How to get to the Snow Monkeys this Winter

December 8th, 2010 by
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

168 Responses to “How to get to the Snow Monkeys this Winter

  1. 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!

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  3. 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. 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. 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. 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

  7. 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.


  8. 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

  9. Greetings! We are going to be in Japan this spring, late March – April (2016) and we would like to include the park in our trip. We could take a day trip from Tokyo, but we will also be in Matsumoto, which looks much closer.
    Is there direct transportation from Matsumoto to Nagano? How long is the trip?
    Our next destination after Matsumoto will be Takayama. I see that it is further away, but is the transportation easier from there?
    Also, will there be many monkeys to see in early April?

  10. You can travel to Nagano city from Matsumoto city by train. If you take the express the ride is 50 minutes, if you take local it will be about 80 minutes. From Nagano city you can take the Nagaden line (bus or train) to Yudanaka station (about 60 minutes), and then a local bus to the trailhead (10 minutes). The park is a 30 minute walk from the trailhead so your total travel time will be from 150-180 minutes. The monkeys generally stay there year-round, except for some absences during mating season.
    If you’re traveling to Takayama next, then I would recommend staying in Matsumoto. There are buses from Matsumoto that travel directly to Takayama (Alpico Bus Information), and Matsumoto is closer to Takayama than Nagano or the Monkey park are.

    I hope that answers your question!


  11. Hi there
    If i were to drive to the monkey park from Hakuba, where should I park my car so that it is nearest to the park and requires least time for walking? Thanks.

  12. Good morning!

    My name is Blair and I work for the Nagano prefectural tourism department. The closest parking to the Snow Monkey Park in winter is in the Kanbayashi Onsen area. There is a nice cafe right next to the parking lot, so you can find it easily by typing the cafe’s information into google maps (the English name alone should suffice).

    Cafe Enza (猿座)
    〒381-0401 長野県下高井郡

    From there, the park is approximately 30 minutes on foot through a beautiful cedar forest.


  13. Howdy. This is Tyler. In follow-up to Blair’s useful information, one more tidbit: Many cars have GPS systems where you can input a phone number, so Enza Cafe’s tel# may come in handy: 0269-38-1736.

    Also, maps for the snow monkey park may indicate the Jidokudani Toll Parking Lot which is closer to the park entrance. However, please note that the parking lot and the road to it are closed in the winter. So as Blair mentioned, the parking lot next to Enza Cafe is your best bet.

    Finally, make sure to dress warmly and wear sturdy shoes, as it will likely be cold and the path tends to be slippery in the winter.

    Please say ‘hi’ the monkeys for us!

  14. Sylvia-san, Thanks for your question about the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park, and as to whether or not the snow monkeys have snow or not. At this time of year, it is typical for it to snow, then melt, then snow again and melt again. The Park’s website has a live camera so you can see real-time whether or not there is currently any snow.

    Even in the summer time, though, the monkeys are pretty darn photogenic so if I were you, I wouldn’t let the lack of snow stop you from going!

  15. Hi, we plan to visit Jigokudani Wild Money Park during our stay in Nagano city from 29 January till 2 February 2016. As we are travelling with a child so would like to get off the nearest place to the Monkey Park entrance.

    Can you please advise which is more convenience and faster way to get there, by NagaDen Express Bus or Railway Ltd Express train (takes 50 mins)? I have checked the train schedule via Hyperdia and noticed there are only limited Railway Express train runs daily between Nagano and Yudanaka station which may not be that flexible or convenience compared to Express Bus. Is my understanding correct?

    We love snow!! Will it still snowing at monkey park during end January till early February 2016?

    After visited Monkey park, we would like to visit Yudanaka Shibu Onsen to experience the hotspring and have dinner before return to Nagano city. Appreciate your advise how do we get to Yudanaka Shibu Onsen and any recommendation on food or restaurant? Thank you very much!

