In Pictures: Photographing Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Park, Japan

photographing snow monkeysI hear a splash and look towards the hot spring. Mist dominates the scene, drifting around the dark shape that has just entered the water. I know it’s one of the snow monkeys that live in the area but I can’t yet see it clearly.

I turn to my left, where more monkeys are descending from their natural habitat in the snow-covered mountains. They are heading towards the pool that provides a warm alternative to the sub-zero temperature out of the water.

Some of them stop at the bottom, foraging on the ground for food. Two youngsters begin wrestling with each other, their fur turning white as they tumble across the snow. Others continue to the hot spring, one walking past me as if I am not here. They are aware of – but uninterested in – my presence.

photographing snow monkeysOne by one, more monkeys enter the water and through the mist I see the pink face of the one that had reached it first. Its moment of peaceful solitude is over, but I don’t think it minds – after all, snow monkeys are very social animals.

Some of the monkeys begin forming groups in the water, taking turns to groom each other as they split hairs to remove lice and other unwanted insects stuck in the fur. A baby clings onto its tired-looking mother and begins suckling. Others float quietly in the water, enjoying the warmth it provides.

photographing snow monkeysThis is Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, one of Japan’s most popular tourist attractions. It offers the opportunity to observe the monkeys – officially known as Japanese macaques – in their natural environment at close proximity. During the winter months the combination of their endearing personalities with a snow-covered landscape, provides endless photography opportunities.

I visited the park in February this year, before heading further north to Hokkiado with Ade Photography and offer some photography tips in a separate post to help you get the most out of a similar experience.

In the meantime, these are some of my favourite shots of the charming little monkeys I encountered.

photographing snow monkeys

photographing snow monkeys

photographing snow monkeys

photographing snow monkeys

photographing snow monkeys

photographing snow monkeys

photographing snow monkeys

photographing snow monkeys



Kellie Netherwood Travel and Photography

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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at


  1. Carol Darby says:

    Thank you for sharing wonderful images of these engaging creatures. And even more so, thank you for sharing all the tips in the other post so that you can make the most to your visit to see and photograph them.

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Tips for Photographing Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Park in Japan