Jigokudani Monkey Park, part of the Joshinetsu National Park, is an extremely popular primate reserve in Northern Japan. It is the most famous residence of the Japanese Macaques, or Snow Monkeys, the northernmost native primate species on the planet. Jigokudani skyrocketed to international fame in 1998 thanks to the Winter Olympic Games that were hosted in nearby Nagano.
The native macaques have been a national treasure of Japan since time immemorial. Inhabiting ecosystems throughout the Japanese islands, one of the best known homes is Joshinetsu, which means Hells Valley due to the hot springs and geothermal activity in the area. Beginning in the 1960s, when the valley became a protected area, the Snow Monkeys began to regularly come down from the forest to visit the hot springs during the day. In 1998, the entertaining primates and their habitat caught the attention of the world as unofficial mascots of the Nagano Olympics.
Jigokudani is part of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. Numerous species native to Japan make the park their home, but the most popular by far are the Snow Monkeys. The monkeys are protected by both the government and the good will of human neighbors, and can frequently be found even in populated areas, especially in winter months when they are foraging for food.
Jigokudani Monkey Park is located in central Japan, approximately twenty miles east of Nagano and 100 miles northwest of Tokyo. While very accessible by road, winter weather often makes visiting prohibitive just when the monkeys are coming out. The park is open year round from 9:00am-4:00pm with longer hours in the summer. The cost of admission is y500.00. Web: www.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp (official website).