  16. Ching-san,
    Thank you for your inquiry, and for your family’s interest in coming to see the snow monkeys. To answer your questions,
    Access to the monkey park from Nagano City is usually one of two ways:
    By Nagaden Express Bus, bound for Shiga Kogen,, 8 per day, departing from Nagano Station East Exit platform #3, approx. 40 minutes to “Snow Monkey Park” stop.
    By Nagaden Train, starts out as subway from Nagano Station Zenkoji Exit, 50 min. by express to Yudanaka, transfer to local bus bound for Kanbayashi Onsen and/or Shiga Kogen, get off at Kanbayashi Onsen (bus bound for Kanbayashi Onsen) or Snow Monkey Park (bus bound for Shiga Kogen) stop, approx. 5-15 min.

    If you can time your travel around the Express Bus schedule, it is quicker and requires fewer transfers. However, the Nagaden Train offers more frequent service (if considering locals as well as express trains).

    Regardless of whether express bus or train + local bus, you will still have to walk 30 minutes to the actual park entrance.

    The only exception is that on weekends and holidays, Shibu Onsen offers a special snow shuttle from Yudanaka Station to an alternate trailhead which is closer to the park. While this alternative offers a shorter hike (15 minutes instead of 30 minutes), please note that it is considerably steeper.

    Regarding snow, it would be very unusual for there not to be snow at the snow monkey park late January / early February.

    From the monkey park to Shibu-Yudanaka Onsen, it is possible to walk (approx. 4.5km, 1 hour to Yudanaka Station passing through Shibu Onsen, mostly all downhill) but may not be feasible if with child. From Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop, the local bus to Yudanaka Station would also stop at Shibu Onsen. From the Snow Monkey Park bus stop, the express bus would skip Shibu and go directly to Yudanaka Station.

    Alternatively, the afore-mentioned snow shuttle would stop at Shibu Onsen on the way to Yudanaka Station.

    As for a recommendation for a place to eat, our family enjoyed the new Koishiya Cafe in central Shibu Onsen. Funky nouveau interior and menu.

    I hope this info is helpful. If any other questions, feel free to ask!

  17. Dear Tyler,

    Thank you so much for your detailed explanations and advice. Greatly appreciate it.

    Just one more question, is it recommend to purchase the1 day Snow Monkey Pass if we plan to go to Monkey Park by Express Bus and return to Nagano city by Express Train with stop over at Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka? Can the Pass be purchased few days in advance? Thanks again for your kind advice.

  18. Ching-san, Thank you for your follow-up questions. 1-Day Snow Monkey Pass is only valid on the day of issue. If your itinerary is 1. Nagano Station – 2. Kanbayashi – 3. Jigokudani – 4. Kanbayashi – 5. Shibu / Yudanaka – 6. Nagano Station, and you wish you to use the 1-Day Pass, then the most feasible way would be Nagaden Express Bus bound for Shiga Kogen to Snow Monkey Park stop for 1. to 2., walk to 3., walk back to 4. local Nagaden bus to 5. Nagaden Train from Yudanaka Station to 6. Does that make sense? If any other questions, please let us know. I think you will enjoy experiencing both the frolicking of the snow monkeys and classic ambiance of Shibu Onsen.

  19. Hello,
    Just wondering what the easiest way to get to Jigokudani is, from Tokyo Station? I’m travelling by myself and am a bit worried about getting lost. I have been looking online to find the best options. I intend to go some time from January 2nd to January 6th.

    Thank you,

  20. Rebecca-san, Thank you for your question about getting to the Snow Monkey park from Tokyo. Easiest way is to take the Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo Station to Nagano Station, change to the Nagaden express bus bound for Shiga Kogen (departs from Nagano Station’s East Exit, platform 3), get off at the “Snow Monkey Park” stop. From there it is a 30 minute walk through a beautiful cedar forest. Please note that the trail can get messy this time of year, so sturdy footwear is recommended.

    For example, you could catch the Hokuriku Shinkansen “Kagayaki” No. 507, departs Tokyo Station 09:32, arrives Nagano Station 10:56. Then take the 11:15 Nagaden bus bound for Shiga Kogen, arriving Snow Monkey Park stop at 11:56.

    Please just promise me your visit to Nagano will only be a day trip to see the monkeys. The monkeys are cute, but there’s so much more to Nagano than just monkeys! Onsen baths, staying at a ryokan, eating soba, so much more!

