The difference between an amazing Snow Monkey Photo Tour and an adequate one can often be ascribed to one source, the photo tour leader. At Japan Dreamscapes (JDS), we understand this necessity very well. The most veteran JDS Photography Workshop Leader has over 20 years leading workshops in Japan and an equal amount working closely photographing the snow monkeys and being aware of the social hierarchy that the snow monkeys preserve, being so informed that our photo tour leader knows some of the troop on sight. This knowledge makes grabbing that once in a lifetime photo much easier to accomplish.
Jigokudani Yaen-koen is the most famous snow monkey park in Japan, as it is home to a very often visited hot springs, called onsens locally, by the resident Snow Monkey troop. Every year, the snow monkeys descend from their alpine hideaways and come to the Jigokudani Yaen-koen to luxuriate in the warming and replenishing waters of the onsen. The question remains, why is this place such an amazing photo op for visitors? The answer is simple. Up close and personal time with Japanese macaques outside of a controlled environment. Usually, when a photographer interacts with a snow monkey, it is from outside and enclosure where the domain of visitor and wild animal are clearly demarcated. However, when visiting Nagano, the snow monkeys are up close and personal, and the space between you the photographer and the snow monkeys is a bit blurry. It is so much so, that you can be carried away in taking photos so much, that all that will separate you from the snow monkeys will be your viewfinder and a few sparse meters.
As you photograph, the snow monkeys, your JDS Photography Workshop Guide will draw your attention to dynamic interactions among the troop members so you can capture the primal intensity of the macaques. Alpha males of the tribe will sometimes attempt to initiate a liaison with a lead snow monkey female at one of the hot springs’ perimeters, and your JDS Photography Tour Guide’s insider knowledge of the snow monkey’s behavior will allow you to visually record that encounter and the ferocity of the potential primate union.
Many photographers the snow monkeys appearance at the hot springs as chance. Snow monkeys use the onsen just as the Japanese do, for warmth and to help fight off the freezing temperatures of the winter season. This custom is such a necessity for each generation of snow monkeys that you can photograph Snow Monkey matrons leading their infants to the hot springs every winter to bask in the rejuvenating mineral waters of the Jigokudani Yaen-koen hot springs. Once the infants learn the behavior, they too will teach it to their off spring, keeping themselves warmed through the harsh winter and giving you an excellent photo op for your Snow Monkey Photography Tour.