Sunday, June 3, 2012

JIGOKUDANI (HELL VALLEY): WHERE MONKEYS ENJOY HOT SPRINGS

The best place in the world to see young monkeys jumping and splashing, just like human children, in hot springs is Jidokudani, Nagano Prefecture.The older monkeys hang out on the sides and soak their weary limbs with expressions of relief, just like their human cousins of the same age group.

Photograph Contributed By Peter Locke

Over the last forty years since they started using this spring, these hot-spring loving "snow monkeys," actually Japanese macaques, have  had their photographs taken by thousands of amateur and professional photographers, including Peter Locke, who contributed the pictures in this post.

Photograph Contributed By Peter Locke
 When we went there in the middle of winter, an incessant snowfall had kept other visitors away.   The two-kilometer hiking trail into the section of Jigokudani (Hell Valley) where the snow monkeys hang out in winter was covered with over a meter of fresh powder. Without snowshoes, getting there would have been impossible. Around a hundred monkeys had gathered around the springs to keep warm in the below-zero temperatures.They were indifferent to our presence as long as we followed the posted sign which advised us to not look the monkeys directly in the eyes, which apparently can lead to aggressive behavior. A beautiful video of the snow monkeys in winter can be accessed here.

Photograph Contributed By Peter Locke
If you cannot get there yourself, one option is to view the monkeys via the "Jikokudani-Yaenkoen SnowMoney LIVECAM."


The monkeys probably won't be there in times of warm weather.

Photograph Contributed By Peter Locke