Snow monkeys in Japan: all the information in a row!
Viewing the snow monkeys in Japan had been on our bucket list to do in Japan for a long time. So when we embarked on a more than four-week tour of Japan, we immediately set out to research where we could see these Japanese snow monkeys. In this blog, we provide all the information you need to check out the snow monkeys in Japan.
Table of contents
Where can you see the Snow monkeys in Japan?
You can admire the Japanese snow monkeys at the Jigokudani Monkey Park. This park is open during the day from about nine o’clock and is a few minutes’ drive from the towns of Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen. Both places are very close to each other. From our hotel we were driven to the park by the owner’s van, but there is also a bus from Yudanaka train station to the park.
How to get to Yudanaka train station? From the city of Tokyo, it takes just over an hour by train to Nagano station and then it’s about 50 minutes by train. In just under two hours from Tokyo, you can be in the Japanese Alps and at the park. Therefore, you might even choose to go on a long day trip from Tokyo to see the monkeys.
When can you see the snow monkeys in Japan?
The best time to spot the monkeys is during the winter months, that is, December, January and February. It is then also more likely to be colder and perhaps snowy, making the setting for the monkeys naturally more beautiful. We were there in the month of October and it was 25 degrees then and, of course, there was no snow.
The only thing we had not taken into account was that on a lot of days there was no monkey to spot. We thought that only then the monkeys would not be in the hot pools, but to see no monkeys at all was a big disappointment. Later we discovered a website about the Japanese snow monkeys, where you can find a lot of information. You can view this website here.
They also have camera footage of the monkeys’ watering hole on this website, where you can see if the monkeys are there at any time during the day. Usually the monkeys come down to the water pool around 9 or 10 and stay around the pools for the rest of the day. But there are also many days when they don’t show up. So you can see in advance through the cameras if they are there and then we would go to the park.
You walk in the park for about half an hour to the spot and it is useless if you visit the park for nothing. This website also lists exactly from the past three years in which period on which days they had been. When we looked for the month of October, the monkeys were there at most two out of seven days, so the chances of seeing them are not super high.
Had we known that beforehand, we might not have gone to all that trouble to visit the area.
Other sights Yudanaka
We were in Yudanaka for 1.5 days and the first afternoon we went straight to the park (for nothing). The second day we knew from the website we described above and so in the morning we could see exactly online if the monkeys were there and they were not, so there was little point in going to the park. Fortunately, we had another activity we did that day.
Thus, we visited the Sora Terrace. Free buses run from Yudanaka Central Station to this chairlift. It takes about 20 minutes for this bus to take you from the central station to the chairlift. The chairlift takes you up the mountain in about ten minutes and, of course, on the mountain itself you have a beautiful view of the surroundings.
You can also eat and drink on top of the mountain. We did find it unfortunate that the hiking opportunities on the mountain itself are very limited. Check the bus station in advance to see what the bus times are, as the bus only leaves the station approximately once every hour and also only once every hour at the chairlift.
Where to stay in Yudanaka?
Despite not seeing the snow monkeys, we still had a good time in Yudanaka and that was partly because of the hotel where we slept. In fact, we slept at Hotel Housei, which is a traditional ryokan. We had a beautiful traditional-style room here with a private onsen in the room.
We had booked half board at this hotel and we liked the evening meal very much. We eat vegetarian ourselves and they really took that into account tremendously well, so we had two evenings of delicious food.
Especially because of the huge bathtub in the room and the delicious food, we found the hotel highly recommended. Ok, we did find sleeping on a small mattress on the floor challenging, but otherwise for the two nights we slept there with our family it was a very nice experience. For more information about Hotel Housei, take a look here.