Sure, monkeys bathing in natural hot springs are cute and famous and all, but they’re just monkeys, not giant rodents! Who doesn’t want to watch the world’s biggest rodents bathe in hot water? No one, that’s who. Thankfully, the annual capybara hot spring (onsen) event at Izu Shaboten Park will reopen on December 20!

But wait! After 32 years, the capybara at Izu Shaboten Park in Shizuoka finally got word out to their rodent relatives at the other zoos and now animal parks all over Japan have hot water baths for their capybara.

▼ Capybara love soaking in the tub!


The capybara, which are native to banks along the Amazon River in South America, are big fans of water. However, those living in Japanese zoos had to stay out of the water in winter due to freezing temperatures. So in order to stay warm, they would huddle together, anxiously awaiting spring (what a sad thought…) That is until 1982 when a zookeeper at Izu Shaboten Park noticed that they would gather in puddles of hot water used for cleaning, giving rise to the “capybara hot spring” idea. Thirty-two years later, the capybara couldn’t be happier and they get as excited for getting in the hot water baths as the zoo goers get for watching them take their baths. They’re just so cute in the onsen!

Luckily for capybara around the country, Izu Shaboten Park is no longer the only rodent-friendly hot springs location. Capybara in over 20 zoos including, Saitama’s Children Zoo, Nagano’s Suzakashi Zoo and Nagasaki’s Bio Park, are now able to soak to their little rodent hearts’ content.

▼ He’s got the best spot!


The zoos don’t hold back on luxuries for these giant critters, who can get up to 130cm (over 4ft) and 60kg (132lbs), even adding citrus fruits to the baths to give the water a pleasant aroma (this is also practiced by many Japanese people, especially on the winter solstice). Just like people, not all capybara like onsen as much as others, but some are known to stay in for as long as an hour! That must make for one hot rodent!

▼ I wonder how many capybara can fit in one tub…


The capybara’s hot springs are only open for a limited time, just to get them through the coldest months. Check with your local zoo to see if they too have a capybara onsen, and if so, go watch them bathe, you don’t want to miss it! If not, check out #カピバラ露天風呂 (Capybara outdoor bath) for more adorable pictures and videos like the one below.

Images: Twitter (@shabotengroup), (@ngsbiopark), (@starmann999999)
Video: Twitter (@charnzilla)

[ Read in Japanese ]