  21. Thank you so much for your very informative response, Tyler. I do intend to go sightseeing around the area as well but I haven’t planned anything. I might think about getting there earlier then to leave room for the rest of the day. And ryokans are very nice. I started my journey in Osaka, am now in Kyoto, visited Nara and am going to Tokyo in a couple of days and nearby areas – I’m making a lot of it up as I go, actually.

    Thank you very much for your help!


  22. Greetings,

    I was wondering what the frequency of the bus going from Kanbayashi to Yudanaka Station will be tomorrow/today (1/9/16) between 4-6 pm? And similarly, what the frequency of the train from Yudanaka to the Nagano Station is like in the evening. I know this is a rather last minute question so I greatly appreciate it if you are able to answer promptly. Thank You!

  23. Rafael-san, Thank you for your emergency question. Here’s your emergency reply.

    First of all, for busses from Kanbayashi to Yudanaka Station, Nagaden Bus has 2 routes, as follows:
    1. “Kanbayashi-Nakano Line” (look for ‘Departs Kanbayashi Onsen’ 上林温泉発 and ‘Yudanaka Station’ 湯田中駅).
    2. “Shiga Kogen-Yudanaka Line” (look for ‘Snow Monkey Park’ to ‘Yudanaka Sta.’)

    Secondly, for train times from Yudanaka to Nagano Station, and/or for train times on any lines any where in Japan, we suggest

    Finally, as an alternative, you can take Nagaden Bus’s Shiga Kogen Express Bus directly from Kanbayashi (Snow Monkey Park stop) to Nagano Station.

    Hope that helps!

  24. Hi there

    I wanted to enquire about the Nagano Snow Resort pass.

    We will be staying in Happo One and are intending to visit Zenkoji and Jigokudani the day before we leave Happo by Alpico bus (Happo to Nagano).

    Can you let me know if I will be able to use the 2 day Nagano Snow Resort Pass on all the bus and train trips required to get to these destinations?

    Many thanks!

  25. Hi Erica,

    The short answer to your question is yes, you can use your pass for every method of transportation between Happo One and your destinations!

    To reach Nagano city, you will use the Nagano-Hakuba line Alpico bus from Happo One bus terminal. When you arrive in Nagano, you can take the local gururingo bus up to Zenkoji.
    Click here for the bus’s timetable.

    To reach the Snow Monkey park, take the Nagano dentetsu train line from Nagano city to Yudanaka station. Then take the bus to the Snow Monkey park stop. The park is then a 30-minute stroll through the forest. Or, you can take a bus directly from Nagano station to the Snow Monkey park stop.
    Click here for train and bus combo timetables.
    Click here for Nagano-Yudanaka bus timetable.

    These are all covered under your pass, so you don’t have to worry about any extra fares. To return to Hakuba from Nagano, see the first bus timetable above. I hope that answers your question!


  26. Hello,

    I am just wondering if there are any luggage storage facilities at the snow monkey park? We are heading back to Tokyo from Shiga Kogen with a stop to see the monkeys and will have a couple of large suitcases and don’t know what to do with them.


  27. James-san, Thanks for your inquiry. How’s the snow up at Shiga Kogen? To answer your question, I’m not aware of any luggage storage facilities near the Snow Monkey Park bus stop / Kanbayashi. There are coin lockers at Yudanaka Station but that would then require back-tracking to Kanbayashi. If I were you, I’d send the luggage via takkyubin to your hotel in Tokyo. Your accommodation in Shiga Kogen should be happy to arrange. Enjoy the monkeys!

  28. Pingback: Seeing Snow Monkeys in Nagano, Japan – Tokyo Becky

  29. Hi Blair
    I will be visiting Shiba Onsen (3 nights) from 22 March. Does the JR East Pass cover trip fron Nagano to Yudanaka station?

  30. Good day,

    Greetings here from the Philippines.

    We’re very happy to visit Japan (my wife and a friend) and participate in the prestigious TOKYO MARATHON event to be held on February 28. We availed the JR pass for our 7 day trip.

