I also had to think about it when I read the title. Of course I had already done so before I published this text, but it remained uncomfortable. And yet it’s true! I’m going to visit Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park and there monkeys are bathing in onsen. And Onsen are hot springs. Point taken.
It is September and the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is planned. But maybe I should rename the park Jigokudani No Snow Monkey Park already. The last few days it has been chilly, but just this day the temperature rises to 25 degrees Celsius. Which crazy macaque (or man) would like to sit in a steam bath? Not me, but I keep up the courage…
Tip: Do you fancy an onsen yourself? In this region, called Yamanouchi, you can find many hotels with a traditional Japanese onsen.
Onsen: a tradition for centuries
Japan is a volcanic island. It is therefore not surprising that Japan has more than 3000 ounces. An onsen is a natural hot spring and the Japanese love it. It is an ideal place to relax and set aside the busy life.
The Japanese have been using these onsen for more than 1000 years. At that time they were public baths, accessible to men and women. Since the beginning of the Meiji period (1868), the onsen have been separated, giving men and women their own onsen. This is still the case for most bathhouses. Being naked is the motto, although there are nowadays onsen where bathing suits are required.
Jigokudani Monkey Park so…
Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is located northeast of the city of Nagano. The park was founded in 1964 and is located in a valley. It is also called the ‘hell valley’ because of the many steep cliffs and the vapor of the onsen. It is located at an altitude of 850 meters and it is a 1.6 kilometer long walk to the entrance of the park. There is a small house with information about the Japanese macaque. And once I enter the park I meet them everywhere….
The Japanese Macaque, or Macaca Fuscata, originally only lives in Japan in wooded areas and plateaus. They are herd animals and like to imitate each other. They like to eat fruit, leaves and tubers, but they don’t let insects and snails shoot them either. On average they weigh between 10 and 20 kg and can live up to 30 years.
During my walk through the park I see a lot of playing monkeys. And they like each other’s fleas! But one thing I don’t see happening and that is bathing the macaques in the onsen. Although I do see one small macaque accidentally fall into the water. In total I stay 3 hours in this area and that is quite long for this small park. Just enjoying watching these beautiful animals.
In an onsen myself?
During my walk back to the bus I see a Japanese man walking in an onsen across the street. Maybe I should consider it as well? Although I’m not a fan of it, I decide to do it anyway. When I am in Yudanaka I step into an onsen! Just because it’s possible! But one for my feet. And during my conversation with my Japanese neighbour, he gives me a bottle of sake as a gift. It’s fine that way…
Jigokudani Snow of no Snow Monkey Park?
How to get there?
From Nagano Station it is about 45 minutes to Yudanaka Station. Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park can be reached by bus from the Yudanaka train station. This runs 2 times per hour. The ride takes 15 minutes and costs 310 yen.
From April to October the park is open from 8.30am to 5pm. From November to March from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Access to the park costs 800 yen.
Read more about Nagano?
- Nagano: Top 6 attractions, accommodation and transportation
- Matsumoto Castle | Discover the original black castle of Japan
- Nakasendo Trail, Kiso Valley | Walk the Road of the Samurai
- Zenkoji Temple, Nagano | Search for the Key to Paradise?
Fell in love with these cute Japanese macaques? And what did you think of the Jigokudani Monkeypark? Feel free to leave a message below!