Jigokudani Monkey Park (Jigokudani Yaen Koen)
The Jigokudani Monkey Park is in the Yokoyu River valley. It’s surrounded by steep cliffs that gush fountains of hot water—the park’s name, Jigokudani, means “Hell Valley.” At an altitude of 2,788 feet (850 meters), the valley gets very cold in winter, and the resident monkeys have found an ideal way to warm up: by bathing in the hot springs’ waters, just as people do all across Japan.
To reach the park without having to drive or read Japanese signs, join a guided tour. Nagano (which is about an hour’s drive from the park) is the most convenient place to visit from, but you can find trips that come from as far away as Tokyo and Kyoto.
Things to Know Before You Go
The park is not a zoo, and there are no barriers separating the monkeys from the visitors. Be careful how close you get to the animals—for their protection as well as your own.
There is no guarantee that you’ll see the monkeys; there may be no activity when you visit (regardless of the time of year).
You must pay a fee to enter the park, but kids under the age of 6 can visit for free.
The park is not wheelchair accessible, and guide dogs are not allowed.
There are no dining facilities at the park.
Selfie sticks are prohibited in the park.
How to Get There
The park is roughly a 25-minute drive from the nearest large town, Nakano, and a ten-minute drive from the smaller town of Yudanaka. The nearest railway station is at Yudanaka, and there are buses from the station to the park. You can also book a guided tour of the park that includes transportation, which might be preferable during cold weather.
When to Get There
The park is open every day of the year from mid-morning to mid-afternoon with slightly extended hours from April to October. There are no scheduled holidays, but the park sometimes closes unexpectedly due to weather conditions. Visitors can come at any time of year, but if your goal is to watch the monkeys bathe, plan a visit in the winter.
Bathing at Yudanaka Onsen
While people can’t bathe at Jigokudani (it’s reserved for the monkeys), you can enjoy a nice soak in the town of Yudanaka, located a couple miles from the park. The mountain town’s hot springs have been used for hundreds of years, and there are a variety of places where you can enjoy a traditional soak, including a public bath located right at the train station.
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