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Japanese snow monkeys soak blissfully in Nagano hot springs

A Japanese macaque warms up in a hot spring at Jigokudani Yaen-koen in Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture. (Mainichi)

Japanese macaques are getting through another cold winter at the Jigokudani Yaen-koen wild snow monkey park in Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture, by relaxing in the park's hot springs -- a popular sight among visitors.

Macaques in the region come down from the surrounding snow-covered mountains to bathe in the hot springs, and can be seen relaxing in the water, which has a temperature of about 41 degrees Celsius. While "Jigokudani" literally translates as "hell valley," it seems like the area is more of a "paradise" for the monkeys.

There are about 160 monkeys in the local tribe, and about one-third of them take to the hot springs. They often enter the water on cold, overcast days between mid-December and mid-March when sunshine doesn't reach the area. According to a park worker, the monkeys have few sweat glands and their fur repels the water, so there are no fears of them feeling chilly after a bath.

The monkeys are said to have started entering the hot springs after local officials put out food to dissuade them from ravaging crops, and the trend spread among the tribe. During the winter, the park is open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Admission costs 500 yen for those of junior high school age and above, and 250 yen for younger children down to the age of 5.

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