Monkeys and humans share 99 percent of the same DNA, so it should be no surprise when we find commonalities. When it comes to Japanese snow monkeys, they’re definitely similar to humans in their desire to take hot baths not only to warm up, but also to relieve stress.
A study was done on a group of female macaques in the north of Japan near Nagano, the home of the 1998 Winter Olympics. While the heat was an obvious factor, scientists at Kyoto University measured levels of stress hormones and observed the effects of social structure. The cold weather is known to raise hormone levels, specifically glucocorticoids, which increase with stress. It made sense that the monkeys’ stress levels went down during periods of bathing, and it was concluded that the higher-ranking females spent more time in the pools. On top of that, the macaques didn’t seem to mind when humans watched them bathe.
In the early ‘60s the monkeys were spotted relaxing in a pool near a local hotel, which the animals were attracted to because of its perfect temperature. They weren't able to soak in the area's natural hot springs, which tend to be over 140 degrees Fahrenheit. While this is far too hot for comfort, the hotel’s pool was just right. Initially, a random monkey sighting every once in a while wasn’t problematic but over time they began to overrun the spot and present some health risks. As a result, a monkeys-only area, the Jigokudani Monkey Park, was built, with the hot springs kept at a nice 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Check out the very meditative video below to take a relaxing bath with some of the snow monkeys...