Offbeat Traveler: Jigokudani Monkey Park
By Michael Robinson, Los Angeles Times
When I lived in Chicago, a hot shower always made me feel better about winter, even if I wasn’t sure why I lived in a place where I couldn’t feel my toes after a short trek through the snow.
So I understand the joy Japanese macaques must feel when they get a chance to step out of the cold and hop into the hot springs at Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, about 150 miles northwest of Tokyo. (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP/Getty Images)
The manmade pool was built in 1964 after two groups of the snow monkeys, heading toward the hot spring, started getting into the small spring hole for warmth. The locals built a larger pool for them, and the monkeys have made the park their home since. (Trey Ratcliff)
When you get to the spring, you might see the alpha male. He earns his name as the “boss” monkey, as he is often seen directing the other monkeys. When the rangers feed the monkeys, the alpha male and his family are fed before the rest of the group. (chriggy1)
Park admission costs 500 yen, about $6. It is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. in winter, and 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. in summer. Visitors are likely to see more of the monkeys in the hot springs in winter. (Hiro Komae / Associated Press)
If visiting in the winter, note that the temperatures drop below freezing and there is a lot of hiking. It would be a shame to cut short a visit with these beautiful animals because of unsuitable footwear. (Masashi Mochida)