SNOW MONKEYS IN THE HOT SPRING
The monkeys of the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park are famous for one big reason – they are the only troop of monkeys in the world known to bathe in hot springs. Why they do this is interesting and worth understanding before visiting the park for yourself!
In general, much like cats, monkeys don’t like the water and will generally try to avoid getting wet as much as possible. So why then do these monkeys not only happily get into the water, but contently soak in the hot spring for long periods of time? It’s another case of monkey see, monkey do!
The unique behavior of soaking in the hot spring is one that was learned through watching humans to the same. The history of the Snow Monkey Park is itself interesting, the establishment of which in 1964, preceded the monkeys developing a fondness for the hot springs. The park was created for conservation reasons and it was once at the park that the monkeys observe humans enjoying the outdoor ‘onsen’ (hot spring) at a nearby guesthouse called Korakukan (pictured below), just outside of the park.
This guesthouse had long been popular with the monkeys’ primate cousins – the humans – for many years due its natural mineral properties. Through watching humans soak in the onsen, the monkeys became curious about our behavior and it wasn’t long before they were copying it and jumping in for themselves!
It wasn’t long until the first photo was taken of this unique spectacle, bringing the snow-bathing monkeys to the attention of the Japanese public and soon, the world! While the park is now exceptionally popular with visitors from all over the world, it remains first and foremost a conservation and research facility where the monkeys can be observed in a near natural/wild state. Recent research has indicated that the monkeys don’t merely bathe for pleasure, with pregnant females – or those attempting to get pregnant – spending the longest time in the onsen in winter as a form of stress relief.
In winter, there can be 30 or more monkeys in the hot spring at one time while in ‘green season’ (spring through autumn), when temperatures are warmer, the monkeys won’t soak in the water as long but still enjoy a quick dip, swim or frolic with their buddies!
Snow Monkey Resorts No.1 Rated Tours
Operating all year round, Snow Monkey Resorts offers guests the opportunity of learning all about these curious creatures with both group and private tours combining a visit to the park with lunch and afternoon activities. Our guides are all locally-based and English-speaking, familiar with the monkeys and all things Nagano!
Let us do the planning so you can concentrate on the monkeys and get the most out of your time in Nagano and Japan. And remember, bring your camera. You’re gonna need it!