The Tranquil Snow Monkeys of Nagano

The snow monkeys, or macaques, of Japan are a wondrous thing to behold. This troop of Japanese primates reside in the north near Nagano, where they can be seen relaxing in a Japanese hot spring, locally known as an onsen. These epic creatures, who have   a red face, hands and bottom, brown-gray fur and a short tail, survive winter temperatures of below -15 °C.

Scientists recently discovered why these iconic animals love bathing in a hot spring. It’s a way for them to de-stress. This pattern began in 1963 when a young female macaque was found lounging in a hot spring by a hotel in Nagano. Her fellow primates followed in her footsteps and soon the park was built with hot springs devoted solely to the monkeys. After an in-depth study scientists at Kyoto University found that the Japanese macaques were more likely to take a dip in winter when temperatures were lower.

Rafaela Takeshita of Kyoto University said: “This indicates that, as in humans, the hot spring has a stress-reducing effect in snow monkeys. This unique habit of hot spring bathing by snow monkeys illustrates how behavioural flexibility can help counter cold-climate stress, with likely implications for reproductions and survival.”

These creatures display a lot of human-like behaviour and characteristics. Similar to humans, almost all the communication between the monkeys is non-verbal as their body-language and facial expressions are how they interact with one another. They tend to only express themselves verbally by screaming if they feel threatened.

Like most males species, snow monkeys tend to exert their power over others by mounting them. They do this in order to assert their authority over other males. Similarly, these monkeys will fight one another in order to distinguish where they fall in the hierarchy. Despite their battle to be King of the Primates, these creatures also have a very playful side to them. The young monkeys in particular are incredibly mischievous and can be seen continually wrestling each other throughout the day.

About The Author

Michelle Ganney
Contributing Editor

Although born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Michelle was raised in England from the age of 2 years old. She discovered her love of writing at University with an overriding interest in the entertainment and lifestyle world.

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