How to Visit Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park from Tokyo and Nagano

How to Visit Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park from Tokyo and Nagano

Walking to see snow monkeys in the Jigokudani Monkey Park was like a dream come true.  After seeing the iconic image of the Japanese snow monkeys we had finally achieved our goal to see them with our own eyes, and they did not disappoint.  The group of 30 to 40 monkeys was fascinating to observe – like seeing a documentary in real life.  We loved watching the behaviours of the dominant male, the cheeky baby monkeys and the nurturing mother monkeys.

The aim of this article is to help you plan your visit to see the snow monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park.  You can visit Jigokudani Monkey Park quite easily from either Tokyo or Nagano as either an overnight visit or a long day trip.  You can travel there either by using a tour option or independently.  My recommended option is to plan to visit the area at least overnight as the snow monkeys do not visit every day, so that gives you two days of options to see them.

Check out my Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – you are welcome to join and it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

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Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park

Where is Jigokudani Monkey Park

Jigokudani Monkey Park is located in the Nagano Prefecture and is approximately 260km north west from Tokyo.  See the map below for further details.  The shinkansen journey from Tokyo Station to Nagano Station takes approximately 1:30 hours each way.  You then need to change trains (or start your journey) at Nagano Station on the train to Yudanaka Station which is an approximately 50 minute journey.  Overall from Tokyo that means a journey of approximately 2.5 to 3 hours each way.

How to Get to Jigokudani Monkey Park From Tokyo and Nagano

The best option to get to Jigokudani Monkey park from Tokyo is using the Shinkansen or bullet train.  Options include English speaking tour options, overnight options and independent travel which are detailed below.

English Speaking Snow Monkey Tours From Tokyo and Nagano

The best English speaking tour options to see the snow monkeys are for tours commencing from Nagano.  To get to Nagano from Tokyo you can catch a speedy shinkansen as detailed above so plan for an early start.

Two Day Snow Monkey and Nagano Private Tour with Guide, Private Vehicle and Overnight at Ryokan from Nagano Station

A great option to make the most of your trip is to book into a two day private tour to see the snow monkeys, explore Nagano and also have some free time to explore.  With the bonus of staying in a traditional Ryokan overnight!  From Nagano Station this tour starts at 9.30am and finishes at Nagano Station later the following day.  Your booking includes an optional add on to purchase your Shinkansen tickets from Tokyo to Nagano and return.  You can also add on optional extras including explore neighboring areas such as Matsumoto Castle, Kamikochi or Hakuba.

Click here to check Two Day Tour prices and availability through the Viator website

Snow Monkey, Zenkoji Temple and Sake Day Tour from Nagano Station

If you only have one day to visit the snow monkeys I recommend this one day tour.  Your booking includes a visit to the snow monkeys, followed by a visit to Zenkoji Temple and a Sake brewery in Nagano.  From Nagano Station the tour starts at 8.45am and finishes at 5pm at Nagano Station.  This tour is conducted all year round.

Click here to check One Day Tour prices and availability through the Viator website

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Views of Nagano including Zenkoji Temple

Views of Nagano including Zenkoji Temple and hand made ramen noodles

Combining Your Visit to Jigokudani Monkey Park with an Onsen Town Visit

If you are also interested in visiting an Onsen town during your trip to Japan, you will be pleased to hear that you can combine the two activities together.  The beautiful Shibu Onsen is also close to Jigokudani Monkey Park – (you actually drive through it to get to the snow monkeys) and there are many traditional Ryokans available.  If you stay in one of the local Ryokans you are then provided with a key which enables you to access the ten hot springs around the township area.

Views of the Shibu Onsen hot spring town

Views of the Shibu Onsen hot spring town

On our visit we stayed in the Senshinkan Matsuya Ryokan for two nights and had a lovely visit.  The owners will pick you up on arrival at Yudanaka station, and will also drive you to Jigokudani Monkey Park – you just have to use a taxi or bus for your return trip.  They will also drop you back to Yudanaka Station when you depart.  Senshinkan Matsuya is suitable for individuals, couples and families with traditional rooms which can accommodate up to five people with shared bathrooms.

Senshinkan Matsuya provides you with traditional yakuta robes, wooden geta sandals and also provide a traditional Japanese breakfast.  You can also order a special Japanese banquet dinner to make the most of your special visit.

Click here to check out the latest prices and availability of Senshinkan Matsuya Ryokan on Booking.com

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Senshinkan Matsuya Ryokan Rooms and Food Options

Senshinkan Matsuya Ryokan – at the top is their Japanese banquet dinner (which I definitely recommend for at least one night during your stay), and the bottom left is the room laid out for five people.  On the bottom right is their Japanese breakfast.

