Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani Park, Yamanouchi, Nagano

“It’s hard to be part of the famous snow monkeys of Jigokudani Park. Just imagine the pressure when people from all over the world including media outlets like CNN or National Geographic annually visits you for a feature story. Obviously, they expect you on your cutest mood and if you are covered in snow, then its just perfect television”.

“Then, there are the tourists- who mostly armed with big cameras trying to capture our every move, I bet they have photo collection showcasing every angle of my red face. There was this guy who decided to point his camera lens directly to my face, I guess he is one of those who is planning to enter the annual photo contest.   I’m a good sport,  so I gave him one big yawn, and his camera shutter doesn’t stop clicking.  Funny actually, given how close his lens is to my face, I’m sure that he has a clear shot of my esophagus.”

“Look, I ‘m not complaining, I love visitors especially kids. It’s fun to have them around, I’m happy whenever I see them in awe and smiling,  besides the 500 yen entrance fee that they pay help us a lot.  There are just some days when it gets a bit crowded and all we wanted to do is bathe in onsen  in peace. My uncles, they are so bored with all of this, so they just stay there, stare at the space and wait for the day to be over.”

“I feel sorry for my baby brother sometimes,  he is not yet used to all of this. But I know the warm embrace of my mother will not only shelter him  from the cold weather but will protect him from some ruthless photographers out there. A little consideration and respect is not too much to ask right?”

If only these monkeys could talk, I bet they have a lot of things to say, maybe similar to what I have  imagine or maybe they don’t need to say anthing, the look on their faces will say it all.

The snow monkeys  of Jigokudani Park is the pride of the beautiful town of Yamanouchi, Nagano and the top tourism reason apart from th Shiga Kogen ski resort, the onsens of  Shibu and Yudanaka. Reaching the park is quite easy,  there are several buses from either JR Nagano station for a day visit or in case you plan to stay for a night, choose a ryokan that offers a free ride to the park entrance at Kanbayashi.

To reach the monkeys, it will require you to take a 1.6km hike on a  snow covered path of a forest-like mountain. Though there are some slippery parts, walking is relatively easy and deciding to wear the right shoes is always  a good decision. There where times  when it was only me navigating the relatively relaxing snow-filled route, how I wanted to turn on my Ipod and listen to Fleet Foxes’ album as if the mood is demanding it, but my winter fascination is preventing me for reaching my headset.

“Konichiwa” is the official greeting used on the hike for the people that you met along the way. Such a nice feeling to be greeted and to do the same in return, as if with these basic recognition,  you are either having a much needed weekend break or about to have one and wishing others to have a good one too.

How will you know if you are near to the mokeys? When you see the picture-perfect, snow-covered roof of Korakukan Ryokan.  True definition of winter wonderland, as if you can only see such place in your dreams, on some calendars or picture frames for sale.

340 thoughts on “Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani Park, Yamanouchi, Nagano

    1. Hi Mika,

      Thank you for your liking my post and your comment… it is fascinating indeed, how calm the monkeys are 🙂

    2. Hello. They are beautiful pictures…

      Those monkeys are having a good time and I am sitting in front of the computer.
      Is something wrong here? 🙂

      1. thanks!
        yeah, i couldn’t agree more. every morning when i reach the office, i look at their pictures and smile..
        what a life right? onsen, just playing around the whole day and having their photos taken 🙂

    1. thanks for liking and your comment… i can’t help but wonder what these monkeys are thinking with so many people around them 🙂

  1. what wonderful photographs and observations! The snow monkeys are adorable — and perpetually red-faced, it seems, even if it’s not true, from their immersions in freezing snow and hot thermal springs.
    Are the snow monkeys unusual in liking to swim in water? Or is that not an uncommon feature in monkeys? I’ve been around monkeys in the wild a number of times and don’t ever recall seeing this.
    Thanks for sharing it all!

