Going to see the world famous snow monkeys soak in their onsen bath at Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park is an enjoyable day trip from Kamesei Ryokan.
By car, it is an easy 1 hour drive to the trailhead. But by public transportation, it gets a bit trickier.
From Nagano Station, do you take the train or bus? And if train, how do you get from the end of the line (Yudanaka Station) to the monkey park? And which trailhead is best -- Kanbayashi or from the Jigokudani parking lot?
Fortunately for all of you snow monkey fans, I sorted through all of the options and came up with the main connections. I compiled this train / bus schedule from our local Togura Station changing at Nagano Station to go to the monkey onsen. It is now updated it for this winter's bus schedules.
Most of the public transportation options take you to Kanbayashi, from which it is a 30 minute walk to the monkey park. The trail is relatively flat and goes through a beautiful cedar forest. The patterns and color of the bark on the trees makes for a very photogenic walk. And keep your eyes out for serrow and other wildlife (including a stray monkey or two).
During the winter, Shibu Onsen offers the "Snow Monkey Holiday Minibus" from Yudanaka Station, stopping at Shibu Onsen on the way directly to the otherwise inaccessible Jigokudani Parking Lot. (Info provided by my main man, Yamada-san from Shibu Hotel. The Shibu Onsen website hadn't been updated as of this writing.) From there, it is only about a 15 minute walk to the Park entrance. Although shorter in distance than from Kanbayashi, the trail is considerable steeper.
Regardless of which way you go, proper footwear is highly recommended.
I always suggest to our guests that they take the bus from Nagano to Kanbayashi, enjoy the walk through the cedar trees to the monkey onsen. Then on the way back, cross the river and walk down past the parking lot down the road to Shibu Onsen and on down to Yudanaka Station from where you can catch a train back to Nagano Station. Shibu Onsen is a classic onsen resort with narrow, cobblestone streets lined by historical inns. There's also a footbath you can soak your frozen (?) feet in, as well as a public bath for day trippers.
Monkeys shouldn't be the only ones to enjoy an onsen!