Visiting the hot springs where Japan’s famous macaques hang out, photographer Jasper Doest shows us we have more in common than we think.
Japanese macaques soaking in an alpine hot spring at Jigokudani Yaen-koen (aka Wild Snow Monkey Park). These macaques live farther north than any other nonhuman primate. And in the 1960s, the macaques here started bathing in one of the hot springs, or onsens. But this created an unhygienic situation for human bathers, so a separate pool was built for the macaques.
Today a group of around 160 monkeys soaks there. The spot is now a major tourist attraction, and a business anchor for the local community. Busloads of visitors, from all over the world, buy tickets to see the monkeys, which are fed by park officials. It’s not a zoo—the macaques are still wild animals—but with so many visitors it almost feels like one.
Story and Photographs by Jasper Doest
“Snow Monkeys” appears in the October issue of National Geographic Magazine.