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Snow Monkeys

Visit one of Japan's 'hell valleys' to see snow monkeys playing and bathing in hot springs


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Not far from the towns of Shibu and Yudanaka is the Jigokudani Monkey Park, which was created to protect the natural habitat of these snow monkeys. The name of the park—Jigokudani—is a common name for valleys with volcanic activity and literally translates to "hell valley."

The valley where the park is located is not too dramatic, but it boasts several hot springs. The park also features a man-made pool especially adored by the monkeys! The forests of the park are their home and they are quite used to seeing people around so they aren't as shy as you might suspect.

The group dynamics of these cool monkeys have evolved around an alpha male whose portrait you will see at the entrance to the park. We guess it is a bit of a warning for you to know whom not to mess with. Of course, you are not allowed to touch, feed, or interfere with these beautiful animals. Though you can certainly see them bathe and snap some pictures when the snows come.

In this area snow usually occurs between December and March, but we recommend to aim for January and February for the best chance. Moreover, as it gets cold in winter, monkeys enjoy relaxing in the hot springs. In summer you could also spot them, but the scenery won't be the same, and they mostly come closer to the ponds for food, not to warm up.

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