These days in Japan, only a very thin line separates inhabited areas and un-inhabited areas...er for humans.
For monkeys and other animals, like bears, snakes, tanuki, pigs, foxes etc the boundaries are less well defined which can lead to problems when humans suddenly see a new friend in 'their territory'.
Chief park ranger, Haruo Takefushi's & well known ranger / photographer Toshio Hagiwara's explanation of Jigokudani is purposely vague...they are in some ways standing up for individuals who would soon become 'criminals' if they grazed any of the populated Hotspring areas around Yudanaka Station.
When we visit Jigokudani we all feel the presence of nature, the natural environment somehow acting on us. Japanese visitors often say it's 'minus ion'. An Australian friend, Peter Hartney (National Park Ranger) commented that enticing the monkeys here with minimal food & onsen-hotsprings was debatable, but is one of the best Nature advertisements on earth!! - So many people come to see 'nature' who would otherwise be attracted to Akihabara (not bad either^-^) & city congestion.
Just like is written in the Shigakogen Conservation Center (Shigakogen Shizen Hogo Center):
Shin-jo-etsu National Park is a balance between humans & nature.
Actually Yaenkoen is just on the boundary of the National Park & Land owned by the local Nagano Rail Company -which allows different freedoms for snow monkey park rangers & monkeys.
Monkey & Human Behaviour, and mutual benefit for interaction:
Snow Monkeys can teach you more than you realize...
Some people have spent a lot of time just sitting watching and studying monkeys, apes, gorillas and similar animals.
We feel at peace when watching them.
"I Love this guy!!"
"It's cold up here baby"
Minus 10 degrees Celcius, 1650m ShigaKogen,
Group of about 10 Snow Monkeys eating light leaf vegetation,
making moowing sounds.
"If you thought your life was hard.....think again baby."
A video from a friend in Spain (who visited recently).
I think he/she was trying to say "Let me borrow your camera,....just for a minute"^-^
Cute little character
In many ways they are similar to humans.
Behaviour is simplified human behaviour.
Or perhaps, in other words, high speed human behaviour!!!
Responses made by Snow Monkeys could in fact be similar to humans under the same conditions.
Especially confrontational issues.
Like us, when favourable environmental conditions exist monkeys can exist in what we would have previously thought to be extreme conditions.
The payoff for being able to operate in extreme places is a monopoly,...there are fewer predators and less competition for resourses.
Isn't this so similar to problems we face as humans.
Problems we have over territory and rights to resources are just like the snow monkeys problems!!
A big payer in Yudanaka, both for Snow Monkeys & Humans is Hot Spring Water.
It is a huge payoff for living in the area!!
It means both monkeys and humans can survive the severe winters in relative ease.
Watching people in Yudanaka greet & then watching snow Monkeys greet will also be an eye-opener!!
The hierarchy mechanism, and body language used is shockingly similar.
Usually we just assume that people are much more developed than our ape relatives,
but under similar conditions with similar drivers our responses & movement are the same.
We both would not be here without hotwater, we live in groups.
And when approaching an animal that may be a threat, we take similar defensive action.
Snow Monkeys Bow!!!
On a language level, monkeys and humans are different.
Just like different groups of humans^-^.
But on a cultural adaption level we are not different.
Often we refer to people as Clowns or Monkeys, I think some monkeys are more gentlemanly than many humans.
If your are trying to decide which is most advanced, Snow Monkeys or Humans? Think Twice.
Do you wonder if Snow Monkeys have idols like Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Dances with Wolves or Green Mile's stars.
Harrison Ford, Kevin Costner, Bruce Willis, Jacky Chan, Tom Hanks and Curious George... are my idols.
Do monkeys idolize other monkeys they think are cool?
Do monkeys think communtatively together as a group like humans bounce ideas around?
From watching monkeys at Yaenkoen, do you think it is possible?
Take a close look:
What we need to do is fuzzy watching & habit finding.
Fuzzy watching, taking in the big picture, ignoring exact data, looking more at the response of individuals to their instantaneous environment
-response to other individuals, response to objects & events.
Consider the drivers for Curious-George the regular Snow Monkey....
Look at his life, his potential, how many children does he have?
Is he happy? - this is the type of information we need to capture.
Instanteous data needed.
Things change in our lives fast, so do monkeys.
Full documentation is difficult, how many humans are there whose life is fully-instantaneously recorded???
Perhaps a neural network type approach to collecting event information for both monkeys and humans exciting?
Wouldn't it be fun to see just how different or similar our social behaviour or culture is.
Maybe we can use Snow Monkeys' decision making mechanism to predict our own,
or visa versa.
In our modern age there are few fundamental pioneering fields left,
it's exciting, even you could make a break through!!
Come and find the missing link.^-^
Please come support Nagano's way of promoting wildlife by visiting Jigokudani - Snow Monkey Park
Jigokudani - Hell Valley begins just as the Yudanaka - Kamijo Valley steepens up.
It gets so steep that even me (with oversized feet on small body^-^) starts to wobble my knees.
Ignoring with clear advice from Park staff to venture, I woke just on dawn & headed up above the cutoff point in the valley.
It would have been smarter to have been with a friend & ...er...roped up.
What you've got is a 60 or 70degree crumbling slate rock face which is topped off with 100m or more of vertical crumbling rockface towering over you... with one or two animal prints every so often.
What you don't realize when you visit the monkey park is that there may be one or two heavy males (20-25kg) looking down over you, 100 or 200meters up.
For some reason if they decide to start rolling snow balls, or pebbles...possibly not so pretty.
This is why the park is located exactly where it is, and why staff like Takefushi, Atsushi, Sato, Miyata & Hagiwara are strict about your movements.
It's an unstable, hot area, with monkeys on the cliffs!!!
It is the best natural advertisement Nagano or even Japan could hope for, but does require you to have your witts about you.
I would recommend walking from the Longer Kanbayashi-Onsen Entrance which is open 365days a year, simply because it gives people time to adjust to the environment they are visiting.
It is possible to head up from Shibu-Onsen on the 'super highway' by car, but you will not see/feel any of the forest that surrounds Jigokudani. If coming from Shibu-Onsen, please walk - you'll avoid the car park troll (the lady is nice, the man is...er..) & you'll see 4 times more than by car. Super highways are great for avoid congestion problems in Tokyo, but think most would aggree a National Park doesn't need one - Let's Walk the same as the monkeys^-^
Entry into the park costs
small kids < 25kg & monkeys are free^-^
Most Hotels & Ryokans in Yudanaka & surronding 9 Hotspring areas will give free shuttle to & from the Kanbayashi-Onsen Entrance
I'd like to recommend other entry points, but probably a little too exciting for people who use internet^-^.
Although there are about 200km of easy to moderate trails perfect for exploring Japan's Wildness just above Jigokudani- see below:
Summer or Winter: Roughly 30km x 60km of beautiful alpine forest.
Pic Below was from Ura-Shigayama June 2010 (about a 5hour walk from Jigokudani):
and 2 - 4hours later Yokote-yama below (different trip February 2010)
Just below here I've seen Snow Monkeys!!
Depending on the season the scenery & tools are different, the changes are exciting!!
For more information don't hesitate to contact me
And for monkeys from other countries here something from our very similar brothers in