Do you have a thing for the cute and cuddly? Then the Snow Monkeys are the perfect option for you.
The Japanese macaque is a native species found in northern Japan and is the most northern-living non-human primate, surviving winter temperatures that routinely drop below -15 °C. Often referred to as snow monkeys, these cute guys have deservedly earned international acclaim.
The snow monkey park is located in Jigokudani Valley (Hell’s Valley) named due to the steep cliffs and hot water steaming out from the earth’s surface. Access to the snow monkey area from the car park is on foot via a picturesque meandering snow covered path that takes about 20 minutes to navigate, and though the walk is not arduous there are a few sets of stairs and the path can be slippery. Whilst you will see groups of macaques in the steep hills surrounding the gorge as you get close the main area, the highlight of the trip is the man-made pool which is fed with thermal waters.
Troops of snow monkeys roam free in their natural habitat. Plenty of signage advises you not to look the macaques directly in the eye noting that they are wild animals and prone to erratic behaviour and whilst this is solid advice in reality the macaques are so accustomed to humans being around that it is difficult to imagine anyone having a run-in with them. They are fed daily within the park which guarantees their numbers are sustained for tourists but that doesn’t detract from the wonder you feel as you watch these cheeky personalities frolic around, running between your legs, inspecting your camera gear, and interacting with each other. About the hardest thing with a visit to the park is getting to capture a decent snap of the snow monkeys relaxing in the onsen; there are a lot of humans all vying to achieve the same objective. But not-withstanding that a day trip to the snow monkeys is something you should be putting on your to do list on your Hakuba winter holiday.