Inspire

Scientists Have Figured Out Why Japan’s Monkeys Love Hot Springs So Much

Japan’s snow monkeys have become a bit of an icon, and it’s not because of their ugly-but-in-a-cute-way charm. No, it’s because they absolutely froth a soak in the local hot springs.

It’s cute and all, but Scientists at Kyoto University have gone deep on the peculiar-looking primates, determining exactly why the monkeys of Jigokudani are so obsessed with long soaks in the hot springs. The team analysed 12 adult females, monitoring how often they bathed and for how long.

snow monkeys

Image: Robert Montgomery / Flickr

After figuring out exactly how much time the animals actually spend in the water and the affect this has on their hormonal balance, it turns out the monkey kick back in the warm waters to blow off a little steam. Yep, regular baths in the waters have a significant stress-reduction effect.

Not only did the regular soaks leave the monkeys feeling chill, it reduced stress hormone levels, which enhanced their reproductive ability.

snow monkeys

Image: Brian Jeffery Beggerly / Flickr

The trend began back in 1963, when a young female macaque (snow monkey) was spotted in an outdoor hot spring belonging to a local hotel. And, well, monkey see, monkey do. Soon, a bunch of other local monkeys copied the behaviour and, as a result, park management built the primates their own private spring.

Upwards of 500 tourists flock to Jigokudani Monkey Park every day to see the snow monkeys and they don’t seem to mind the audience, so drop on by and say hi!

How To Get There

  • Fly Qantas  to Niigata Airport, Japan
  • Drive 190km
  • Jigokudani Monkey Park, Yamanouchi, Japan

 

(Lead image: Steven Diaz)