Monday, January 4, 2016

Day Trip from Tokyo - Quest for Snow Monkey in Nagano Jigokudani Monkey Park

In November 2015, I traveled to Japan using the Japan Rail Pass. While I was staying the Tokyo area, I took a side/day trip to Nagano, hoping to see the amazing Jigokudani Snow Monkey bathing in hot spring.

- To read about my recommendations of affordable, Reasonable, Convenient hotels in Tokyo, visit: Affordable Cheap Reasonable Hotels in Tokyo
- To read about my recommendations of affordable and reasonable hotels in OSAKA, visit: Osaka Reasonable Affordable Hotels
- To read about my recommendations of reasonable, affordable, and convenient hotels in KYOTO, visit: Kyoto reasonable, affordable, and convenient Hotels
- To read about how to plan your trip to Tokyo, visit Planning for your trip to Tokyo
- To read about where you can find the best Ramen in Tokyo, visit Best Ramen in Tokyo

I have always recommended travelers to minimize changing of hotels while traveling with a JR pass. I stayed at Hotel Princess Garden in Tokyo and and took a day trip to Nagano on Day 9 of my 10-day trip in Japan. I first took the Hakutaka Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo station to Nagano station (100 minutes). I did not get to Nagano until after 12pm because I woke up late that day. It started snowing right after I arrived in Nagano.
Hakutaka Shinkansen of Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train line.

Despite of my extensive research prior to my trip, I still took my time to speak with the lady at the Nagano station tourism information office to obtain transportation information. I decided to purchase the Snow Monkey One-Day Pass (about 3000 yen) to save time and money. The day-trip pass covers popular options of public transportation and monkey park entrance ticket.

I chose to take Nagano Dentetsu Line Limited Express train to go from Nagano station to Yudanaka station. (38 minutes) Then I took the local bus from Yudanaka station to Kanbayashi Onsen Bus Stop (15 minutes)

The last stretch of the "journey" was a hike about 1.5 miles. (2.4 kilometer) The hike goes from Kanbayashi Onsen Bus Stop to the ticket office of Jigokudani Yaen-Koen Wild Snow Monkey Park. The hike took me about 40 minutes.

As soon as I passed the ticket office, there were monkeys everywhere!

About a 30-second walk from the ticket office to the Snow Monkey onsen area.

Seeing snow monkey in onsen was the highlight of my 10-day trip. It was definitely one of the priceless moments in my life.
On the way back, I took a break at the heated ticket office to get the feelings back in my ears and fingers.

I also stopped by Enza Cafe before heading back to Nagano station. The chicken broth ramen at Enza Cafe was delicious after hiking in the cold.

A different route was taken to get back to Nagano station. I took the express bus that took me from Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop directly back to Nagano station. The one-hour bus ride was perfect for taking a nap to get me ready for dinner in Tokyo later that night. 

1. I recommend getting to Nagano station as early as possible; the schedule for the direct bus varies by season; the staff at the tourism office would be the best source of information.
2. consider visiting snow monkey in the morning and touring Nagano Zenkoji temple in the afternoon if you get to Nagano early.
3. consider soaking in onsen at the "human" Korakukan onsen hot spring near Snow Monkey park ticket office (for humans only)
Korakukan Onsen Ryokan inside of the magical forest

4. Planning your day trip for Snow monkey, Zenko-ji and Hot Springs in Nagano is not difficult but you can save the trouble by joining popular Snow Monkey Tours
A. Zenko-ji Temple and Snow Monkey Day Tour in Nagano
B. Nagano Day Trip from Tokyo: Snow Monkeys, Hot Springs and Zenko-ji Temple
C. 3-Day Private Tokyo and Nagano Tour: Snow Monkeys, Tsukiji Market and Bullet Train
D. Jigokudani Monkey Park, Hot Springs and Zenko-ji Temple in Nagano

There are many historical onsen ryokan near the Yudanaka station and Kanbayashi onsen bus stop. Consider staying at an onsen ryokan overnight for an authentic Japanese ryokan experience.
Kanbayashi Onsen Hotel Senjukaku near Snow Monkey Park

Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park (official site)
6845 Yamanouchi-machi Shimotakai-gun Nagano Japan 381-0401
〒381-0401 長野県下高井郡山ノ内町大字平穏6845

Hours: (please check official site for the most updated information)
November to March: 9am - 4pm
April to October: 8:30am - 5pm
Nagano Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park (TripAdvisor site)

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