Nagano, Japan’s Spa-Loving Snow Monkeys
Snow Monkeys in Nagano- Located towards the bottom of the Joshinestu Kogen park, the Snow Monkey Park is home to one of the world’s most remarkable animal adventures.
It’s always been one of my greatest bucket list adventures to see the monkeys up close, and when planned well, it’ll be something you’ll never forget.
The park was established in 1964 as a conservation area for Japanese Macaques monkeys to have a safe haven within their natural habitat. When loggers developing ski resorts threatened their forest home, they began to migrate into Jigokudani and nearby farmland, where they were lawfully hunted to protect their crops.
After observing people soaking in the nearby hot springs, the monkeys began to mimic their habit and have become the only monkeys in the world known to enjoy bathing in individual enjoys.
Sogo Hara, a local, led the initiative to construct a monkey park where they could be protected, and baths were built specifically for the monkeys utilising the local hot spring supply.
Fencing was considered to keep the monkeys away from neighbouring settlements, but it was rejected since it would limit their independence. As a result, the daily practice of feeding the monkeys raw barley and soybeans began to keep them within the park rather than in the villages where they were considered pests.
Kyoto University in Japan has published research to scientifically prove the benefits of the monkeys’ behaviour. Researchers believe that because the monkeys have thicker and longer fur in the winter, they maintain their usual body heat and are the only group of monkeys known to require hot spring bathing. When a juvenile female was seen in an outside thermal spring belonging to a nearby hotel in 1963, other monkeys quickly copied her, and finally, one in every three females bathed frequently in winter.
Female snow monkeys use the recent spring more frequently in winter than in spring, lowering stress hormone levels in those females. Trading social status for the benefits of hot springs has proven beneficial for energy conservation by minimising heat loss and stress levels.
Nagano Snow Monkeys
The park, which is located within the Valley of the Yokoyu River, earned its name from the valley’s sheer cliffs and the river’s gushing hot water. Locals called this region Hell Valley because of its towering cliffs, dense forests, and steam and boiling water gushing from the frozen ground.
The snow monkeys enjoy soaking themselves in the cold and heavy snow of winter, thus the best time to visit is during the winter when there is snow on the ground.
You’re not always guaranteed to view the monkeys, so try to go during the high winter season. There’s also a webcam that shows how many monkeys are now inhabiting the recent springs.
Gather early, before it opens at 9 a.m., and you’ll get a genuine quarter-hour alone with the monkeys before the people arrive. By noon, it’s a true zoo. Monkeys want to leave the world and return to the mountain in the afternoon, and they are frequently coerced by food to stay for the tourists’ enjoyment, which is not the most ethical way to see nature.
The greatest option is to stay the first night of a Ryokan. My recommendation is to stay at Kanbayashi Hotel Senjukaku, a favourite of the Imperial family and a top-tier ryokan with hot springs, superb kaiseki-style dining, an indoor pool, and other amenities.