Watch these beautiful Japanese macaques at Wild Snow Monkey Park who have truly mastered the fine art of relaxation.
Most of us have probably seen photos before of the Japanese macaques – otherwise known as snow monkeys – soaking in a steamy bath. The images are striking for the beauty of the landscape, of course, but also in just how completely relatable these monkey are. What human doesn’t love sitting in a natural hot spring?
That said, I’ve often wondered what’s going on with these monkeys. What are they doing in there?
These smart and super social animals live on three of Japan’s four main islands, notes Jasper Doest, a photographer who has spent a lot of time with the animals. They live farther north than any other nonhuman primate. The steamy scenes we’ve become familiar with are photographed at Jigokudani Yaen-koen, or, Wild Snow Monkey Park.
At half a mile above sea level, the habitat is harsh – cold and snowy. But while the air may be well below freezing, the natural springs are over 100F degrees, giving the monkeys a warm and soothing refuge.
“Relaxed by the steamy warmth of the water, the monkeys often fall asleep while bathing,” says Doest.
The monkeys are free to come and go, and the spectacle of it all draws troves of people from all over the world. “It’s not a zoo,” notes Doest, “the macaques are still wild animals – but with so many visitors it almost feels like one.”
You can see some of Doest’s beautiful photos at National Geographic, and in the meantime watch this meditative short film by filmmaker Art Gimbel. It is such a good reminder to slow down, relax, and when the weather gets cold … amble on down to the hot springs and take a warm dip. Bonus points if you become so relaxed that you fall asleep sitting up.