    1. thanks! i’m not sure if its normal for monkeys to enjoy a relaxing onsen but i would guess that those in Jigokudani park love hot spring due to the freezing weather. i have visited almost the same park in Kyoto, Japan last summer and the snow monkeys are just roaming around in the mountain.

      thanks again!

    1. konichiwa! agree.. i don’t think the judges will hand them the title or maybe the monkeys will not care at all 🙂

    1. i don’t see anyone feeding them or food for sale at the park entrance, unlike those in Kyoto..
      but i have a feeling that if we try to feed them, they might just ignore us 🙂

      thanks for your comment and liking my post!

      1. They’re so incredible! They seems so at ease … I think that if i am coming to Japan I will defintely come to Jigokudani Park.

    1. senority 🙂
      the older monkeys are the one who are mostly bored..
      thanks for your comment and liking my post!

    1. thanks carlie..
      i’m developing a habit of looking at their photos in the morning once i reach at my office desk, they never fail to bring a smile on my face..

  2. wow.. beautiful…
    nice narration and funny… i imagine if all animals can talk…probably it’s a disaster…

    1. i agree with you… i often wonder what animals are thinking about us!
      maybe we are strange creatures to them..

      thank you for liking my post and your comment!

    1. yep. it’s quite cold but i assume that the monkeys are enjoying their hot spring..
      onsen (hot spring) is popular in the town of Yamanouchi, one of the best tthing to do apart from spending quality time with the snow monkeys..

      thanks for your comment!

  3. Fascinating pictures. I wish the monkeys could talk too but I love the fact that you gave us some insight into their feelings. Truly well done. Congratulations.

    1. thank you!
      the snow monkeys are so used to visitors that humans are boring them, but it doesn’t mean that we should abuse it by going “paparazzi” on them.. i have written on monkey’s perspective to initiate a reminder 🙂

  4. First of all, your photos are AMAZING!!!

    Secondly, LOVE that you wrote from the monkey’s perspective! Haha! Brilliant!

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂

  5. Wow! This is now on my top 10 things to do. It’s just edged out base jumping off the Eiffel tower. Awesome photos. Looks like its worth 10 times the entrance fee.

    1. hi, nice meeting you here..
      some of my Japanese colleagues fdon’t know about the place, but when i started showing them photos, they are encourage to go..
      japan such a beautiful country!

    1. thanks Marina!
      i was surprised when i open my email and saw this great news! definitely made my day!

  6. I went to Jigokudani in Feb. 2010. CNN WAS there when I went, too. I really liked the “monkeys’ commentary” at the beginning of the post. I live in Kanazawa, and we have a famous lantern in Kenrokuen garden that everyone photographs. Lately I’ve been photographing the photographers instead of the lantern.

    Congrats on being freshly pressed!

    1. thanks leah! i never been to kanazawa, seems to be a lovely town particularly Kenrokuen garden based on some web links.. i should plan a trip!

      1. I have some photos on my blog as well, but yes, I recommend it, especially if you like the arts. ^^

        Also, GREAT shots of the monkeys there! My camera kept fogging up…

  7. I`m currently traveling through Japan charting all, or some, of my discoveries, but didn`t expect a “Freshly Pressed”-post to lead me to my next destination. I have always adored Snow Monkeys ever since I realised they actually play with snow. Being a child of Scandinavia myself mountains and snow are second nature to me, so Nagano is the place to be. Also, I`m going to Nagano anyway so might as well drop by Jigokudani Yaenkoen.

    Thanks for the pictures and thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Hey Jesper, i visited your blog and looks to me that you are indeed having a great time here in japan..
      enjoy nagano and the snow monkeys!

      see you around. thanks 🙂

    1. thanks! 🙂
      i agree with your observation. there is more to this country than Akihabara and Shibuya.

  8. Beautiful pictures! The monkeys look so human-like 🙂 Some of them looked like they were deep in thought. Gorgeous post.