    Unfortunately, as much as we wanted to avail Japanican (or other tours) Snow Monkey Tours on Feb 29, they are already fully occupied. With this, i would like to inquire if it’s possible to visit Nagano/Jigokudani/Zenjoki without tour operator? Are there necessary documents, or Snow Monkey Pass needed?

    Thank you so much.

    More power to NAGANO.

    Best Regards,

  31. Dianne-san, Thank you for your question. Not sure how to respond, but I can tell you from my experience as an innkeeper in northern Nagano, we have guests coming from overseas to see the snow monkeys year-round, not just when there is snow. In fact, the monkeys that are born in spring time are quite enjoyable to watch. I hope that helps.

  32. Gino-san, How did the marathon go? Maybe some day you can try running the Nagano Marathon, too. For 2016, it will be held on April 17th. Anyways, Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park receives thousands of visitors each month. Only a fraction of those go by an organized tour. Most people go on their own, either by car or using Nagaden train or bus from Nagano Station. The Snow Monkey 1-day pass makes it easier, but is by no means required. Hope you enjoy the monkeys. (By the way, please note that Nagaden is not covered by the JR Rail Pass.)

  33. Lily-san, Nagaden (the operator of the train between Nagano Station and Yudanaka Station) is a private, non-JR company and is not covered by the JR Pass. Price is only 1160 yen each way using local train. Enjoy Shibu Onsen!

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  39. Hi there.! First,Sorry for my bad english. so i will go to the monkey park desember 4 2016, i have a question.. there will be no snow at that time?I loved to see snow but if there is no snow i will keep go there because of the monkey..i will use jr pass from kyoto to go to the park.. my jr pass will cover the trip? Can i buy the park ticket on the spot? Thanks!

  40. Chika-san, Thank you for your inquiry.
    To answer your questions,
    For early December at Jigokudani, I would say you have a 50/50 chance of seeing snow.
    For access from Kyoto with the JR Pass, the pass will cover to Nagano Station (either on the JR Ltd. Exp. “Shinano” via Nagoya, Hokurikuru Shinkansen outbound via Tokyo, or Hokurikuku Shinkansen inbound via Kanazawa). From Nagano Station, the Nagano Dentetsu trains and/or Nagaden busses are not covered by the JR Pass.
    Park ticket can be purchased at the park entrance. Alternatively, at Nagano Station Nagano Dentetsu ticket office, you can buy a 1-day Snow Monkey Pass that covers Nagano Dentetsu trains and/or Nagaden busses as well as entrance to the Snow Monkey Park.
    While visiting the snow monkeys, I highly suggest you spend the night in one of Nagano Prefecture’s many onsen ryokans (traditional inns). I hope you enjoy your visit to Nagano.

  41. Hi
    If i go to monkey park at october, i can still see the snow monkey or not? Because october not yet winter.

  42. Hi there,

    Winter is the best time to see the monkeys bathing in the hot springs, but they come to the park year-round. From late October to mid-November is mating season for the monkeys so it may be more difficult to see them around that time. mid-October should be fine.

    I hope that answers your question!


  43. Hi, when does it typically stop snowing? I am going to be visiting around late march/april. thank you. I heard certain onsens dont allow people with tattoos…I really want to get a photo of me in the onsen with monkeys besides me. Will the inn allow me to be in the onsen with tattoos?

  44. Caleb-san,
    Thank you for your inquiry, and your interesting questions. I almost spit milk out my nose picturing a dude with tattoos bathing with the monkeys. But to answer your questions, snow typically stops mid March, but it is not uncommon to have snow storms until late April. It just depends on the year. As for bathing with the monkeys, the onsen bath at Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park is for monkeys only. Across the river from the park is a solitary ryokan called Korakukan with a very exposed outdoor onsen bath. Technically it is only for humans, but I’ve often seen monkeys bathing in it, so it would be your best bet for getting a photo of you bathing with a monkey. (Note: No guarantees that a monkey will hang out with you in the bath.) And as an innkeeper myself, as long as you’re not a yakuza gangster, don’t worry about your tattoos at Korakukan. As a last resort, you may just want to take a picture of you in the bath at Korakukan, and photoshop a monkey into the picture. I wish you the best! -Tyler

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