Snow Monkeys in Hot Springs - Jigokudani in Japan - Best Time and Photographer Tips
Snow Monkeys in Hot Springs - Jigokudani in Japan - Best Time

Snow Monkeys in Hot Springs - Jigokudani in Japan - Best Time


When Is the Best Time

Jigokudani means Hell Valley, which is located 250 km north of Tokyo. The Japanese Monkey Park is open throughout the year, but it's particularly picturesque when the area is covered in snow. So it's essential to know when it starts snowing in the Snow Monkey Park.

Weather - Best Time

Jumping monkey above the hot water flow into a pool.

The first snowfall cannot be predicted precisely, but usually, it occurs by mid to late November. Although the first snowfall can be pretty heavy, it will melt quickly due to the mild daytime temperatures in November. 

A monkey sitting in the snow with red face next to the pool.

From mid-December until February, you can expect the park to be covered in snow, and the monkeys will live up to their name. The snow also hides a lot of the man-made pipes and other structures. The best times with the best conditions for plenty of snow on the ground are January and February, but I highly recommend checking the live webcam for the actual conditions.

Opening Hours and Entrance Fee

Two monkeys playing in the hot pool.

  • The Park is open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm from April to October. 
  • Winter is from 9 am to 4 pm from November to March.
  • The entrance fee is 800 yen - less than 6 € or $6 for adults and 400 yen for children in the winter 2023/2024. You can purchase an annual pass or, if you are in a large group (more than 20), a group ticket.

You can find a small information centre and gift shop with information at the park entrance.

Avoiding Crowds

Lots of visitors around the upper pool.

Of course, it is busy, so getting a quieter moment or pictures without visitors can be hard, but it's definitely worth going, especially in the winter.  Most visitors gather at the upper human-made pool where you can find the monkeys, Japanese Macaque, playing in hot water. To make the upper pool more attractive to the monkeys, the park wardens sometimes throw food into it. There are fewer people and monkeys at the lower pool. You pass it anyway; therefore, you should also spend some time there. 

Tips for Photographers

The staircase which offers better views into the upper pool.
It is tough taking pictures in hail.

You can photograph the most natural-looking pictures from the staircase at the upper pool, but taking photos without any other visitor is challenging. At the lower pool, the angle is different, but there is no higher position for an excellent shot. 

How to Get to Jigokudani

Time table for Monky Park - panoramio

Buses along the Yudanaka-Kanbayashi Line stop at the "Kanbayashi Onsen" bus stop, while other buses stop at the "Snow Monkey Park" bus stop, a short walk away. We drove there and parked at the closest parking space to the entrance. From Kanbayashi Onsen, it is a 25-45 minute walk to the monkey park on the 1,6 km trail. The walking trail is easy to walk around the year. You can buy some shoe spikes at the entrance if it's very icy. An alternative approach is a 10-15 minute walk from a paid parking lot just to the west of the monkey park. We didn't use this way, but we heard that the narrow road from Shibu Onsen to the parking lot is not served by public transportation and gets closed in winter.

Bus lines to Kanbayashi Onsen from

  • Yudanaka Station (10-15 minutes, 310 yen, 1-2 buses per hour)
  • Shibu Onsen (5-10 minutes, 190 yen, 1-2 buses per hour)
  • Nagano Station (40 minutes, 1400 yen, 4-10 buses per day)


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Where to Stay

If you want to stay close to the park, we recommend the SENJUKAKU Hotel. The elegant property is well-rated and ideally located, surrounded by Japanese gardens with green pine forests, cherry trees, and Japanese maples. It is only a 15-minute drive away from the Park entrance, located in Kanbayashi Onsen, the gateway to the Snow Monkey Park. It offers Japanese-style rooms with a choice of bed or futon. Transfer and pick-up shuttles from Yudanaka Station are offered. 

As an alternative, you may choose the JINPYOKAKU Hotel. It is also close by and located just 2 km from the Snow Monkey Park. Although it offers only a view of Japanese-style rooms, the atmosphere is exclusive and complemented by a luxurious Japanese-style hot springs experience. Here, you can enjoy exquisite Japanese cuisine with fresh local ingredients. The hotel is one of the best-rated locations in Yamanouchi.

Best Months to Visit


Related Topics

Location and Tips

Kanbayashi Onsen, Jigokudani

The park was opened in 1964, and since then, watching the Japanese macaque monkeys in the hot springs has become very popular for locals and tourists alike. I'll give you all the necessary information on how to get here, what to wear, where to stay and, most importantly, the best time before travelling to this unique place in Japan.

Facts About the Jigokudani Macaque

A colse shot of the red face of a macaque.

  • The Japanese Macaque (Macaca fuscata) is native to northern Japan and is known as the most northern-living non-human primate, surviving cold winter temperatures down to -15 °C (5° F). 
  • They have brown to grey fur and a red face and hands, and like many other monkeys, they often behave remarkably human-like.
  • The monkeys live in larger social groups. Watching the monkeys play, taking a leisurely onsen (Japanese for hot spring), or even swimming in the onsen - is a lot of fun.
  • There are several hundreds of macaques in Jigokudani Hot Pools. 

What to Wear at Jigokudani?

Visitors with winter clothes for snow, rain and hail.
An umbrella is a good idea to protect your camera.

During the most exciting winter months, much snowfall is common, and even blizzards may occur. Wear appropriate shoes and clothes to be protected from the cold. Although the snow gets removed from the roads and footpaths, it can stay slippery. I do recommend wearing proper snow boots or crampons. If you don't own the right equipment or left it at home, don't worry. The Snow Monkey Resorts Info & Gift Shop offers snow boot rentals in all sizes and crampons to buy.  In addition, you can rent a coat as an extra layer of insulation.

The park supplies very detailed access information on how to get to the park and a brochure with all useful details.

These wonderful pictures are provided by my friend and photographer, Chris. Do you want to obtain the usage right for these images? Contact me, but we will take action against picture theft.

Created by
Micha Herber-Bleich
Micha Herber-Bleich
I am always open, curious about new…