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October 22, 2020

Epic Japanese Snow Monkey Park | 3 Week Japan Road Trip

Snow Monkey Park in Japan by Annie MIller

Seeing the Jigokudani Monkey Park on the way from Nikko to Takayama was a non-negotiable for us. We were supposed to pick up my sister at the airport, and then haul balls to the monkey park. Since she forfeited the trip we had more time to visit the snow monkeys, as well as the Japanese alps!

The Jigokudani Monkey Park is famous. If you’re in Japan, you should go. From what we researched, the Monkeys are treated well. Meaning not treated at all. You simply go to view the monkeys. No feeding, no touching. Though, monkeys are curious and hilarious little bastards. We’ve had experiences with monkeys in other countries where they were much more aggressive. Here, they seemed to truly give no shits about us. They were at the hot springs to stay warm. Period.

Now, let’s get into some logistics:

Getting into the park – There is a parking lot at the bottom of a hill. It’s clearly marked. Then comes a walkway of under 15 minutes, I’d say. The forest and sounds are quite tranquil and the path is flat but MUDDY. This obviously depends on weather and time of year. But I was certainly happy to be wearing rain booties.

There are signs along the path leading to the official park entrance. I believe it was 800 yen for adults. If children had a price, I don’t remember it.

Time of year – We came in late March and it was not “snowy” but was decently cold. I imagine it is even more majestic in December to February when the temp is lower and there is snow on the ground. This is the typical photo you see [snow capped monkeys huddled together in the hot springs]. But even in early spring, there were plenty of monkeys to see.

Once you’re in, you’ll continue your walk to the monkeys for less than 5 minutes. We began seeing monkeys along the path, but the hot springs are the “end” of the trail. Once you cross the bridge, you’re there.

There was no limit as to how many people could be viewing the monkeys when we were there. But just based on the viewing platform and path size, there’s got to be a regulated occupancy during busy seasons. While our total time was 45 minutes to an hour, I’d expect longer than that in normal circumstances.

At the viewing deck, it’s all about watching the monkeys. Their bare faces are exposed to the cold, so they tend to keep their face close to the water. Many would lay down on the edge of the pool and let the steam warm their faces. It was adorable, and awesome. Once you’ve snapped some photos, logged some video, and stared at the creatures for long enough, you’re done! Back to the car and on to Shin-Hotaka Ropeway in the Northern Japanese Alps…if you’re following our itinerary.

Viewing the monkey at the Jigokudani Monkey Park by Annie Miller
Annie Miller inside the Jigokudani Monkey Park
the monkeys staying warm by the hot springs by Annie Miller
Monkeys enjoying the hot springs in jigokudani monkey park
Monkeys living their best lives by Annie Miller

Shin-Hotaka Ropeway [Japanese Northern Alps]

Cost: 600-800 yen per adult for a round trip ticket

While we visited the monkey park and ropeway on our from Nikko to Takayama, you could visit these from either Nikko, or Takayama as well.

There may not have been snow at the hot springs but it was in fact, SNOWING, as we arrived to the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway. With that snow, came a dense fog. We couldn’t even see the ropeway or even a glimpse of mountains from the bottom…

Luckily, that’s because the fog was sitting low, tucked in the valley of the mountains. Once in the cable car, we rose above the fog and could see the snow kissed alps. BLESS.

The fog and clouds were moving FAST. Every photo I took was different. You don’t see a photo from the top here. That’s because as we got off the cable car and entered the viewing deck, wind and snow had all but covered the mountains. So the best views were literally from inside the cable car. Which was fine by us. We’re just happy we got to see them at all!

Riding the cable car in the Japanese Alps with Annie MIller
Amazing view of the snow covered Japanese Alps from the Cable car by Annie MIller
Fog sitting over the Japanese Alps by Annie Miller

Snow Monkeys and Alps were enough adventure for the Millers. Especially considering these were simply pit-stops on the way from Nikko to Takayama. The sights get even more epic in Takayama. That’s up next during our three week Japanese road trip. Stay tuned.

If you ever travel to Japan, go see the snow monkeys. Pin this for later!

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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