Five Select Places to See Animals Bathing in Onsen Hot Springs
Onsen hot springs are popular tourist destinations in Japan. It's nice to steep in them and relax, but another way to appreciate them is to watch cute animals bathing! Here are five facilities where you can see animals enjoying the hot springs.
1. Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden (Hokkaido)
The Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden in Hokkaido has a "monkey hill" with approximately 90 Japanese monkeys, and in the wintertime, you can watch them enjoying the onsen hot springs.
Although monkeys generally dislike water, about 80% of these monkeys like hot springs. It is healing to watch these adorable creatures relax in the warm water. You can even experience feeding them (100 JPY for a bag of feed).
Entrance fee: General 300 JPY, elementary school and junior high school age child 100 JPY
*The monkeys can be seen enjoying the hot springs between December and early May.
2. Jigokudani Yaen-koen (Nagano)
You can also see Japanese monkeys in hot springs at the Jigokudani Yaen-koen, deep in the uninhabited mountains of Nagano.
Located 850m above sea level with temperatures that drop to 10 degrees below zero Celcius, the area is covered with more than 1m of snow in the winter. The monkeys living in this harsh environment come to the onsen hot springs in the park to warm themselves up. You won't want to miss the blissful expressions as they sit together in the hot springs, grooming each other!
Entrance fee: Adult 800 JPY, child 400 JPY (all incl. tax)
*The monkeys do not use the hot springs much when it is warm.
3. Nasu Animal Kingdom (Tochigi)
Nasu Animal Kingdom is a zoo in Tochigi built like a theme park. It has Japan's first capybara onsen hot spring where you can steep yourself in a hot spring while watching the capybaras bathe.
An open air onsen hot spring for capybaras and an indoor hot spring for people are separated by a window through which you can watch the capybaras bathing. You'll feel your body and soul refreshed from the onsen hot spring and the adorable sight of capybaras bathing. It is as if you are sharing a bath with the capybaras. Entrance fee: Adult 2,000 JPY, child 1,000 JPY
*Open only on Saturday and Sunday during winter, with entrance fees of 1,200 JPY for adults and 700 JPY for children
*Entering the onsen where you can observe capybaras requires an extra fee of 500 JPY for adults and 250 JPY for children.
*During winter, capybaras are not found in the onsen.
4. Izu Shaboten Zoo (Shizuoka)
Izu Shaboten Zoo is said to be the birthplace of open-air hot springs for capybaras. It has about 1,500 types of cacti and 120 types of animals, including capybaras, with which you can interact.
In 1982, caretakers at this zoo noticed that the capybaras were soaking happily in a puddle of warm water that was inadvertently created when cleaning. That was the genesis of the capybara open-air onsen hot springs, which is now a standard winter scene in Izu. It is definitely worth seeing the blissful expressions on the capybaras as they enjoy the hot springs!
Entrance fee: Adult 2,300 JPY, child 1,100 JPY, toddler 400 JPY
5. Hakone-en Aquarium (Kanagawa)
At the Hakone-en Aquarium in Kanagawa, you can see a rare type of freshwater seal called Baikal seals.
At the Baikal Seal Show held 2-3 times a day, the seals put on a show of bathing in a hot spring with the buckets and towels handed to them by the caretakers. They are actually in the aquarium's pool, but it is as if they are really bathing in an onsen hot spring. They place their towels on their heads, and put on relaxed expressions just like human beings. Prepare to be thoroughly charmed by their adorable demeanor.
Entrance fee: Adult 1,500 JPY, child 750 JPY (all incl. tax).
Watching the animals enjoy their baths is sure to be healing! You may not be able to see them depending on the season, so be sure to check in advance.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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