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Film & Photography – Jigokudani Snow Monkeys, Japan

Written on April 17, 2018

Jigokudani Snow Monkeys

Jigokudani Monkey Park is located in Yamanouchi, Shimotakai District, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. The monkey park is part of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park.

It is famous for its large population of wild Japanese macaques, more commonly known as snow monkeys. The monkeys descend from the steep forest cliffs to bathe in the warm waters of the hot springs. In the evenings, they return to the safety of the forest.

Film Permits

Small handheld tourist-level shoots that do not require exclusive use of the space do not require permits. Larger shoots that involve larger equipment setups, or exclusive use of the location, or seek to follow the snow monkeys outside of the hot spring area require permission from national park authorities.

When to shoot?

Snow monkeys can be viewed at any time of year. Park rangers entice monkeys down to the hotsprings with their favorite treat, tasty apples.

That said, they are less likely to venture down to the hot springs when the weather is warm, or when there is plentiful food in the forests, or during mating season.

The park is open every day of the year. It only closes temporarily for safety reasons when it rains or snows heavily.

Winters are long and cold and and bury the area in snow with blizzard conditions common. During this time food in the forest is scarce and the hot spring waters become a welcome respite from the freezing temperatures. This is the season the snow monkeys are most likely to venture down from the mountain forests. Winter is also the most photographically interesting time as the area is covered in snow. Winter opening hours are from 9am – 4pm.

Spring has warmer temperatures with cherry blossom trees in bloom.

Summers are hot. The forests turns a bright green. Snow monkeys look to shade themselves from the heat. The forest mountains become bountiful with readily available food. This is the season the snow monkeys are least likely to come down to the hot springs.

Autumn sees falls colours. This is the season that nuts and fruits of the forest are most readily available. Snow monkeys will start eating to fatten up in preparation for the coming winter.

Japan Film Crew & Production Support

Tokyo is the closest major production centre for film crew and production support. Getting to the Jigokudani Monkey Park from Tokyo takes around 4 hours either by car or train. If you are looking for a Japanese fixer or production service producer to help arrange your shoot at Jigokudani Monkey Park, contact us for recommendations. If you would like to save money and have a local crew shoot your footage, we are also able to arrange locally based videographers, stills photographers, cameramen, directors of photography, or directors.