A couple of hours’ journey by train out of Tokyo (and a whole other world), Yudanka is a small, out-of-the-way hot spring and skiing destination in Northern Japan. Necessitating a short hike into the heart of the park, Jigokudani Snow Monkeys Park is a short cab ride from the train station and is a hot spring that attracts wild Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) from the surrounding areas.
1. Bullet Train to Nagano
2. Local Train to Yudanaka: Note that there is a fast, modern train to Yudanaka with limited departures and I recommend taking this train. Otherwise, the other train to Yudanaka is via a slow, local train with many stops and a transfer. As this part of the country is not heavily touristed, this route lacks the usual, intuitive iconography and is a little harder to navigate than Tokyo or other large cities. The JR pass doesn’t work for the train from Nagano to Yudanaka Station, it’s different train company.
You can do the trip in one day, back and forth from Tokyo (a long day), or stay over at one of the traditional “ryokan” hotels in Yudanaka. Taking a cab from the train station to the monkey park is very simple, but the bus from the park back to the train station is less straight-forward, never having arrived where and when I thought it was supposed to. I suggest getting that sorted out in advance, as I had to hitch-hike back and barely made it in time for the last train of the day to Nagano.
For more information and more detailed directions, see: