Thursday, 7 June 2012

How to see Japan’s Snow Monkeys on a day trip from Tokyo

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You’ve seen the photos of these cute, pink-faced hairy monkeys with frosted whiskers bathing in steaming hot springs in the middle of the snow? You can visit them all-year-round at ‘Hell’s Valley’ near Nagano on a day trip from Tokyo – it’s a bit of an expedition, but here’s how;

The Snow Monkeys, Japanese Macaques, live at Jigokudani Yaen-Koen Park near Nagano which is easily reachable from Tokyo by Shinkansen train, from JR Tokyo Station. There are around 25 trains throughout the day, and the journey takes around 90-100 minutes each way, you can use a JR Rail Pass on most of the Shinkansen trains except for the super-fast Nozumi ones. If you do not have a pass, the ride is around 8,000 yen.

From Nagano Station, look for the Zenkoji exit from the station and the subway for the Nagano Dentetsu train (Nagano Electric Railway, a private railway so you cannot use a JR Rail Pass) to Yudanaka, this takes approx 50 minutes and costs 1,230 yen each way, and there are 7 express trains per day, at 0908, 1046, 1208, 1338, 1457, 1714 and 1941. The return Nagano Dentetsu trains back from Yudanaka to Nagano are at 0934, 1011, 1138, 1327, 1446, 1556, 1818 and 2049. In addition to these express trains there are slower ones in between that take about 20 minutes longer.

From Yudanaka, take a bus or taxi to Kanbayashi Onsen. From there, it’s about a 30 min walk to the Jigokudani Yaen-koen entrance, entrance 500 yen adults, 250 yen children, open 9-4 November to March, and 8.30-5 April to October. There’s no snow obviously in the summer, but the scenery of Hell’s Valley is still spectacular.

When you get to the park, there are pathways through the forest and to the special hot bath that was built for the monkeys, you’ll see them lazing in there and in the trees and as you walk around. There are about 200 monkeys living here and roaming free through the park, they are perfectly friendly and you’ll be able to get very close to them, although you should not try to feed them. You should allow a couple of hours to explore the park, you will need footwear that can cope with lots of snow in the winter, mud and monkey poo the rest of the year!

If you would like help planning a private day tripin Japan from Tokyo or Kyoto, please see our website or email us at ReadyClickAndGo arranges private day tourswith your own English-speaking guide in Japan and throughout Asia.

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