Explore Japan’s Snow Monkey Park
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Do you enjoy being around wildlife and nature? If so, there is a park that is home to Japanese Macaques, also known as snow monkeys, located within the Jigokudani Yaen-koen facility. The facility is located in the Valley of Yokoyu River which takes its water from Shiga-Kogen of the Jyoshinetsu-Kogen National Park in the northern part of Nagano prefecture.
The Jigokudani Yaen-koen facility's objective is to provide a place where people can view the monkeys in their natural environment. As visitors make their way to view the monkeys, they travel one mile through a nature trail. Along the trail they're surrounded by a plethora of trees and posters with information about the monkeys.
The monkeys live in the mountains around the Yaen-koen facility in a radius of several miles. Within the mountainous area there is a hot spring, adjacent to a river, for the monkeys to bathe in. Leading up to the hot spring monkeys can be seen playing in the grasslands of the mountains and jumping from rock to rock as they cross the river. The facility also has no fences so that the animals can come and go freely.
Since the altitude of the facility is approximately 2,788 feet above sea level, the winter seasons can be harsh. Temperatures can drop to 10 degrees below zero and snow can mount up to three feet on the ground. Because of the low temperatures, it's important for the monkeys to stay warm. Bathing is a small, but important part of the monkey's daily lives because during the winter season it provides protection from the extreme cold.
Even though the monkeys are fed by humans, they are still wild animals. Some of the monkeys go to the facility during the daytime seeking food provided by facility employees, but sometimes will remain in the mountains without visiting the facility for an entire day or longer.
People can visit the park throughout the year with the hours of operation varying depending on the month. Between the months of April and October, the park is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; from November to March it is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission tickets cost 500 yen for adults and 250 yen for children.
There are many ways that Yokota members can get to the Snow Monkey Park. Two methods of traveling to the park are by car and taking a bus provided by the Information, Tickets and Travel office.
One path people can take to get to the park is by car, and it will take approximately three and a half hours. When leaving Yokota Air Base, people will take Route 16 to Interstate 44; from Interstate 44, then transition to the Kan-etsu expressway and stay on the expressway as it transitions to the Joshin-etsu expressway until they reach the Kanbayashi Onsen parking lot. It is approximately a 30 minute walk from there to the park.
Tourists can also schedule their trip through the ITT office which provides transportation to and from the destination. Dates of the tours are January 9, 16 and 24; and February 6, 20 and 28. The tour costs $60 which includes bus transportation and admission fee for the park.