Japanese Snow Monkey

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Japanese Culture Japanese Snow Monkey

Japanese Snow Monkey

The Japanese Macaque (Macaca fuscata), commonly referred to as the Snow Monkey because of their habit of playing in the snow and warming themselves in natural hot springs, known as Onsen, can only be found in Jigokudani (Hell Valley) located in the mountains near Nagano, Japan. They are found nowhere else in the world.

There are many different tribes of Japanese Macaque throughout Japan but the 200 members of the Jigokudani are unique... They are the only tribe who bathe in the natural hot springs. During their daily winter life the Japanese Macaque will search through the snow for food almost all day before sheltering for the night in trees, where they huddle together for warmth. The snow monkey's of Jigokudani however intersperse their constant search for food with often lengthy periods in the natural hot springs (Onsen). This behaviour not only keeps them warm but also gives them a perfect opportunity for grooming each other. Soaking themselves in hot springs is not a natural thing for primates to do as can be seen by all the other Macaque tribes in Japan not doing it. So why this tribe? What makes them so different? Are their brains bigger? Did it start by accident?

Well, the story goes that about 40 years ago they had a very harsh winter in the region and the innkeeper of a local hotel saw the monkeys struggling to find food and took pity on them. He started leaving out small scraps of food for the monkeys. Slowly the monkeys started to come closer and eat the food. The food was layed out around the hotels Onsen and the monkeys could see humans bathing in the spring. One day a baby monkey got a little too close and fell in. The next day he got in on purpose... and the next... and again the next. The other monkeys saw this and started to enter the hot spring as well.Eventually the innkeeper lost his hot spring to the monkeys neither he nor his guests could get into the water because of the aggression the macaques showed. Finally the innkeeper had had enough, he came up with a plan to build the monkeys their own Onsen. He chose a place up the valley slightly so that it was far enough away from his own Onsen but near enough to still see the primates. After months of building it was finally ready. But the monkeys refused to move to their new hot spring. So the innkeeper started leaving small amounts of grain near and around the new Onsen he had built.
Eventually, encouraged by food, the monkeys started to move to their new Onsen and the innkeeper got his own back for his guests to enjoy. The innkeeper was a shrewd man. By building the new Onsen close to his Inn, he could charge customers an entry fee to the area to see the monkeys.

The area is now a major tourist destination in Japan with visitors travelling from all over the world to see the Japanese snow monkeys swimming, playing, relaxing and keeping warm in the hot spring.

There are other springs in the area as well and all are heated naturally through volcanic activity. The Innkeeper throws around grain every morning so that the monkeys keep coming back to that one spot. The snow monkeys have become such a big attraction in Japan, and around the world, that now whole tours of Japan can be centered around a single snow monkey visit. And rightly so, they are fantastic to watch. With no cages or bars (these are wild animals in their natural environment) to obscure the view and with such a large number of members in their tribe, you are guaranteed an extremely close up view of the snow monkeys going through their daily life of searching for food and warming themselves in the natural hot spring.

This is also a great place for wildlife photographers because as the public is not allowed to feed, or even touch, the animals, they go about their business without a care in the world for the dozens of tourists around them and pay them no attention. So photographers can get some really natural shots of these beautiful primates in their natural environment.

Hi, my name is Nick Holdsworth and I am a stock photographer. A stock photographer is someone who takes photos of anything a client might need for their product. These could be anything from tissue boxes to websites, and brochures to billboards. I recently went on a trip to Japan and now have the photos on my website for any interested buyer looking for images of the Japanese Snow Monkeys.

About the Author

Or if you prefer, you can find a link to my website with my complete collection of images here: http://www.picsbynick.com.

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