AHHHH! Japanese snow monkeys love to soak in onsens
YOKOTA AIR BASE – Cold weather, snow, monkeys and hot springs are a unique combination that make up the ‘snow monkey park’ of the Jigokudani Yaen-koen facility in the northern part of Nagano.
The facility was established in 1964 with the objective of researchers performing ecological observation and biology of wild Japanese macaques (snow monkey). The site is also available for people to view and photograph the monkeys.
As visitors make their way to view the monkeys, they travel approximately one mile through a mountainous nature trail. Along the way they’re surrounded by a multitude of trees and posters with information about the monkeys.
Once visitors arrive in the hot spring section of the site, people can view the macaque playing in the grasslands of the mountains, jumping from rock to rock as they cross a river, eating or bathing in a hot spring.
Even though the monkeys can be seen throughout the facility, they are still wild animals. The facility has no fences, so they can come and go freely. Their territories are in mountains around the Yaen-koen area and are approximately several miles in radius.
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 several 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, which will take approximately three and a half hours. When leaving Yokota Air Base, take Route 16 to Interstate 44; from Interstate 44, then transition to the Kan-etsu expressway and stay on as it transitions to the Joshin-etsu expressway until reaching the Kanbayashi Onsen parking lot. It is approximately a 30-minute walk from there to the park.
People can also schedule their trip through the ITT office, which provides transportation to and from the destination. The tour costs varies depending on age, but includes bus transportation and admission fee for the park.