Best time to visit Japan

Snow Monkeys in Japan

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

Best time: December–March

Snow Monkeys
Snow Monkeys
Snow Monkeys
Snow Monkeys
Snow Monkeys

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.

Practical info

What is Jigokudani Monkey Park?

Jigokudani Monkey Park is a park situated in Japan near the towns of Shibu and Yudanaka. The snow monkeys that are famous for playing, bathing in the hot springs and have a man-made pool for this purpose are protected by the park. Show more

Where is Jigokudani Monkey Park located?

Jigokudani Monkey Park is situated in the Nagano Prefecture of Japan, near Shibu and Yudanaka towns that have several hot springs as a major attraction for the snow monkeys. Show more

When is the best time to visit Jigokudani Monkey Park?

Visiting Jigokudani Monkey Park in the winter months of December through March, when the snow is on the ground, makes the experience more enjoyable because the monkeys are more likely to be in the hot springs. January and February are the best months with colder weather and the monkeys are more active during these months. Show more

What is the group dynamics of snow monkeys in the park?

The group of snow monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park revolves around the alpha male, the leader of the group and determines the hierarchy. Visitors must not interfere with the monkeys and maintain a respectful distance from them. The snow monkeys are not shy as they have gotten used to the presence of people. Show more

Can visitors touch or interfere with the snow monkeys in the park?

Interaction or feeding of the snow monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park is prohibited for visitors. Visitors should take photos from a careful distance and not disturb the daily life of the monkeys in the park. Although the monkeys are familiar with humans, visitors should still be respectful of their privacy. Show more

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