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How to get to the Snow Monkeys this Winter

December 8th, 2010 by Tyler
Category Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

As the famed “Snow Monkeys” of the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park are starting to get their namesake snow this winter, it’s time to take a look at how to actually make the trek to go see them.

Nagano Dentetsu, the main source of public transportation up to the Jigokudani snow monkeys, annonced their new winter schedule, with the changes effective 04-December 2010.

Getting to the monkey park from Nagano Station can be confusing — do you take a bus or train? And if you go by train, how do you get to the park from the end of the line, Yudanaka Station? As many of our guests here at Kamesei Ryokan make day trips to see the snow monkeys, I made a graph that matches up the trains from our local Togura Station to the busses and trains from Nagano Station.  Here’s the graph.  Just ignore the Togura parts if you’re originating from Nagano Station.  And please note that these are just sample times based around going up in the morning and coming back down in the afternoon.  There are other busses and trains at earlier and later times.

From Nagano Station
Basically there are three options to get from Nagano Station to the snow monkey park:

1. Express Bus to Kanbayashi (1300 yen)
NagaDen Bus operates 8+ busses a day during the winter from Nagano Station’s East Exit up to the ski fields at Shiga Kogen. They stop at Kanbayashi Onsen (“Kanbayashi Onsen Guchi” stop) which is in the vicinity of the Kanbayashi trailhead. From there it is a 30 minute, mostly flat ‘promenade’ through a beautiful cedar forest.

2. Train to Yudanaka (1,130~1,230 yen)
Nagano Dentetsu provides train service to Yudanaka and Shibu, a pair of classic onsen towns. Service is more frequent than the above-mentioned express busses, and you can choose between local trains (1,130 yen, approx. 1 hour 15 min.) and express trains (add’l 100 yen, as fast as 45 minutes).
NOTE: From Yudanaka Station to the monkey park, you can choose from the following:
A. Local Bus (210 yen)
Roughly matching up with the train arrivals, local busses connect Yudanaka Station to the Kanbayashi trailhead in a quick 7 minutes.
B. “Holiday Shuttle” (800 yen)
Shibu Onsen provides a “Holiday Shuttle” bus from Yudanaka Station directly to the Jigokudani Parking Lot. It is closer to the monkey park entrance than Kanbayashi (15 minutes walk vs. 30 minutes), but is a lot steeper of a walk. Reservations Recommended (tel# 0269-33-3600). The Shuttle runs on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays from December to March, with 6 runs each direction per day.

3. Chuo Taxi (from 2,722 yen per person round trip)
Chuo Taxi is offering a new, hassle-free taxi trip to the snow monkey park from Nagano Station. The cost is 17,000 yen for a regular taxi (4~5 people) or 24,500 yen for a jumbo taxi (~9 people) including transportation to Kanbayashi and back, and stand-by time so you can enjoy the monkeys for an hour. Call 026-282-7777 for reservations.

Finally, two last pieces of advice:  Make sure you have proper footwear (the trail can be slippery and slidey in the winter), and make sure to charge you


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59 Responses to “How to get to the Snow Monkeys this Winter”

  1. Tyler says:

    Theresa-san, Thanks for your enthusiastic response to the Go-Nagano site. To answer your questions, the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park is open year-round. From Nagano Station to the park, unfortunately your JR Rail Pass won’t help. Chuo Taxi may be a cheaper option with your party’s size, depending on the number of family members under age 12. I would send them an e-mail to verify their current pricing. The trailhead they would drop you off at is Kanbayashi Onsen, from which it is a 30-minute walk to the monkey park. The Nagano Dentetsu bus and train/bus options would also get you to Kanbayashi Onsen. The only way to get closer to the monkey park is to take Snow Monkey Shuttle operated by Shibu Onsen. It departs from Yudanaka Station (approx. 50-60 minutes from Nagano Station by Nagano Dentetsu express train) and will presumably run on Jan 2-4th (their 2015 schedule hasn’t been released yet but they’ve offered it on those dates in years past). That would get you to the monkey park’s parking lot which is otherwise closed in the winter. That trailhead is twice as close to the park (approx. 15 min. on foot) but is considerably steeper. I hope this info is helpful!

  2. Yukihiko says:


    How to get to the Snow Monkeys this Winter « Nagano Ambassadors Blog…

  3. dreamies says:

    Hi, thank you for the detailed explanation on the bus route. Will there be any English announcement in the bus before the stop? I’m worried if I will get off at the wrong bus stop.

  4. Sylvia says:

    Hi…we will be in Japan from Nov 30 to Dec 8 and would like to see the snow monkeys.
    Will it be snowing during this period?

    Looking forward to hearing from you soon

  5. Blair says:

    Hi Sylvia,

    Thanks for your question. You’ll be in Nagano during the very beginning of winter, so I can’t guarantee that there will be a lot of snow then, but there will probably be a few snow showers and a thin blanket of snow on the ground. Usually Nagano’s snow season begins in mid to late-December. I hope that helps answer your question, and enjoy your stay in Nagano!

    -Blair Guardia

  6. Lam says:

    Do you know if winter in Nagano is wet or dry? I am just trying to make sure we are warm enough.

  7. Blair says:

    Good question! Usually, January is the driest month of the winter and it becomes somewhat wetter into February and March. Generally, you’ll want to bring enough warm clothing for Celsius sub-zero temperatures, especially if you’ll be up in the mountains. Water-proof clothing is helpful, but not necessary for everyday activities.

    Hope that helps answer your question!

    Blair Guardia

  8. Angela Owen says:

    Hi. We will be arriving in Yudanaka on the 1st of January, and we are worried nothing will be open. Are the trains running from Nagoya to Yudanaka? Is the park open on New Year’s Day?

    Thank you in advance.


  9. Blair says:

    The park is open year-round and only closes for inclimate weather. Trains have separate holiday schedules, but shouldn’t be noticeably different. Some restaurants in the area may be closed for the holidays, but otherwise you should have no trouble visiting the Snow Monkey park.

    -Blair Guardia

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