Japan is quite a cold country in winter, particularly in the northern areas; the island of Hokkaido and northern Honshu. Honshu is the biggest of the 4 islands with Tokyo. Osaka, Hiroshima and Mt Fuji all on Honshu. In January, we are heading off to experience some of the joys of the snow and to see the snow monkeys in Jigokudani.
Jigokudani Monkey Park (地獄谷野猿公苑 Jigokudani Yaen Kōen) is in Nagano prefecture and translated means “Hell’s Valley”, due to the steam and boiling water that bubbles out of small crevices in the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs and formidably cold and hostile forests.
The heavy snowfalls (snow covers the ground for 4 months a year), an elevation of 850 metres, and being only accessible via a narrow two kilometre footpath through the forest, keep it uncrowded despite being relatively well-known.
It is famous for its large population of wild Japanese Macaques, more commonly referred to as Snow Monkeys, that go to the valley during the winter, foraging elsewhere in the national park during the warmer months. Starting in 1963, the monkeys descend from the steep cliffs and forest to sit in the warm waters of the Onsen (hotsprings), and return to the security of the forests in the evenings.
You can see a short video of the snow monkeys in Japanese Culture. We are visiting the monkeys on January 14th.
とても楽しみにしています！ I cannot wait to see them. Even though I lived in Hakuba 20 years ago, I did not know of them and am looking forward to sharing some fabulous photos with you :-)