  9. Hi Jol, I’m impressed and envious – you are out there seeing, experiencing life, and taking a digital memory of it. This is the first composition I read from you. I am very to have read it. 🙂

    I think I may have seen a photo of these monkeys. But it’s such a marvel to know that they do exist in this harsh realm. I wish I can travel with you one day.

    1. hey cris without an “h”, thank you 🙂
      i need a diversion apart from being a “salary man” for 5 days a week. so i try to make the most of my weekend to travel or photograph as much as possible..
      remember back in college when i told you that all i want is a laptop so that i can create something (simple dream)? here it is..

      come visit japan, you can speak the language so it will be easy for you..unlike me who only knows few basic word! 🙂

  10. Nice post. Great way of telling a story in a different way. I’ve long wanted to go to see the snow monkeys, but if it’s that crowded… maybe not.

    1. thanks Kevin!
      i went there during weekends reason why it’s a bit crowded. visiting on weekdays should be better, you can spend more time photographing the monkeys..

    1. i used to fear them due to some bad experience with the monkeys in Bali (Uluwatu Temple), but after seeing how calm these snow monkeys are, i love them too! thanks 🙂

  11. Reblogged this on A TRUE Republican Speaks and commented:
    Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani Park, Yamanouchi, Nagano
    “It’s hard to be part of the famous snow monkeys of Jigokudani Park. Just imagine the pressure when people from all over the world including media outlets like CNN or National Geographic annually visits you for a feature story. Obviously, they expect you on your cutest mood and if you are covered in snow, then its just perfect television”.

    1. true… though seeing the monkey is the main event, but the walk to reach them is equally lovely 🙂

  12. These guys have fascinated me since I was like 8 when I first saw pix in World magazine. You have the best selection and collection of shots of these Monkeys! I especially love the ones where they are sitting so close to the people and don’t give a hoot!

  13. Hello!

    I am the Watercooler/ Awesome TimeWasters (an awesome section of stories people like to share!) editor at Before It’s News ( Our site is a rapidly growing people-powered news platform currently serving over 3 million visits a month. We like to call ourselves the “YouTube of news.”

    I would like to personally invite you to republish your website on our site. Our visitors would love to read your content, and get to know you as a blogger/source of news. It’s a great opportunity to spread the word about your work and reach new readers. Posting on Before It’s News is 100% free.

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    1. Thanks Sebastian!
      I checked your website “Before It’s News”, seems t have very wide and interesting content.
      Let me know how can I contribute. 🙂

  14. Great photos! I never realized that people were allowed to get so close to the monkeys. Must be disconcerting for them! When I see similar pics from Nat Geo, I always assumed that the photog had to trek some place very far and had a long lens – not that the “onsen” would be so approachable by people… Sigh. Oh well. Still cool pics!

    1. thanks jt!
      i was surprised as well that there is no fence or any sort of separation between the monkeys and visitors.

        1. nice 🙂
          you have a lovely name by the way – “moonie mun”..great name for a manga character!

        2. Well. You are the first person realize that. Well, in fact, I am Vietnamese. In Vietnam, we call a black cat Mun. I don’t know if you read Sailor Moon. There is a black cat in the manga. And he has a moon on his forehead. Then, I am Moon(ie) Mun. :))

  15. This is fantastic! I actually recently moved to Japan, I don’t suppose you would know how far away this is from Yokosuka/Tokyo?
    And if it would be snowy all year round?

    1. Hi Beki,

      welcome to japan! i’m pretty sure that you will have a great might be hard at first (especially grocery shopping!) but once you learn your way around, you will have a blast.

      as far as i know, the best approached to Nagano is to take the JR Asama Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo station.
      the best time to visit Yamanouchi and the snow monkeys is during winter, particularly the peak months of Jan-Feb. though the park is open all year round and the monkeys are still bathing at the onse, but the view will not be the same without the snow.

      here are some website you can refer to particularly to understand the somehow complex train system here:

      please let me know if i can help you in any way.

      cheers 🙂

  16. Reblogged this on Gealachs Blogg and commented:
    De här aporna har jag sett bilder på förut, skulle gärna åka och titta på dem på riktigt, men det ser väldigt kallt ut!

