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The valley base at Jigokudani in June.


Jigokudani Monkey Park (地獄谷野猿公苑 Jigokudani Yaen Kōen) is in Yamanouchimarker, Shimotakai District, Nagano Prefecturemarker, Japanmarker. It is part of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Parkmarker, and is located in the valley of the Yokoyu-River, in the northern part of the prefecture. The name Jigokudani, meaning "Hell's Valley", is due to the steam and boiling water that bubbles out of small crevices in the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs and formidably cold and hostile forests.

The heavy snowfalls (snow covers the ground for 4 months a year), an elevation of 850 meters, and being only accessible via a narrow two kilometer footpath through the forest, keep it uncrowded despite being relatively well-known.

It is famous for its large population of wild Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata), more commonly referred to as Snow Monkeys, that go to the valley during the winter, foraging elsewhere in the national park during the warmer months. Starting in 1963, the monkeys descend from the steep cliffs and forest to sit in the warm waters of the onsen (hotsprings), and return to the security of the forests in the evenings.

Jigokudani is not as far north as monkeys live. The Shimokita Peninsula is at the northern part of the Honshu island and the northwest area of this peninsula, latitude +41°31' longitude +140°56', approximately 500 km or 310 miles north from Jigokudani is the northern limit of Japanese Macaque habitat. No primate, with the exception of humans, is known to live in a colder climate.

Image:JapaneseMacaqueM2287.jpg|Macaque in outdoor bath at Jigokudani Monkey ParkImage:Jigokudani hotspring in Nagano Japan 001.jpg|Macaques enjoying an onsen in Jigokudani Monkey Park in NaganoImage:JapaneseMacaqueM2262.jpg|This rotenburo at Jigokudani Onsen is for Japanese Macaques.

References

  1. Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano: Explore the Heart of Japan
  2. Profile of Japanese macaques by Masahiro Minami, Simon Fraser University; Masui, K. (1988), Nihonzaru no fudo, Climatology of Japanese Macaque, Tokyo: Yuzankaku; Nakagawa, N., Iwamoto, T., Yokota, N., & Soumah, A.G. (1996). Inter-regional and inter-seasonal variations of food quality in Japanese macaques: constraints of digestive volume and feeding time. In J.E. FA., & D.G. Lindburg (Eds.), Evolution and ecology of macaque societies (pp. 207-234). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.


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