Japanese macaques up close in a natural environment. Let’s go on a short trip about one and a half hours from Tokyo by Shinkansen bullet train!
Nagano Prefecture is famous for its resort areas perfect for getting away from the heat during summer and enjoying winter activities during winter. Jigokudani Yaen-koen is located in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture and is widely known as a place where anyone can casually watch wild monkeys. Unlike zoos, the amazing thing about the park is that you can observe them in a nearly-natural environment. There are no fences, so you can see up close the adorable behavior of the monkeys—a parent and a child monkey grooming each other or baby monkeys playing chase, for example.
Monkeys dipping themselves in hot springs are a well-known sight, but you can also observe other interesting aspects of how Japanese macaques live in different seasons—they give birth to new babies during spring, and mother monkeys devotedly raise their babies during summer, for example. However, the monkeys at the park are wild animals. They basically live in the forest, etc., so make sure to check out the live camera streaming on the park’s official website, the official Facebook page, etc. in advance to see the “forecast” on when the monkeys are going to “show up for work.”
Before observing monkeys, make to check the safety precautions, such as to never look them in the eye and to hide food from them. You should always keep in mind that we, humans, are stepping into their territory. Also, since you will be walking a long distance in the park, be mindful of what you wear. Wear comfortable clothes and slip-resistant boots, for example. Also, since it gets a lot of snow during winter, use a bag, such as a backpack, that can free both hands.
The surrounding area of Jigokudani Yaen-koen is also known as a tourist destination with lush nature, and the Jigokudani Fountain of Shibu, a natural fountain that shoots up water up to 20 meters, has been designated as one of Japan’s natural monuments. You can also enjoy other activities, such as walking along the forest trail or appreciating the beautiful snowscape during winter (it gets more than 1 meter of snow!)
The monkey park is situated in the valley between the mountains near Shiga Highlands, where there are popular ski slopes, so it is also recommended to enjoy winter activities, together with the visit to the park. Moreover, there is a hot spring area called “Shibu Onsen.” There you can enjoy the Japanese onsen culture by onsen-hopping and strolling around the town, so why not stop by on the way back from the monkey park?
■DATA Address : 6845 Yamanouchi-machi Shimotakai-gun Nagano Japan 381-0401 Opening hour : Summer season(generally between April – October) 8:30～17:00 Winter season(generally between November – March) 9:00～16:00 No fixed holidays, open 7days a week (Unexpected closure might happen due to the weather condition, the season and so on) TEL : 0269-33-4379 Admission Fee : Adult (over 18 yaers old) ¥800 Child (between 6-17 years old) ¥400 Official website : https://en.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/ Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/jigokudaniyaenkoen/?hl=ja Facebook：https://www.facebook.com/jigokudani.yaenkoen (Information as of November 2023)