    Vackra bilder i alla fall, gå in och titta, tycker jag!

  17. great pics, breathtaking landscape and photogenic monkeys! it’s a creative thing to use a monkey’s perspective to tell your story

  18. Absolutely amazing photography, thank you so much for sharing these images.

    And yes, I completely agree with you that while its alright to photograph them and all that, a certain respectable distance and such should be maintained – when I reached the first picture of the tourists standing right next to the pool within arms reach of the monkeys I was horrified.
    It’s an invasion of their space and privacy and shamelessly so and apart from that it is wrong as it will make the monkeys complacent and too much at ease that close to humans which would make it so easy if someone wanted to hunt them or something like that.

    We do these things to animals but I think people should ask themselves, what would you do if someone was doing that to you?

    1. thanks!
      one of the reason why i came up with the idea to write from the monkey’s perspective is to at least initiate a reminder to all of us.:)

  19. What a wonderful opportunity. Thank you so much for sharing your lovely adventure in words and photos. Such majestic and lovely beings they are.

  20. Haha, so surprised to see the monkeys on wordpress after returning home to Tokyo from Jigokudani myself only last week 🙂 A truly magical place.

    1. yeah, the snow monkeys are getting popular! i bet next winter they will have more visitors 🙂

    1. “and I think maybe there’s only one thing I’d do in life and is shown in these photos Japan, a pool of hot spring water, surrounded by snow. I am reminded of the book […]”

      – thanks!

    1. konichiwa!

      it might be embarrassing to admit but i am a bit scared with monkeys due to bad experience at Uluwatu Temple in Bali.
      but these particular group are so calm and cute that it takes away my inhibition to approach them.

      tack så mycket!

      1. Hej from Sweden!
        Nothing to be embarrassed about. This can happen. these are wild creatures, after all and things unpleasant can happen.

        I am glad you were able to approach this particular group and take those most beautiful photos. I just love them ! They are so fascinating, these monkeys.
        Welcome to my blog to see other animals and my pets: http;//

    1. thanks! you have a lovely blog as well. i checked it out. cool photos of everyday japan 🙂

  21. Wow, this looks like it was such a cool experience. The first time I saw these little guys was in a commercial played during the super bowl a few years ago. I think it was for beer or something, but I can’t quite remember. I didn’t know that they even existed until then. Seeing them up close in your photos is so neat. They are so interesting-looking.

    I do like that you wrote from the monkeys’ points-of-view as well. It always makes me sad when people go crazy taking pictures and tapping the glass and all of that at zoos and aquariums. It is a privelege to see these creatures and we shouldn’t abuse it.

    Congrats on FP!

    1. they are on a super bowl commercial? wow, so famous!
      i can imagine them doing some advertisement for beer company 🙂

      thank you for your kind words!

  22. My 2 year old and I enjoyed your post! I have to admit, I have never seen such clear pictures of snow monkeys. These were amazing.

    1. so sweet, thank you!
      i do the same with my younger cousins, i show them some of the photos i took and tell accompanying stories.
      they enjoy it a lot but sometimes i ended up promising that i will bring them there 🙂

    1. thanks REPdesign!
      hot spring (onsen) is so good and the experience is one of a kind- hmm… shall we say “naked as we came” style 🙂

  23. Love this! The pictures are fantastic and I love that you gave the snow monkeys some thoughts. Great spin. Congrats on being FP! Well deserved!

  24. Great photos! Looks like an amazing place! Still hasn’t cured my fear of monkeys, but the process has started!

    1. thanks Aaron!
      i used to fear monkeys too (still a bit scared to date) due to some bad experience in Bali but these snow monkeys are so calm and cute! i wanted to snatch one and take him home 🙂

  25. I’ll bet you’re spot-on with the monkey dialogue. Poor things. But, I am selfish, and am glad that you took the trek to photograph these guys. Great shots!

