The “Jigokudani Yaen-Koen” park is a world famous tourist location. This mountainous serene, remote, high altitude park (altitude 850 meters) can be found in the valley of “Yokoyu” River in “Shiga-Kogen” area in “Nagano” prefecture. “Jigokudani Yaen Koen” means Wild Monkey Park in the Hell Valley. Inhabitants named the area it because of the volcanic eruption that created the mountainous terrain and area hot springs. The area is covered with snow for one-third of the year and nearby “Shiga-Kogen” area is a popular ski resort. Wild Japanese, Macaques (Snow) Monkeys that inhabit the region’s forest migrate to the hot spring area during the day. The red-faced monkeys cavorting and playing in the hot spring is a great tourist attraction. Many have seen the photograph, known as “Snow Monkey Mountain” which is a famous Life Magazine cover. Many international tourists during their visit to the “Nagano” Winter Olympics’ in 1998, also have visited the park.
The park, established in 1964, is dedicated to the purpose of observing and studying the Snow Monkey. The monkeys live in large social groups, and it is extremely entertaining to watch the interaction, between and among, the adults and their youth. This park bears no resemblance to a traditional zoo. There are no cages, walls and barriers; the monkeys migrate daily, to the hot spring, from the surrounding forest at approximately 9 am and return to their forest habitat at approximately 4 pm. The monkeys are acclimated to humans and can be observed from close range. The monkeys do not seek visitor treats and completely ignore humans because animal feeding is prohibited.
One gains a sense of contentment and tranquility while visiting “Snow Monkey Mountain.”
To reach “Jigokudani Yaen Koen,” take the Bullet train to reach “Nagano” and change to a local train and bus to reach the final destination. The trip takes approximately 4 hours, and there is a 30-40 minutes, up slope, forest walk to reach the park’s entrance.
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