Japanese Snow Monkey

Monkeying Around in the Japanese Alps

Before I show you photos of Japan’s snow monkeys (and explain how you can see them, if you happen to be in Japan), I’m going to tell you a little story. I first learned of Japan’s snow monkeys from a person I no longer speak with, you see, and my having visited the monkeys yesterday reminded me that he exists.

Way back in early 2012, when I was frolicking with kangaroos in Australia, a young Norwegian man named Anders contacted me to tell me how much he enjoyed my blog, which he’d been reading frequently during his own round-the-world trip. As he shared stories of his trip, which took him many places I hadn’t yet been, I found myself most intrigued by his photos of red-face macaques bathing in hot springs – I knew I had to see them one day.

In the meantime, Anders and I struck up an online friendship, which quickly led to him inviting me to stay with him, should I ever find myself in Norway. As luck would have it, Oslo proved to be the cheapest airport for inbound flights during the dates I wanted to visit Europe that summer and so, one cold morning in early June (this was in Norway, remember), Anders and I met face-to-face.

I won’t go too much into the gory details of what happened (I already did that in another post), except to say that I had the wrong idea about the type of meeting Anders wanted to have. He was flirty online and downright romantic in person, but when I tried to make a move, he claimed he was simply trying to be a good host – I guess you could say he made a monkey out of me!

Speaking of which, here are my pictures of Japan’s snow monkeys.

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How to See Japanese Snow Monkeys

If you have a heart, you have now added Japan’s snow monkeys to your bucket list, so please allow me to explain how to see them. Japanese snow monkeys (officially, the Japanese Macaque) reside all over Japan’s Alpine region, but if you want to see them bathing in a mountain onsen, you need to head to Jigokudani Yaenkoen National Park.

(If the snow is as important to you as the monkeys themselves, you also need to visit in winter – I obviously didn’t, what with my desire to see the rest of Japan during cherry blossom season.)

The nearest city to the Japanese snow monkeys is Nagano, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. From Nagano Station, you can either (A) take a direct bus to the parking lot for Jigokudani Yaenkoen, from which it’s about 45 minutes on foot to the monkey onsen or (B) take the Nagano Electric Railway (which, FYI, is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass) about 50 minutes to Yudanaka, then a short bus ride to the aforementioned parking lot.


I personally opted not to stay in Nagano, but in Matsumoto, a smaller city about 50 minutes south of Nagano by train. Like Nagano, Matsumoto is a small city whose surrounding landscapes are much more interesting than itself. While Nagano has one main temple to its credit (remnants of the Olympics notwithstanding), Matsumoto is dominated by a 16th-century castle, appropriately called Matsumoto Castle, which you can see above.

Leave Your Daily Hell   Filed under: Japan

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is the author of 780 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen @ The Trusted Traveller April 22, 2014 at 4:37 am

Amazing! They almost look human, its kinda scary. Yet another reason why I need to go back to Japan. Oh well…..

Robert Schrader April 22, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Yeah, I’m already thinking about my second and third trips!

A neegah November 17, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Hairee azz mofo’s
Shiet, dats ass ass *gt it? Teehee ass my asshole.
No Seriously, Sharkesha get me the tweasers!

A neeguh

Carrick | Along for the Trip December 5, 2016 at 8:13 pm

Hi Robert!

We adored our time in the Japanese Alps this past March. We were there primarily on a spring break ski trip to the Hakuba Valley, but we couldn’t be so close to Nagano and not take the kids to visit the snow monkeys! In fact, we did it the day after we arrived and it was one of the best parts of our trip! You’ve really captured them well and it brings back many great memories.

There was a little one running around playing and my daughter sat a watched and he came running up and tapped her leg and ran off as if to say “Hey, you’re almost my size. Wanna play?” It was really great.

I’m disappointed that we missed the cherry blossoms by a week or two, but that just means we’ll have to return some day. Great post – thanks for sharing!

Safe travels


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