    1. 🙂
      i have to fight my way to take some decent shots with my micro-four thirds camera.
      it amazes me to think that some visitors armed with huge lens but still so close to the monkeys.
      i find it ironic or maybe i am just uneducated with the technicalities of photography.

    1. thanks!
      when you come to visit them, try to snatch one and bring to Canada.
      i think the monkey will love it 🙂

  26. Those are by far my favorite monkeys! But I’m surprised to see people can come so close to them. interesting view as well. 😉

  27. the monkeys are adorable1 i love the one with the mother and her baby! and the snow covered peaks look as if they have jumped right out of a postcard! beautiful!

    1. me too.. i consider that the best one.
      mother protecting her baby from the cold and the crowd. so lovely!

      thanks Ria!

  28. These pictures are great (and like someone else said, cold!). Those monkeys are so close and cool looking! They seem like you could just be pals with ’em.

    1. agree! as if you invite them to the city for a drink, they will just hop out of the hot spring, high five you and will gladly join you.
      thanks 🙂

  29. Very nice depiction of the monkey’s perspective considering that these monkeys are so calm and tame. It’s like you interviewed them and they just responded accordingly.

    Cheers from the Philippines. 🙂

  30. very very apt captions for the photos! i feel for those poor animals…day in, day out..theyre subjected to such chaos by tourists and their cameras! is there no let up for them? do they really have to suffer like that everyday? i have an animal by me as i type this…my dog….and i know from experience, he does like to be left alone and in peace sometimes. but fantastic photography…carry on the great work! dont know what cameras you use, but if you do get time, take a look at my classic cameras im off-loading at the moment…

    1. thanks!

      to be honest, this is the first post under this blog that i tag under “photography”, so to be freshly pressed under that category is quite surprising.
      i always consider my other blog ( as my true photography work. i try to focus on my 35mm film venture though still having tough time buying a film camera, so i’m still using my holga135bc-diana mini-ultrawide&slim-action sampler.

      you’ve got quite a collection of film cameras, i’m drooling! 🙂

  31. These guys have been on my must-see list for as long as I can remember. They’re like serious old men in a Sauna. These are some of the most beautiful photos I’ve seen of them. I didn’t realize you could actually get so close! Many, many thanks.

    1. nice observation! yep, they look like old grumpy men who doesn’t want to be disturbed 🙂
      thanks for liking!

  32. In your very first picture, it looks like they’re sitting at the bar in a pub. The nearest one is contemplating himself in the mirror, the next can’t believe the barman is trying to open a beer with a pencil, and the third just noticed that I’m wearing that tie he doesn’t like. Please excuse me, I have to go now.

  33. Thank you so much for this beautiful post. The photos are amazing, and I love your prose. I have long dreamt of visiting Japan & the snow monkeys. Funny story about that: After seeing many pictures in the past, I somehow concluded the monkeys are really tall (like, human size). Don’t ask me how or why. Of course, they’re not … but very cute indeed. Visiting this park is on my list, so thank you again. Gorgeous. Cheers, @pknewby (Play a Good Knife and Fork,

  34. Those monkeys look so calm and wise. There’s something almost embarrassing to the fantastic shots here. Like we have to go up this mountain to get some of our humility back. By the way I’m writing this from my working place. Many people feel like wasting their time at work sometimes. I wonder how the snow monkeys feel while they’re having their hot bath or observing us. We’re such weird creatures.

    Thank you a lot.

