Guest Blog: Snow Monkeys by Yoko Kobayashi

Catching up on sleep
A little heaven in Jigokudani (literally, the valley of hell) in Nagano Prefecture, where the Japanese macaques known as Snow Monkeys  for their amazing life in the cold northern most habitat. They are daily visitors to the Jigokudani Yaen Koen (Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park) managed by a private railway company and their knowledgeable staff, including the National Geographic's Nature's Best Grand Prize winning photographer.  

These Snow monkeys are the only known group of monkeys that bathe in hot springs: Inside the Park, there is a hot spring bath reserved exclusively for them and we can see families take warmth from it while grooming each other. They sleep in trees in the woods to avoid their predators, each night at a different location, and sleep is always so precious to them. In a safe environment inside the Park, they relax in the hot bath and doze off catching up on their sleep particularly on snowy cold winter nights when the cold disturbs their sleep. 

Nagano was once a location of the Winter Olympics, and is where winter lasts nearly six months from October to April.  The park is open all year round and is located at the foot of Shiga Kogen Heights surrounded by many well-known hot spring resorts like Yudanaka, Shibu and Kanbayashi.  

All photographs were taken by Yoko Kobayashi 

 February: Young monkeys

 playing in the snow.  

At the end of September, babies born in spring are about 4 to 5 months old and mothers care for them 24 hours with utmost care. 

It is cold in December:  This veteran mother is warming herself in the hot spring while her nearly two year old child in winter coat sits on her back avoiding getting wet. 

June, during the rainy season in Japan, 
baby macaques nibble on cedar leaves while playing with her peers.  

In March, temperature starts going up a bit: A baby being groomed by his Mom. 
In June, this newborn baby is barely two months old:  Newborns start exploring their surroundings but always by their mothers' side.