MPB Staff went on a trip to see the famous “Hot Spring Monkeys” of Jigokudani Yaenkoen (better known as Snow Monkey Park). Here we’ll describe how to get there!
Now let us say that while this is day trip material, you might want to pack a lunch for this full day out. If you have a JR Rail pass you can jump on the Shinano Express trains which save you about an hour of in your day. Otherwise the cheapest slow train out from Matsumoto Station to Nagano Station takes at least 70min (Pro Tip 1: Ask at the Matsumoto ticket office for a return train ticket to save you some hassle).
When we got to Nagano Station we realised we hadn’t timed it very well, as we’d just missed the bus and would have to wait an hour for the next one. (Pro Tip 2: The earlier you leave Matsumoto the more time to explore the sights around the Nagano city after seeing the snow monkeys, such as the magnificent Zenkoji Temple). There are a few ways you can get to the Snow Monkeys but we went for the 1-Day Snow Monkey Pass. It was Y2900 for a Return Ticket incl. Admission Fee into the Park. (Pro Tip 3: The Visitor Centre will give you a slip of paper with the info which you take to another part of the station to buy the actual ticket…then you need to line up outside the opposite side of the station to get the bus.) This ticket gave us a few options of travel but we went for the Express Bus and arrived there in a record 41minutes.
After all that sitting around it was time to stretch those legs and go for a 30 minute hike through a vast expanse of trees to reach the actual Monkey Park. (Pro Tip4: Wear decent hiking shoes, the path was extremely slippery and icy!) Well after all that fuss was it worth it to see some monkeys taking a bath? You betcha! The location was beautiful and while the look of pure relaxation on the monkey’s faces was enough to sell you on the Onsen lifestyle, there were also plenty of opportunities to see the monkeys running, jumping, fooling around, and cuddling penguin style.
Be prepared for the masses of tourists and their cameras, and while it’s hard to resist filling up the SD card with every angle of monkey goodness, our final Pro Tip is to take some time to look beyond the lens, to sit down amongst the monkeys and take in the unique experience first hand. It is a unique experience that topped our expectations and was well worth the trek. Enjoy!