Visiting the snow monkeys of Japan is truly a privilege and one that will reward you for having experienced such a unique day out.
These cute creatures are absolutely intriguing in every way from their incredible facial expressions to their habitual grooming of each other that leaves you spellbound from start to finish.
Watching these lovable creatures play and relax in the hot spring pools is what drives some 90,000 visitors each year.
They arrive from the capital Tokyo on the bullet train and by car and bus from the many ski resorts that are near by. However you make your way there, it will be a trip you’ll never forget.
History of the Park.
The Jigokudani Monkey Park was established in 1964. The founding of the park was by a man called Sogo Hara, previously employed at the Nagano Electric Railway (Nagano Dentetsu) company.
Back in 1957, he hiked through the area known as Jigokudani, which translates into Valley of Hell. This place owes its name to the steep mountain sides and hot spring steam coming out of the ground. Sogo came across a troop of snow monkeys and marvelled at them. He decided then and there that he wanted the world to know about the snow monkeys and founded the park.
A unique encounter
The 30 minute walk through a snow covered forest is very tranquil and doesn’t feel long as its so pretty. Be sure to dress the part, wear warm clothing including beanie,gloves and waterproof shoes.
Your first glimpse of the snow monkeys is an incredible sight. They are so adorable with their relaxed behavior and don’t seem bothered at all by human presence. Watching the monkeys bath is quite a unique sight and you’ll be able to see it from a close distance.
One thing you commonly see with the snow monkeys is that they like to groom each other. This is for hygienic reasons, like removing lice, dandruff and any other unwanted things, but it also has a definite social and dietary meaning attached to it. By consuming the lice and other insects stuck in the fur, they get their much needed protein.
Young ones frolic in the snow and wrestle with each other in a playful display. They chase each other along the boardwalk unfazed by all the attention. It’s a sheer delight to capture the monkeys in this environment.
Day tour from Hukuba.
If you are staying at a ski resort near by such as Hukuba, you’ll eventually need a break from hitting the slopes. As this is the only place in the world where you can see such a thing, it wold be a crime to miss it.
During the winter peak season the buses run daily and thereafter around 3 days a week.The tour includes a traditional Japanese lunch in the historical town of Obuse and a visit to the 1,400 year old Buddhist temple, Zenkoji.
For more information on tours from Hukuba, click on the link provided.
Coming from Tokyo
From Tokyo, the day is a long one but you’ll be using the bullet train so it’s very comfortable. A short local train and then bus ride in to the park is your final leg.
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