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A few kilometers from the Shiga Kogen ski area, in Nagano Prefecture, there is a protected natural park populated by rather unusual inhabitants. Jigokudani Monkey Park, or Snow Monkey Park, with a population of about 160 macaques from Japan.
The Monkey Paradise
The Japanese macaque, as its name suggests, is a species unique to the Japanese islands. It can be found almost all over the archipelago, in mountainous region, especially in Iwatayama Park (in the Arashiyama Valley, Kyoto) and on Yakushima Island. But the most popular place is the Shiga Kogen Natural Park area. For all enthusiasts of Japan, watching these wild animals is a unique and privileged experience.
Access to the park will require some effort, because it will take a 30 minute walk in the forest to join them. You will be able to observe these macaques in their natural habitat, and enjoy a magical landscape that changes with the seasons. Be careful in winter, do not forget to equip yourself. It is essential to have very good shoes, if possible with crampons (on sale in the shop, at the edge of the forest) to avoid any risk of falls.
I recommend you plan your walk in the morning, to observe the monkeys at bath time. After spending a night in freezing conditions, these monkeys descend from the mountain and come to warm themselves in the onsens. The spa session can begin! This community knows how to take care of each other. You will then witness the famous delousing session. The monkeys will spend the rest of the day drying their dense fur in the sun, playing (for the youngest) and looking for food. A little before dark, they will regain their habitat in the mountains.
It is always surprising to observe these monkeys, because do not forget, this mammal is very close to man. Whether at the level of expressions or behavior, the resemblance is striking. In order not to disturb them too much by the presence of tourists, everyone is asked to respect a safe distance, not to touch them, not to make a sudden gesture, and especially not to bring food on the site.
A Relaxing Break at Kanbayashi Onsen
And if you have the opportunity to take a break, on the edge of the park a group of traditional onsen establishments, Kanbayashi Onsen, promises you a pleasant moment of relaxation. Perhaps you will have the chance to see some monkeys during your swim. There are times when the monkeys will come to watch you.
How to Get There ?
The Snow Monkey Park is halfway between Shiga Kogen Ski Resort and the small village of Yudanaka. To access it, I recommend you to take a taxi or rent a vehicle. Nevertheless a bus provides a connection between the station of Yudanaka and the park. The frequency is average, but with a little organization, you can move without problems. Take the Nagaden Bus Line from Nagano Station to Shiga Kogen Ski Resort from either Nagano Station (1,400 yen) or Yudanaka Station (310 yen) (to reach Yudanaka from Nagano, take the local train line) Yukemuri). Get off at the stop “Snow Monkey Park”.
Tip! This is something common in Japan: we take a ticket when we get on a bus, and we pay the driver at the exit. Ability to exchange on a ticket of 1,000 yen only. From this stop, expect a 30 minute walk through the forest to reach the park.
Combine this moment of escape with a sporting experience, and discover the fabulous snow of Shiga Kogen. This vast ski area will offer you beautiful scenery. If you are looking for a luxurious place to spend the night, I recommend the excellent Shiga Kogen Prince East Wing Hotel, for its comfortable rooms, tasty food and impeccable services.
Note that if you stay at this hotel, a special rate will be available to visit the Snow Monkey Park: a round trip ticket by bus are sold at the reception of Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel for only 1,000 yen. This ticket doesn’t include the admission fee of the Snow Monkey Park.
|Name||Snow Monkey Park|
|Address||〒381-0401 Nagano-ken, Shimotakai-gun, Yamanouchi-machi, Hirao, ６８４５|
|Access||[map]〒381-0401 Nagano-ken, Shimotakai-gun, Yamanouchi-machi, Hirao, ６８４５[/map]|
|Opening Hours||9h00 - 16h00|
|Price Range||800 yen|