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Jigokudani Yaen-koen

Nagano

Watch the snow monkeys bathing!
You'll feel like you're in heaven in the extreme cold of Hell Valley

This is a monkey park in the north of Nagano Prefecture, where the snow lies deep in winter. It is famous worldwide as a place where you can observe the Japanese macaques, or "snow monkeys", as they bathe in the hot spring amid the snow. Located in the Yokoyu River canyon, 850 m above sea level, it was given the name Jigokudani (Hell Valley) because of the steam from the hot spring that rises up everywhere along the vertical cliffs. The surrounding natural environment is also very unusual, and is covered in snow for almost one-third of the year. The snow reaches more than a meter deep, and it is a place of extreme cold, with temperatures as low as -10 °C having been recorded there.

Even in spring, when the migratory birds return, snow still remains in Jigokudani, and one needs the same warm clothing as in the middle of winter. This is the time when the monkeys give birth, so you might be able to see cute little baby monkeys in the hot spring. In June, the mountain hydrangea bloom all around, but it is still cool even at this time of year, and it is only in July that the song of the cicadas finally echoes around the valley, heralding the advent of summer. The short summer ends in mid-August when fall arrives, along with the autumn darter dragonflies, which flit about the valley. Finally, in December, it becomes a world enclosed by snow once more, as the harsh winter approaches.

The Japanese macaque is a species unique to Japan, and this is the coldest area in the world in which any monkeys live. Monkeys are wild animals, so there are a few simple rules that should be observed to ensure your safety. These include the following: do not show them food, do not touch them, do not threaten them, do not look them directly in the eye, do not approach them, and do not bring other animals into the park.

Information

Address: 6845 Yamanouchi-mach, Shimotakai-gun, Nagano
Phone: 0269-33-4379
Hours open to visitors: Summer (roughly April - October): 08:30-17:00; Winter (roughly November - March): 09:00-16:00. May change without notice, depending on the weather, the season, and the behavior of the Japanese macaques.
Admission Fee: 500 yen (adults), 250 yen (children)
Closed: Open all year
Directions: (Train) 1 hour by bus from Yudanaka Station (2 hours 50 minutes from Tokyo) on the Nagano Electric Railway Yudanaka Line; alight at Kanbayashi Onsen, then 30 minutes on foot. (Car) 20 minutes from Shinshu-Nakano interchange on the Joshin-etsu Expressway (some sections may be closed to traffic in winter).

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