Hakuba Valley is a popular ski destination in Japan, known for its stunning mountain landscapes, deep powder snow and excellent skiing and snowboarding terrain across 10 ski resorts. But if you’re looking for a unique cultural experience during your ski holiday, a visit to the Japan Snow Monkeys is a must-do activity!
The Japan Snow Monkeys, also known as Japanese macaques, are native to Japan and are known for their love of hot springs. Located in the Yamanouchi area of Nagano prefecture, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is home to these famous snow monkeys and offers visitors an opportunity to observe them up close.
The origin of the Jigokudani Monkey Park can be traced back to the 1960s when Japanese macaques began gathering around the hot springs in the Jigokudani Valley area of Nagano prefecture,known as ‘hell’s valley’. The hot springs were originally used by local villagers to heat their homes and for cooking, but the monkeys quickly discovered their soothing benefits during the cold winter months.
As the monkeys became a popular attraction for visitors, the local government and residents recognized the importance of preserving their habitat and established the Jigokudani Monkey Park in 1964. The park was created to protect the natural environment and provide a safe space for the snow monkeys to live and thrive. Today, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is not only a popular tourist destination, but a vital conservation area for the snow monkey population. The park is managed by the local government and employs staff who are responsible for monitoring the monkeys’ health and behavior, as well as maintaining the park’s facilities and ensuring the safety of visitors.
Winter is the best time to visit the snow monkeys, as this is when they are most likely to be soaking in the hot springs. The park is open all year round, but during the winter months, the park can be covered in snow, which adds to the magical winter wonderland atmosphere. This makes visiting Jigokudani Monkey Park a perfect day trip when spending a week or more skiing on the mainland of Japan in a Nagano ski resort such as Hakuba.
Once you arrive at the park, you’ll be able to explore the area and observe the snow monkeys. The park provides an excellent opportunity to observe these animals up close and learn about their unique behavior. There is a well-maintained path that leads through the park, which visitors can follow to see the monkeys. The path is easy to navigate and suitable for visitors of all ages.
Niche ski holiday specialists, Japan Ski Experience arrange trips from the ski resort of Hakuba to Jigokudani, and these trips also include a visit to Nagano’s Zenkoji Temple. With a history dating back to the 7th century, the temple is one of the most important and revered sites in the country. Visitors can explore the temple’s various halls and buildings, participate in traditional Buddhist rituals, and see the hondō, which houses a statue of Amida Buddha.
A visit to the Japan Snow Monkeys is a unique and unforgettable experience, and a wonderful opportunity for anybody visiting Hakuba. As the host of the Nagano Olympics 1998 and Japan’s fastest emerging international ski area, Hakuba itself is a fascinating destination for skiers and snowboarders looking to experience some of the worls’s best powder snow amidst towering alpine scenery. And if the unrivalled cultural experiences of Japan and snow monkeys are on your bucket list, it is a combination not to be missed! Get in touch with Japan Ski Experience, who will be happy to assist both with booking your ski holiday in Hakuba, and your visit to Jigokudani monkey park!