I shot this photo in winter when this Japanese snow monkey and his friends were enjoying their hot springs baths in snow-covered Jigokudani Yaenkoen park, not far from Nagano on the island of Honshu.
These snow monkeys are Japanese macaque, a monkey species native to northern Japan and the most northern-living non-human primate surviving winter temperatures below -15 degrees centigrade.
To see the monkeys in their natural environment you walk up alongside the Yokoyu River, which is nicknamed Hell’s Valley because of its steep cliffs and hot water steaming out from the ground. It is fun to watch them going about their business…playing, eating, running around and soaking in the onsen. There is a lot of social activity to enjoy with mothers and babies and alpha males. And it is remarkable how their faces and hands and all their emotions are so like our own.
If you would like to try soaking in an onsen yourself, check out my post on Kusatsu, which is much more human friendly!
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