The famous Japanese Snow Monkeys bathing in the hot thermal springs on frigid winter days is one of the most iconic pictures of Japan. The snow monkeys in Japan live in areas where snow covers the ground for months every year. These monkeys are famously iconic and a must-see if one visits Japan.

When Ethiopia is stable again, be sure to visit the equally curious Gelada Monkeys who inhabit the high grasslands of the deep gorges in the Ethiopian highlands. In Thailand, there have been reports of monkeys "revolting" due to the decrease of food given to them with the drop in tourists from the pandemic.

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About The Japanese Snow Monkeys

The snow monkeys are terrestrial Old World monkeys native to Japan and are the northernmost species of monkey as well as the one that lives in the coldest climate.

  • Name: Their Proper Name is The Japanese Macaque or Scientifically the Macaca Fuscata
  • Japanese Name: In Japanese, They are Called Nihonzaru ニホンザル From "Nihon" 日本 "Japan" + "saru" 猿 "monkey"

Snow monkeys are sexually dimorphic with males weighing an average of 11.3 kg (25 lb), while females average 8.4 kg (19 lb). Snow monkeys from colder climates are generally larger than those from warmer areas.

  • Temperature: Snow Monkeys Can Cope With Temperatures As Low As −20 °C (−4 °F)
  • Lifespan: 28 Years For Males, 32 Years for Females

The snow monkeys live in matrilineal societies with females staying in their groups for life while the males move out before they sexually mature (a little like elephants). A female's rank depends on her mother and is stable in the group hierarchy while the troop is led by an alpha male.

  • Range: They Are Found On Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu (not Hokkaido)

Their range covers three of the four main Japanese home islands - Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu - including Shimokita Peninsula the northernmost point of Honshu but they are absent from the northernmost main island Hokkaido.

  • Population: Estimated 114,431 (In 1989)

They live in a range of habitats on the Japanese islands including subtropical forests in southern Japan to subarctic forests in the mountainous parts of the northern Honshu.

As humans have modernized and ceased to be a threat to the monkeys, they have lost their fear of humans. Consequently, they have increased their presence in urban areas - one macaque was even recorded as having been living in central Tokyo for several months.

Related: Why Tiny Gibraltar Is Worth Visiting (And How You Can See Its Resident Monkeys)

Jigokudani Monkey Park aka Snow Monkey Park

Perhaps the most famous image of the snow monkeys is that of them soaking in the warm springs on cold days in the Jigokudani Monkey Park. The Jigokudani Monkey Park is located at the base of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park (and is often just called the Snow Monkey Park).

  • Snow Monkey Park: Where One Can See The Monkeys Bathing In The Hot Pools

The park was created in 1964 as a conservation area for the monkeys. The ever-curious monkeys observed humans using the hot spring at the nearby guesthouse and monkey see, monkey do. Before long they started copying human behaviors and the rest is history.

  • Monkey See, Monkey Do: The Monkeys Have Copied The Humans in Soaking in the Hot Springs

Here one can see the wild monkeys bathing in the natural hot spring, the park has one man-made pool in which the monkeys gather.

To get to it one must walk along the path and one is likely to see a number of monkeys along the way. They are very much used to people and basically just ignore them.

  • Forbidden: It Is Forbidden To Feed or Pet The Monkeys
  • Walk: It is A 1.6 KM or 1 Mile Walk-Up An Unsealed Trail To Get To The Pool

The park is located at an elevation of 850 meters and is a fairly harsh environment in the winter with snow covering the ground for around a third of the year. The name of the park "Jigokudani" translates as "Hell's Valley" due to the steep cliffs and the hot water steaming up.

Related: Everything You Should Know About Going To Bali’s Sacred Monkey Forest

1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake In Nagano

There are plenty of tours to see the snow monkeys. This day tour offered by Snow Monkey Resorts is one of many tours that they offer. On this tour, one can see the highlights of Nagano. Start by visiting the iconic Zenko-ji Temple – one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples in Japan.

Afterward, enjoy sake (Japanese rice wine) tasting and lunch and then head to the Snow Monkey Park. The tour guide is a locally-based English-speaking guide.

  • See: Snow Monkey Park and Zenko-ji
  • Starting Point: Nagano Station
  •  Time: From 9.35 am to 5.35 pm
  • When: All Year Round

Price:

  • Adult: 15,500 JPY ($135) (Aged 13 and Over)
  • Child: 11,000 JPY ($95) (Aged 6 to 12)

Next: Wondering Where To See The Famous Komodo Dragon?