All posts tagged: jigokudani

Snow Monkey Magic

Bathing naked in a hot spring is a common, if not daily, event for many Japanese. The warm mineral waters soothe aching muscles and relax tired minds. In a country renowned for its almost fanatical work ethic, traditional onsen pools provide a moment of much needed relief. The Japanese people, however, aren’t the only ones enjoying the thermal waters. When snow begins to fall, a new group of bathers comes down from the mountains, and soaks in the steam enshrouded pools. Lounging around, they scratch and watch the world go by, unconcerned by the presence of video cameras and photographers. They are the ultimate hot spring aficionados — Japanese snow monkeys. In a remote part of the Japanese Alps, near Shiga Koen Volcano, there is a quiet steep-sided valley called Jigokudani. A rough translation of the name would be Hell Valley, and every winter hell freezes over. A thick coating of snow and ice covers the valley sides, but plumes of steam continue to rise from the river below. There is also the faint, but …