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

Nagano’s Early Winter: Backpacker Comes for a Night, Stays 3 Days

November 19th, 2009 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics
Mark enjoying early winter in Togakushi

Mark enjoying early winter in Togakushi

Mark from the States was one of our recent guests.  He came to Nagano to escape the concrete jungle of Tokyo.  Mark had planned on just spending one night, but when I explained about the snow monkeys of Jigokudani and the spiritual trees of Togakushi, he ended up staying 3 days and making day trips to the monkeys and Togakushi Mountain.  And by the look on his face, I’d say he enjoyed his travels in Nagano. 

Note: Nagano is starting to enter winter mode.  Up at Togakushi Mountain, the path to Okusha Shrine which is lined by impressively huge cedar trees, is starting to get covered in snow. 


Trailhead to Togakushi's Okusha Shrine

Trailhead to Togakushi's Okusha Shrine

 The Ninpo Center across the street from the trailhead will be open for business one last weekend Nov. 21-23 before the ninjas go into hiding (hibernation?) for the winter. 
Togakushi Ninpo Center transitioning to Winter. (Any ninjas hiding?)

Togakushi Ninpo Center transitioning to Winter. (Any ninjas hiding?)

 I just spoke with fellow Nagano Ambassador, Zeno-san in Shibu-Yudanaka.  He said the snow monkeys are now in their snowy element.  I saw the Japanese Alps yesterday when I went to Matsumoto for a workshop — the snow level looks like it’s down to around 1000 meters.  Down here in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen (elevation 370 meters above sea level), our hills are still in orangeish brown autumn leaf mode, quite a contrast with snowy-white Hakuba Mountain in the distance. 

This is a time of transition here in Nagano.  So come up and enjoy it, like Mark did!

Finally, a few more Togakushi Okusha pictures from Mark-san:

pb1601021 pb160110

Jigokudani + Springtime = Baby Snow Monkeys

May 5th, 2009 by
Category: Information, Onsens (Hot Springs), Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing
Newly-born snow monkey baby.  (Picture courtesy Katsuyama-san)

Newly-born snow monkey baby. (Picture courtesy Katsuyama-san)

One of our guests just came back from Jigokudani, the famous snow monkeys onsen. He gave me this picture of the newly born baby monkey. Every spring, the cute little monkeys give birth to even cuter little baby monkeys. If you are thinking of going to Jigokudani, now is perfect timing. The snow is gone, but you can see the babies that were just born this spring.

According to Hagiwara-san, the park manager, babies are usually born between mid-April to the end of June. So far this year, there are 6 newborns, with more expected soon as the “peak” approaches.

Hagiwara-san also advises their shop has some new DVD’s as well as T-shirts and other souvenirs. This is certainly an exciting time for the snow monkeys!

Jigokudani info here.

Click here for the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park website.

Updated info on Hagiwara-san’s blog. In Japanese, but lots of descriptive pictures.

‘Snow Monkey Park’ and ‘Yudanaka Spa’

March 1st, 2009 by
Category: Onsens (Hot Springs), Sightseeing
Snow Monkeys Bathing

Snow Monkeys Bathing

Snow Monkeys Bathing on a Cold Winter Day

Snow Monkey Park is widely known for the scenes monkeys bathing comfortably in an open-air hot spring.
Jigokudani literally means “Hell’s Valley”. There are a lot of hot springs that flow from its rocky bed and also a hot spring fountain. Situated at the foot of Shiga-kogen heights, the winter here is harsh, but the monkeys can escape snow and cold soaking in a bath.

Hot Water Fountain

Hot Water Fountain

Geyser-like Fountain gushing Boiling Water with Volcanic Gasses (Natural Monument of Japan)

Yamanouchi town includes renowned huge hot spring resorts such as Yudanaka and Shibu Spa with a wide selection of hotels and inns and even public baths for day trippers.

It was a venue for skiing and snowboarding events in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.

These places are just outside Nagano city. Nagano is only 85 min from Tokyo.

Baby Monkey

Baby Monkey

Come visit us and enjoy real wonders of Japan.