Snow monkeys enjoying a hot spring in winter in Nagano, Japan

Yudanaka, Nagano | Beautiful hot spring resort with a long history that even monkeys visit

Home Japan Travel Guide Chubu Nagano Yudanaka, Nagano | Beautiful hot spring resort with a long history that even monkeys visit

Especially if you are traveling with kids or just love animals, don’t skip this special place on your Japan trip. Yudanaka in Nagano has cute snow monkeys bathing together just like humans do. What is the history of this area? And what can you expect to see? Read it in this travel guide!

Bathing Snow Monkeys

Yudanaka is rich in natural hot springs and located deep in the mountains of the Yamanouchi area in Nagano. Some 200 monkeys live in this area, and photographs of snow-covered monkeys bathing in open-air-thermal pools have made Yudanaka Onsen famous worldwide. Legend has it that they started to take dips in the hot pools during the 1960s when a local Japanese inn owner took pity on them. So he left food out in winter. A special outdoor bath or ‘rotenburo’ was eventually built for them, and Life magazine dubbed the bathing monkeys ‘snow monkeys’.

Yudanaka Onsen itself is like a small version of Yellowstone National Park, with its bubbling, steaming, and sulfurous volcanic vents and pools. Visitors can see these snow monkeys bathing in summer as well as in winter.

The Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani Yaen Koen

The Jigokudani Yaen-Koen (altitude 850 meters) is located in the Valley of Yokoyu River sourced from Shiga-Kogen of the Joshinetsu-Kogen. Because of the very steep cliffs and the steam coming out of the springs everywhere, ancient people called this valley Jigokudani (Hell valley).

Being so high up in the mountains, Jigokudani is buried in snow for almost one-third of the year. Even that kind of severe environment is a paradise on earth for monkeys to live in. Troops of wild Japanese macaques have inhabited this area throughout the ages. Since the establishment of Jigokudani Yaen-Koen in 1964, it has been a worldwide popular place for watching the monkeys bathe in their hot spring and for ecological observation of researchers or photographers.

Your Japan Tour

As seasoned Japan experts, we can help you create your perfect Japan tour including destinations like the Yudanaka Snow Monkeys. Contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!

Yudanaka Area Map

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