Japan Today

Hot springs celebrate 30 years of capybara relaxation

By Steven Simonitch

There’s nothing quite like taking a dip in a hot springs to warm chilled bones during the cold months. In Japan, soaking in hot springs water, or onsen, is considered the ultimate form of relaxation — so much that even Japanese animals, such as the “snow monkeys” of northern Nagano, seek them out.

But it’s not just native species who appreciate Japan’s thermal waters; every year, Izu Shaboten Park, a theme park and zoo located in Ito City Shizuoka, runs a hot springs for their capybara to help them make it through Japan’s cold winter season.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the capybara open-air onsen, and while you can now find similar sights at zoos across the country, Izu Shaboten Park prides itself in being the first to come up with the idea — albeit completely by accident.

“In the winter of 1982, we were washing the capybara’s exhibit area with hot water when one of the staff noticed the capybara relaxing in a puddle that had formed,” spoke Rui Ito, the capybara keeper at Izu Shaboten Park. “From that we got the idea of making an onsen for the capybara so they could bathe in it.”

Ito points out that the capybara onsen at Izu Shaboten is made from stones ("iwaburo"), giving it a flavor of refinement that can’t be found at other capybara onsens.

There are ten capybaras total at Izu Shaboten, including four pups that were just born this year. According to Ito, each capybara has a distinct personality and while the full-grown mother and father, Ikura and Rai, will soak in the hot springs for up to an hour and a half, the kids will jump out after a few minutes to go play around.

Following the Japanese tradition of bathing in citrus on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the zoo keepers even add lemons and mandarin oranges to make the waters more aromatic.

Capybaras are the world’s largest rodents and can grow up to be 130 cm long and weigh 60 kg. They love water and live mainly on the river banks of tropical South American countries, so it’s a small wonder that they’d appreciate Japanese onsen culture.

The onsen will be open every day until April 7. Bathing hours begin at 10:30 and run until the park closes. Check the Izu Shaboten Park official website (Japanese) or Japan Guide (English) for more information.

■ Izu Shaboten Park Access: 40 min by #6 bus from JR Ito Station, 20 min by bus from Izukyu Izu-kogen Station Admission: 1800 yen adult, 900 yen student (6-15), 300 yen children 5 and under Hours: 9:00-16:00 (Nov 1 – Feb 28), 9:00-17:00 (Mar 1 – Oct 31) ※Capybara bathing can be seen every day from 10:30 until April 7 ※English brochure available at the reception desk

Source: Excite Japan

Read more stories on RocketNews24. -- Take the “Public” Out of Public Bathing and Make a Natural Hot Spring in the Comfort of Your Own Home -- Hokkaido’s Oyunuma Natural Footbath a Must for the Onsen Buff -- Can’t Get More Relaxing Than This! Osaka Hotel Offers Running Natural Hot Spring Water In All Guest Rooms

© RocketNews24

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I love Capybaras! I wish I could have one as a pet...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

must be a very comfortable lifestyle.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Cute animals, but I hate to share onsen with them; they tend to pee in the water.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

That's the 2nd biggest rat I ever saw!!!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'd love to pay them a visit, but

Admission: 1800 yen adult,

Someone's laughing all the way to the bank, and it ain't these capybaras.

Cute animals, but I hate to share onsen with them; they tend to pee in the water.

And I'd hate to share a swimming pool with Olympic swimmers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I love me some capybara!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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