Discover the Unique Behaviors and Conservation Success of Japan’s Famous Snow Monkeys
Nestled in the heart of Japan’s picturesque Nagano Prefecture lies a hidden gem that draws travelers from around the globe. It’s a place where the line between wildlife and serene landscapes blurs into a captivating spectacle, and the stars of the show are none other than the famous Jigokudani snow monkeys.
Unlocking Nature’s Secrets
Imagine a troop of Japanese macaques leisurely soaking in natural hot springs while snowflakes gently descend from the winter sky. This idyllic scene is a reality at the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, where these remarkable primates exhibit a behavior found nowhere else on Earth.
Survival Strategy in Subzero Temperatures
For the snow monkeys, hot spring bathing isn’t just about leisure; it’s a matter of survival. The harsh winters of the Jigokudani area can plunge temperatures far below freezing. Seeking warmth, the snow monkeys discovered the therapeutic embrace of these steaming hot springs, creating a unique blend of nature and adaptation.
Established in 1964, the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park was born from a desire to protect and study these captivating creatures. Over the decades, the park’s diligent conservation efforts have yielded remarkable results. The once-vulnerable snow monkey population has grown, turning this area into a thriving sanctuary for these magnificent animals.
Day 1: Tokyo to Yudanaka
Date: February 6th
Morning: Departure from Tokyo
– Start your photography tour bright and early at 6:00 AM.
– Head to Tokyo Station, where you’ll board a Shinkansen (bullet train) bound for Nagano. The journey from Tokyo to Nagano takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.
Late Morning: Arrival in Nagano
– Upon arriving in Nagano, transfer to the Nagano Dentetsu Line, a local train that will take you to Yudanaka Station. The journey is approximately 45 minutes.
Afternoon: Explore Yudanaka
– Check-in at your chosen accommodation in Yudanaka, where you’ll drop off your luggage.
– Have a quick lunch at one of the local eateries or restaurants.
Early Evening: Visit Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
– The highlight of your day is the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, famous for its Japanese macaques (snow monkeys) that bathe in natural hot springs during the winter. We visit snow monkeys 2 times – in the afternoon and in the morning next day!
– Capture stunning photographs of these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. Remember to respect their space and follow park rules.
Evening: Return to Yudanaka
– After your photography session with the snow monkeys, return to Yudanaka.
– Enjoy a relaxing soak in the town’s own onsens (hot springs) to unwind from your day’s adventure and capture some evening shots if you’re up for it.
Day 2: Monkeys’ wake up and Yudanaka to Tokyo
Date: February 7th
Morning: Sunrise at Shibu Onsen
– Wake up early to capture the beautiful sunrise at Shibu Onsen, a traditional hot spring town near Yudanaka.
– Explore the charming streets, which are dotted with traditional ryokans and picturesque scenes.
Late Morning: Breakfast and walk to monkeys
– Have a traditional Japanese breakfast at your ryokan or a local cafe.
– Check out of your accommodation and leave your luggage with them.
Mid-Morning: Explore the Snowy Landscape and monkeys repeated
– Take a leisurely walk around Yudanaka to capture the scenic snowy landscapes and charming architecture. This is an excellent opportunity for some winter-themed shots. We will travel through the magical winter forest to be the first at monkeys home porch at 9 am 🙂
Enjoy your time with monkeys – allowing yourself plenty of time!
Lunch: Local Cuisine
– Enjoy a hearty lunch at a local restaurant, savoring regional specialties like soba noodles or tempura.
Afternoon: Yudanaka to Tokyo
– Retrieve your luggage and head back to Yudanaka Station.
– Take the Nagano Dentetsu Line back to Nagano Station.
– Board the Shinkansen from Nagano Station to Tokyo Station. The journey takes around 1.5 to 2 hours.
Late Afternoon: Arrival in Tokyo
– Arrive in Tokyo in the late afternoon or early evening, depending on your chosen train.
– Your two-day photography tour to the snow monkeys in Japan concludes upon your return to Tokyo. Next day we start main tour to Hokkaido!
Additional Tips and Information:
– Make sure to dress warmly with layered clothing, as Nagano can be quite chilly in February.
– Don’t forget your camera equipment, including telephoto lenses and a tripod for photographing the snow monkeys.
– Yudanaka offers a variety of accommodations, from traditional ryokans to more modern hotels. Book your stay in advance.
– While in Yudanaka, try some local sake or hot apple wine to keep warm.
– Remember to check the train schedules in advance to ensure smooth transfers.
– Respect the wildlife and follow the guidelines at Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park to minimize disturbance to the animals.
– Capture the essence of winter in Japan by photographing the snow-covered landscapes, traditional architecture, and local customs in Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen.
Total price (twin shared hotel rooms): 950 USD
Single supplement +300 USD if you wish to have a single room in Yudanaka
- Accommodation double/twin rooms in Yudanaka one night
- Shinkansen and local train return tickets
- Tranfers from train station to hotel in Yudanaka and from Yudanaka to the gate of hiking trail to monkeys
- dinner 6th and breakfast 7th, lunch 7th, non-alchohol drinks,
- all transportation during the tour
- photography tuition,
- entrance fees to monkey park and all local taxes.
Not included in the price:
– Airfare international and local
– Visas (if applicable)
– Single supplement
– Hotel in Tokyo, snacks on the train and breakfast on 6th
What to bring
– DSLR or mirrorless camera with tripod and remote shutter release
– A wide angle lens. For example, Nikkor 14-24 or Canon 17-40. Best lens for use in wide-angle scenes or architecture photography
– A middle-zoom lens such as a 24-70 mm
– A telephoto zoom lens, such as a 70-200 mm (enough for monkeys). Be sure to have additional tripod mount to this lens.
Landscape and travel photographer based in Bali, Indonesia. Partner with Iceland photo tours, instagram @Danielkordan with 1.8 Million followers, Nikon and Gitzo ambassador.