Cute, fluffy, chill, wild and free. Seeing these monkeys play in the snow and then chilling in the mountain-side onsen (hot spring) was incredible!
The snow monkeys are Japanese Macaques that inhabit the Jigokudani park, and offer visitors the chance to see hundreds of them bounding through the snow and watching as they bathe in the warm waters of the natural hot springs.
It’s about a 3 or 4 hour drive from Tokyo, but we did this as part of a larger road trip through Japan and had a car to drive out. There are lots of tours from Tokyo that you can find on the internet, but make sure you find one that takes you out as easily as possible. Best time to see the snow monkeys in the onsen is 9am when the park opens.
The entrance of the park is through what looks like a ski town, and you’ll climb some steps before a really beautiful 20 minute walk through snow covered trees and paths. The path leads directly to the snow monkey hot springs. The monkeys come in and out, so stay patient with your camera ready for the best photo opportunities. The monkeys live in large social groups and its cool to watch them interact and basically ingore all the humans around them clambering for photo opps.
I’d recommend combining this with a visit to one of nearby onsen towns of Shibu and Yudanaka, as you’re NOT allowed to get in the pool with the monkeys!
Thanks to Kenneth Ching for the video footage
What I liked Most
Seeing the snow monkeys scamper down from the mountains and gently slip themselves in the steaming waters was amazing!
How did you get there?
We rented a car and drove
- Bring a jacket with a hoodie. Helps with snowfall and rain that you may get
- We went in January so it there was lots of snow on the ground. Bring decent shoes to avoid slipping in the conditions
- You'll need an international drivers permit to rent a car in Japan. And make sure to get snow tires
1000 yen (~$9 USD entry fee that you pay at the top of the mountain AFTER the walk through the forest)