If you are travelling in winter and plan to go skiing the Shiga Kogen Ski Resort is a 25 minute drive and Heiwa Kannon is a 15 minute walk from Senshinkan Matsuya.

If you consider other Ryoken options in the Yamanouchi township, carefully check whether they are part of the Shibu Onsen collective as only a select group of Ryokans will provide you with key access to the ten hot springs.

Independent Travel to Jigokudani Monkey Park from Tokyo and Nagano

The shinkansen enables you to travel from Tokyo to Nagano Station which is an approximately 1:30 hr journey in comfort.  You then need to change trains (or start your journey) at Nagano Station on the train to Yudanaka Station which is an approximately 50 minute journey.  Overall from Tokyo that means a journey of approximately 2.5 to 3 hours each way.

From Yudanaka Station you can engage a taxi or take a local bus to take you to the Jigokudani Monkey Park car park, which is a 5km or 15 minute drive.  You can then visit the park – I would personally allow at least two hours to walk in and out and also have time to view the monkeys at your leisure.  Then use the taxi or the local bus and trains to return to Nagano and Tokyo.

Yudanaka Station services the township of Yamanouchi which is a hot spring or onsen town, so you may want to plan to have lunch and also use one of the public onsens before you return to Tokyo or Nagano.

An alternative option to travel from Nagano Station to Jigokudani Money Park is to catch the Express Shiga Kogen Bus Line which has a stop at Jigokudani Monkey Park.  This bus line runs all year round, and has both a summer and winter timetable.  In summer the service runs three times a day in each direction, with a trip of around 40 minutes each way.    In summer (this information is correct as at Sep 17) the bus service departs Nagano Station at either 10:15am, 12:30pm or 3:10pm, and departs from the Snow Monkey Park to return to Nagano Station at either 10:46am, 1:56pm or 4.51pm. The trip takes approximately 42 minutes and costs 1700 Yen each way.  I expect the service to run more often during winter, however be aware that sometimes the roads get blocked by snow.  I will update this information when the winter schedule is released to commence from November.

To get the latest information about the bus service go to the Nagaden Bus Service website to get the latest timetable. This information is provided as a PDF document in Japanese –  don’t despair, all you need to do is to download the PDF, then search for Google Translate document conversion, where you can  specify the origin and final language, and it does a good job to translate into your language.

Snow Monkey in Jigokudani Monkey Park

About Jigokudani Monkey Park

Jigokudani Monkey Park was established in 1964 in the Nagano prefecture as a place to come and watch the wild Japanese Macaque monkeys bathe in the hot springs.  Jigokudani means ‘Hell Valley’ and was named due to the steep cliffs and the steam from the hot springs.  The valley sits at an altitude of 850m (2790 ft) and in winter over one meter (3.3 ft) of snow is on the ground and temperatures can be as low as -10C (14 F).

The snow monkeys are wild and therefore may not appear every day, however the local park rangers do feed the monkeys which encourages them to come to the hot springs area each day.  The monkeys live in the area so you can see them all year round, however their presence is not guaranteed.  Obviously if the weather is hot they are less likely to bathe in the hot springs, but will still congregate and play around the hot spring area!  Jigokudani Monkey Park has a Facebook Page which includes the latest information about how frequently the monkeys visit the site and also when they typically arrive.  If you are planning to visit the snow monkeys I recommend that you Like their page to get the latest information.

It is important to remember that the Japanese Macaque monkeys are wild animals and there are no fences between them and visitors to the park.  The park rules for visitors to stay safe are as follows:

  • Do not show or give food to the monkeys
  • Do not touch the monkeys (even if they are close to you) – if they are that close carefully step away from them
  • Do not stare into the monkey’s eyes – that indicates hostility
  • No dogs, cats or other animals are allowed in the park
  • Photos (including flash photography) and videos are allowed, but do not place your equipment (or yourself) too close to the monkeys
  • Do not use selfie sticks

When visiting Jigokudani Monkey Park, from the car park you first have to walk up the hill on a pathway to the entrance of the park, a gentle walk of approximately 5-10 minutes.  You then pay your entrance fee (800 Yen for adults and 400 Yen for children).  From there you then continue to walk up the valley beside the stream for approximately 15-20 minutes before arriving at the hot spring area.  If you visit in winter ensure that you are wearing suitable footwear and clothing.

Views Walking in to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park

Views Walking in to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in Autumn – in Winter this route is covered in snow!

How to Visit Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park from Tokyo and Nagano - Pinterest

I hope you have a great time visiting the snow monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park – we had a great time and you should too!

Don’t forget to join my Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – you are welcome to join and it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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