It is not difficult to see why countless visitors flock to the famous “hell” in Nagano Prefecture especially in winter.
The world-famous “Snow Monkey Park” is located in the Valley of Yokoyu River in northern Nagano, where steep cliffs and steaming hot springs in the area resemble harsh hell-like conditions — but in a picturesque kind of way. Hence the park name Jigokudani, which literally means “Hell Valley” in Japanese.
Thanks to the heavy snow that the park receives each year, we are able to watch families of Japanese macaque monkeys happily bathe in roasting hot springs up close.
The drive up to Jigokudani through a mountainous forest is quite bendy and narrow. But once you arrive, you will instantly realize the changes in your surrounding landscape. Suddenly, there are only cliffs, rivers and steam coming from small hot springs.
The park is open all-year-round and is beautiful in all seasons. Winter, though, is by far the best season to visit as the snow monkeys are most likely to be bathing in the hot springs, which is listed as one of GaijinPot’s Travel’s iconic cultural experiences. Needless to say, the bathing monkeys are cute to watch. Monkey babies napping on their mother’s tummy also makes an adorable scene.
There are over 160 snow monkeys at Jigokudani. Visitors can get close, but make sure you don’t touch or feed them. (There are plenty of staff members checking human behaviors.)
Unfortunately, the outdoor hot bath is only for the monkeys, but there is no need to be jealous. You can take a dip in the ryokan (Japanese style inn) called Jigokudani Onsen Korakukan, which is on your way to the park entrance.
If you’d like more hot spring options, know that you’re in a hot spring town already! Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen are two other popular destinations in the Yamanouchi area, so make sure you take your time and soak in the Nagano vibes besides adoring fluffy, pink-faced snow monkeys.