Snow Monkey - Jigokudani Yaenkoen Park - Nagano - Japan
The Japanese Macaque is the most northerly-living non-human primate, living in mountainous areas of Honshū, Japan. It survives winter temperatures below -15 °C (5° F), and is perhaps most famous for the amount of time it spends relaxing in naturally heated volcanic hot springs.
The Jigokudani Yaenkoen park opened in 1964 and since then many thousands of people from around the world have visited the park to observe the lifestyle of the Japanese Macaque
The park is located in the Yokoyu River valley, which flows down from Shiga Kogen. At an elevation of 850 meters, the area is called Jigokudani ("Hell's Valley") due to the steep cliffs and hot water steaming out from the earth's surface. It's also a fairly harsh environment in winter with snow on the ground for a third of the year, but it is also a paradise for the couple of hundred monkeys that live there. We're lucky too, because we can enter their world and watch them enjoying themselves. Watching the monkeys play, take a leisurely onsen - or even swim in the onsen - is a lot of fun. All the time the monkeys basically just ignore their human watchers and just get on with whatever it is they want to be doing.
If you are in the Nagano area, a visit to see the monkeys of Jigokudani is highly recommended.
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