Japan is famous for its hot springs but I'm sure you've heard of a Monkey Onsen. More specifically, snow monkeys (Japanese Macaques) bathing in an Onsen. Yeah, you can go to one yourself but have you seen these cute furry fellas enjoying a hot dip? Because it is one of the best experiences to have and something you shouldn't miss out if you're in Japan.
The Japanese Macaques inhabits various mountainous regions. Contrary to their name, they can also be found in more humid areas of Japan. Their main features include grey fluffy fur and bright red faces.
In this blog, I will tell you the best places to see a Monkey Onsen in Japan so do continue reading!
Where and when to go to see Monkey Onsen in Japan?
Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
Without a doubt, this is the most popular and arguably the best place to see Monkey Onsen in Japan. The Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is located in Nagano within Shiga Kogen National Park which is perfect if you have any plan to hike, ski or snow surfing close to Tokyo. Interestingly Jigokudani translates to "Valley of Hell" due to the number of volcanic activities, steam and hot water that escapes its harsh environment.
Within the park lies a man-made onsen especially dedicated to the snow monkeys which can be found a few steps from the entrance of the park. Tourists will notice that the monkeys travel in groups and interact with each other very interestingly, worthy of many humorous pictures. Don't try to touch or feed them though as it is prohibited.
There is an information center mostly in Japanese which can be found at the entrance and the park even has a camera-equipped that monitors the snow monkeys to see if they are bathing or not.
How can you use this?
Well naturally, the monkeys have their own schedule and although park staffs sometimes interfere, it is preferable to let them roam free. So if you don't see any of these furry fellas on the camera then maybe you should come back another day if you don't see any of them on-screen.
|Address||6845 Hirao, Yamanochi-machi Shimotakai-gun, Nagano|
Open all year round
Saturday ( 9:0 AM ~ 4:0 PM )
|Ticket Fees||Adult: 800 YEN
Children: 400 YEN
10 min by car from Yudanaka Station on Nagano Dentetsu Nagano Line
|Website||Jigokudai National Monkey Park|
Perhaps you're in Hokkaido and can't make the trip back to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, then Yunokawa Onsen could be an option if you still want to see a Snow Monkey onsen in Japan. Yunokawa Onsen has a natural Snow Monkey Onsen that is a lot less crowded, but sadly it is quite compact and unhygienic for the monkeys so we don't recommend going here if possible. After you see the onsen there is also a botanical garden and footbaths that are much more well maintained in comparison to the hot spring.
|Address||Yunokawacho, Hakodate 042-0932, Hokkaido|
Time to visit: Winter
Winter is the best time to visit these onsens as the surroundings will be cloaked in white which creates a beautiful scenery and the snow monkeys will be more relaxed. They will also bath in the onsen a lot more which will give you more opportunities to take pictures.
Alternatives to Monkey Onsen?
Maybe you're visiting Japan during the other seasons when visiting a Snow Monkey Onsen is not very unfavorable or you might simply want to see a Snow Monkeys minus the onsen. Then there are still other locations you can visit if you wish to see the Japanese Macaques in their natural uncaged environment as well.
Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
Just within Kyoto, there lies a monkey park over 6000 square meter at Iwatayama. Roughly 120 macaque monkeys are living here and you can see them outside of cages, without any barriers and even feed them! Atop of the park is a splendid panoramic view of Kyoto with coin-operated binoculars and if you're lucky, while you're using these a monkey might want to switch with you!
The hike atop of the mountain is a wonderful experience best enjoyed during the cherry blossom season or Fall when the foliage gathers.
|Address||8 Arashiyama Genrokuzancho Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-0007|
|Opening Hours||Saturday ( 9:0 AM ~ 4:30 PM )
Sunday ( 9:0 AM ~ 4:30 PM )
Weekdays ( 9:0 AM ~ 4:30 PM )
In case of heavy rain or other inclement weather, the park will be closed
|Fees||Adult: 550 YEN
Children: 250 YEN
|Website||Arashiyama Monkey Park|
Mt.Takao Monkey Park
高尾山, Takaomachi, Hachioji-shi, Tokyo
Zoos across Japan
Most zoos in Japan have some species of mountain monkeys, finding wild ones near big city centers such as Tokyo is quite difficult. Depending on the location, certain zoos may bring out a hot tub or pool during winter for the snow monkey to bathe in!
|Address||Ueno Zoo, 9-83, Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo|
Tuesday ( 9:30 AM ~ 5:0 PM )
Please check the calendar on the zoo website since depending on the date, there may be some Mondays during which the zoo is open
|Fees||Adult: 600 JPY
Junior high school students 200 yen (free for students living or attending school in Tokyo) Elementary school students and younger are free to enter
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