You might think that hot springs are reserved for humans, but if you visit the Jigokudani Park you will probably be sharing your bath with Japanese Snow Monkeys.
Jigokudani is located in the Japanese Alps outside of Nagano. Literally “hell’s valley”, the area took its name from the steam and boiling water percolating from the geothermal hot spring in the ground below. Because it is located in the mountains, about 850 meters (2,800 feet) up, heavy snowfalls cover the area for at least four months each year.
During the cold winter, the hot spring of the Jigokudani is a real Eden for the monkeys living in the valley. Hot baths are a necessity for the monkeys to keep themselves warm; but it is also interesting to see that their behavior is very similar to humans.
The Jigokudani Monkey Park is open all year long. However, the best season to visit is in the winter, when the valley is covered in a blanket of white snow, and the monkeys are playing around the hot spring bath.
Where to stay?
The Korakukan Jigokudani; is a rustic mountain minshuku; it is the only ryokan (only 100 meters up) in the Jigokudani Yaen National Park. Korakukan Jigokudani has 12 traditional Japanese-style rooms. There are indoor and outdoor hot spring baths for both women and men at Korakukan Jigokudani (and monkeys frequently visit the outdoor hot spring baths). There are also two "family baths" which can be reserved for private use. From the outdoor hot spring baths at Korakukan Jigokudani, the nearby hot spring geyser can be seen.
There's also a live camera view of the snow monkeys at Yudanaka Onsen, Jigokudani Yaen Koen.