Looking for snow monkeys near Yudanaka in Japan
Where to see snow monkeys in the wild? Although Japan is a highly industrialized country full of large cities home to millions of people, there are still some places that offer unique nature experiences, such as the central Alps, where visitors can observe the Japanese macaques bathing in the hot springs to escape from cold and snow.
How to get to the snow monkeys?
The snow monkey, more properly known as Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata
), also called "red-faced monkey", lives in most of Japan territory, however, one of the loveliest places to observe them in nature, is the mountain range west of Tokyo. In particular, near Yudanaka, there is a world-famous national park where visitors can observe the snow monkeys in winter, while they have bath in the geothermal waters, to escape from the cold. Yudanaka is easily accessible from Tokyo and other cities in Japan, as the city is served by a railway line to Nagano, in turn served by Shinkansen (bullet train).
is a small provincial town in the heart of the Japanese Alps, where life flows quietly and away from the bustle of big cities. Generally, the reason for which visitors get to Yudanaka, is to look for Japanese macaque
(snow monkey), but the place is also interesting for several monuments, like this Buddhist temple which also houses a large statue of Buddha.
The interior of the small Buddhist monastery in Yudanaka, with altar, shrine and Buddha statues.
Yudanaka photos. The town is very different from a typical Japanese metropolis and resembles rather a quiet mountain village with lot of snow.
Yudanaka is known in Japan for hosting natural spa and hot springs.
More photos of Yudanaka
showing releasing steam from hot water. This is also often used in houses, where there is no need for electrical or gas boilers.
A path of just over one and a half kilometers from the outskirts of Yudanaka, leads to the sanctuary of the Japanese macaque.
The best time to go to visit snow monkeys
is early in the morning, when tourists are still few. The path leading to the entrance of snow monkey national park goes through a dense forest of conifers.
After less than half an hour walk, I reach the entrance to the national park, where there are also the houses of the guardians.
From a large fumarole, a thick cloud of steam with a strong smell of sulfur is released.
Soon, numerous Japanese macaques
appear in the distance, initially confused with the surrounding rocks having almost the same color.
Photos of Japanese macaque. The Japanese macaque
, or snow monkey
, is a highly social primate not at all intimidated by humans. Seeing them running and playing in the snow, it's a pretty unique experience, since primates are normally associated with tropical paradises or, at least, with warm climates.
But the real peculiarity of the Japanese macaque is to take advantage of the many spas available along the Japanese Alps, to escape from cold and snow by having an hot bath.
Japanese macaque photos.
These macaques heat up and relax in the thermal waters of the Japanese Alps, to escape the cold weather and snow.
More photos of snow monkeys
, primates who survive to cold and snowy winters, warming up in the geothermal waters.
More photos of Japanese macaques.
The snow monkeys are also known as "red-faced monkeys
" for the particular color of their face. As often happens in the world of primates, each monkey has a different face that distinguishes it from others.
Snow monkeys having a bath in the hot springs.
A puppy instead likes to go in apnea, even bathing his head.
The snow monkeys are very sociable and it is not uncommon that some of them they stay together with photographers and visitors.
Snow monkeys having a bath in geothermal hot water.
Snow monkeys on the snow, in a landscape rather unusual for primates.
During the night, lot of snow has fallen in Yudanaka, creating a surreal landscape that can be enjoyed from the train going back to Nagano.