Japan is home to one of few places where you can actually see and interact with wild monkeys! Though, while this may already sound exciting, how many of you have ever seen a monkey taking a bath in a hot spring (Onsen)? The place is called Jigokudani, a world famous national park visited by thousands of tourists every year in the heart of the Nagano prefecture.

The Japanese Macaques, or more commonly referred to as Snow Monkeys, live in the surrounding forests of Jigokudani Park. They descend during the day to lounge in the hot springs, literally appearing just as if humans were to be taking a bath. I can say personally, it’s one of the weirdest though exhilarating feeling to witness this. Depending on the day, there can be as many as 100 or more seen gathered around the pools. Due to the growing popularity, the Snow Monkeys have become very use to their human visitors. This close relationship allows for plenty of interaction and awesome up-close photo shoots.

Getting to Jigokudani can be a bit of a challenge but is well worth the effort. There are several options to get there from Osaka area, so depending on how much you’re willing to spend will determine your travelling time.

Here’s my recommended route from Osaka:

  • Book a day bus from Osaka (or Kyoto if available) to JR Nagano station. I suggest using Willer Express but ask an RA for help with this.
    Approximate Cost: ¥2500-¥3000 ($25-$30)
    Approximate Travel Time: 3 Hours
    Take the earliest bus possible if you’re planning on returning the same day.
  • From JR Nagano Station, catch the Limited Express Line to Yudanaka Station.
    Approximate Cost: ¥1160 ($12)
    Approximate Time: 47 Minutes
  • From there, catch the NagaDen, (Nagano Dentetsu bus) to Kanbayashi. This is kind of like your base camp. This bus is bound for Shiga Kogen, exit at the Kanbayashi stop.
    Approximate Cost: ¥1300
    Approximate Time: 30 Minutes

 

Once you’ve reached Kanbayashi, there is only about a half hour scenic walk through the forest to reach the hot springs in Jigokudani Park. Entrance fee to the park is costs only ¥500. Arriving early gives you plenty of time to spend in the park and catch the return buses if you don’t plan on spending the night in the area.

 

Useful Links:

  • http://www.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/english/html/top_e.htm
  • http://willerexpress.com/en/
  • http://www.hyperdia.com

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