    1. i am replying to your comment here from work 🙂
      it’s almost 7pm here in japan and still all are seriously staring at their laptops as if there will be no tomorrow.
      this will continue up to 9 or 10 pm huhuhu… we are definitely weird creatures! 🙂

  35. Lovely pictures and really fascinating, such a beautiful place. Also love the monkey-talk, made me giggle!

  36. Beautiful pics 🙂 This was one of my favorite visits in Japan and I told this to my aunt and uncle who were visiting one year. I told of the onsen for the monkeys and how there’s even a human onsen that the monkeys sometimes join you in (in the little town itself). My Aunt and Uncle, upon arrival, thought the monkey onsen WAS the human onsen. Which is all well and good, except the monkey onsen is on 24/7 live Internet camera 🙂

    1. yeah. i got some of my colleagues confused as well. some of them thought that i went to yamanouchi and joined the monkeys on their hot tub 🙂
      i forgot about the 24/7 camera. yup, no break for the monkeys.

      thanks for liking my post! 🙂

  37. I wonder what they think of us. When they look at us, what do they think? Do they communicate to each other? It would be interesting to know what it is they say to each other about us. You can imagine, bob (the first one – first photo) telling his friend Charles ( the second one), “hey Charlie how come these creatures have nothing else to do than shine on us flashes of light with their ornate objects … are we that cool?”

    1. i like the names you gave them 🙂 i wonder too, seeing how human-like their facial reactions are..

  38. Beautiful pictures and I understand the temptation to put on music in these places! I’ve never succumbed though…

    You should head to the Orangutan sanctuary in Sepilok for part 2. The tourists there drove me mad, but thankfully they didn’t ruin my experience as I had three hours more worth of patience than them and saw some amazing things when everyone left.

    1. out of all the comments i received so far, your the first who highlighted the feeling of turning on the music.
      thanks 🙂

      Where is Sepilok by the way?

      1. Don’t get me wrong; I have a soundtrack to my travels but when it comes to those magical places, (The Great Wall Of China,Walking the Brooklyn Bridge) I like to experience it with all my attention.
        Sepilok is in Sabah, Borneo. It’s an amazing conservation centre and they do great things. The tourists there are noisy and drive you mental. I arrived at the feeding platform for the Orangutans an hour early, stayed an hour later and hung around three hours in between. I seen three times as many animals than most people. Patience! I’ll be writing an entry about it at some point. Will I send it over your way?

    1. thanks Anthony!
      yup, i want to be a snow monkey too particularly during Monday- start of the work week 🙂

  39. Liked those pics very much. I never saw them by myself although I was in Japan for 30+ years. It seems you’ve been having a great ‘off the beaten dori’ trip in Japan. Nice!

    1. thanks Kato-san 🙂
      i’m pretty sure you are familiar with the places i mentioned in my “off the beatedn dori” trips.

      1. Yes! Shimokita was one of my favorite towns although I bet a lot have changed since I left Japan. If you are still in Tokyo, try Koenji, another nice local town which I like better. I used to walk in from of the Institute of Nature Study, but never ventured to enter. Now I regret. Oh, I can’t wait for my next trip back to Japan.

  40. Reblogged this on Blogubarra and commented:
    Really think this photo is very thoughtful, carefully composed, and really don’t know what the monkeys might be thinking over after their frigid swimming lessons.. thanks to life to reset !

  41. Thank you for sending a comment.
    it had not transmitted, although I also sent — since like, it sends once again ^^

    How do you do!
    Your photograph is great!
    A Japanese monkey is lovely!
    You like Japan.
    I’m glad! (^^)

    1. Konichiwa Yuki,

      Thanks for your comment as well.
      You have a very impressive blog too, the food and the photography are remarkable.
      Japan is truly one of a kind. I am enjoying my stay so far, minus the long hours at work 🙂

      Nice meeting you. Arigato Gozaimasu 🙂

  42. These pictures are great! Are the monkeys really as calm and well-behaved as they look?

    1. yes they are amazingly calm.
      i used to fear monkeys due to some bad experience but these ones were so calm that I was almost tempted to touch or cuddle them 🙂

      thanks jim!

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