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Thu, 26 Sep ’13

Monkeying Around: The Best Spots to See Wild Monkeys in Japan

You’ll go bananas for these bathing apes.

Yamanouchi: Located in the northern prefecture of Nagano (home of the 1998 Winter Olympics), Yamanouchi is one of Japan’s most popular places to see monkeys in their natural habitat, and probably the world’s best spot for seeing snow monkeys, who are often seen hanging out in natural hot springs together. The Jigokudani Monkey Park is filled to the brim with the infamous macaques, and it’s a bustling tourist attraction all year round (though if you’re gonna make the trip, you should really do it with some snow on the ground).

Kamikochi: Not far from the snowy superstars of Jigokudani lies the forests of Kamikochi and two vibrant troops of Japanese macaques, definitely worth paying a visit to. Unlike their snowy brethren who spend their days hanging out at a communal onsen, these monkeys live in a rich, lush forest, allowing visitors to take in their antics in a truly natural environment. Remember, when the guidebooks all say “Do NOT feed the monkeys”, you should probably listen to them.

Miyajima: Take a long trip west from Nagano all the way to Hiroshima prefecture, hop on a quick ferry and you’ll arrive at the tropical island of Miyajima. Don’t relax yet; take a hike up beautiful Mount Misen, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll meet the mountain’s colony of wild monkeys (as well as its wild deer), who spend their days wandering this small shrine island. Once again, do NOT feed these monkeys or, honestly, any monkeys. They’ll be fine. And If you find yourself in this region, do not pass up a chance to commune with nature on natures terms.