Side Quest: Jigokudani Monkey Park

Opportunity takes me to Nagano Prefecture in search of the Japanese macaques, or snow monkeys. Conveniently, a park in the area lets visitors observe snow monkeys in their natural habitat: hot springs.


Jigokudani translates to hell’s valley, making note of the steam and boiling water that escapes through cracks in the frozen ground.


The valley also has a lovely river running through it.



The area around the Monkey Park is a bit of a shanty town, despite being somewhat isolated.


After hiking along a muddy trail through the forest, we arrive at the entrance.


Some of the outcast monkeys sit far away from the hot springs. Or maybe they just didn’t feel like bathing today.


This little guy was getting into all sort of trouble with his older siblings. Here he is pouting after loosing a wrestling match.


Then we arrive at the hot springs. To be honest, the main pool looks a little artificial. And it’s clear the staff have coaxed the wild monkeys to hang out in the baths, despite the hundreds of tourists pestering them daily. But who cares? Monkeys! In hot springs!


This high ranking macaque has a squad member to help clean his fir.


A baby monkey takes over for a little bit of practice.


Then everyone gets in on the action.



These monkeys looks pretty content spending their days in nature’s hot tub. I got to say, I’m pretty jealous. But at least I had the chance to explore the area around hell’s valley and experience some of the things Nagano Prefecture has to offer.