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Friday, April 6, 2018

Hot Springs Lower Stress in Japan’s Popular Bathing Monkeys

Before we start, a good rule of thumb is to call a primate a monkey if it has a tail, and no-tail it's an ape.  

I was lucky enough to have spotted a NY Times article (thanks @HirokoTabuchi on Twitter), that purports that Japanese snow monkeys... Japanese macaques... actually lower their stress while sitting in the local area hot springs.

The article by James Gorman (click HERE) is well-written and everything one would expect from a writer with the NY Times, but the headline, which I have used atop this blog piece, just begs one to say "d'uh".

For anyone who may not ever had the opportunity to partake of a Japanese hot spring experience (or Icelandic, or wherever), Jacuzzi or hot tub (regardless of locale)... if you have ever filled a bathtub and sunk down into either the hot water or hot water mixed with Mr. Bubble, you will know exactly what the Japanese snow monkey's feel.


Just don't think about soaking in your own filth. It's why the Japanese smartly insist that the human population clean themselves first before partaking of the whole hot spring experience. 

The NY Times article describes one tribe of monkeys that lives near Nagano, Japan... the ONLY tribe of snow monkeys that actually sits and soaks in hot spring bathing pools.

I did not know that until just now. Just one tribe. D'uh.

Still... the "d'uh" option exists per the bold statement of the headline... please don't let that have been the brainchild of writer James Gorman...

Anyhow, Gorman writes that the soaking behavior of the monkeys was only first observed in 1963 when a young female macaque was seen bathing in a pool built by a hotel, with the water cooled to a temperature apparently comfortable enough for humans and monkeys.

At first, one or two monkeys joining human visitors were a curiosity, but eventually they (the macaque monkeys) became a nuisance and health hazard, with a park then built with hot spring pools naturally heated to a comfortable 40° Celsius (104° Fahrenheit), for monkeys only.

Yes... a hot spring pool that segregates... keeping out humans. Though I suppose it's only fair play, IE monkey-see, monkey-do considering the humans wanted to keep their hotel hot spring spa for humans-only.

Why couldn't the monkeys simply go and use one of the other numerous hot springs free in the wild?Why build one just for the monkeys?

Apparently the natural hot springs in the area are a scalding 60° Celsius (140° Fahrenheit)... which is hot enough to turn my face red, let alone a macaque (see image at top).

Gorman writes that while everyone simply thought that the monkeys of this tribe were merely trying to stay warm by soaking in the hot springs (they are, James), it was recently discovered by scientists that the soaking in a hot bath by the monkeys actually lowers their stress hormones... measured by observing the soaking and how it affected their social structure...well... really they measured some chemical compounds in the monkey poop that shows that their stress hormone level was indeed lower after going for a soak.

Again... d'uh.

Having a hot bath relaxes you.

That's what the study showed. That's what the NY Times article reported.

Imagine... a hot bath helps remove stress...

It does so for humans... why wouldn't it do so for primates of all sorts?

Just the fact that these snow monkeys smartly immerse themselves in the hot springs shows they have intelligence... probably far greater than you and I considering what we each do for a living.

I'm unsure why someone needs to do research to determine if monkeys soaking in a hot spring lowers their stress levels, but I suppose someone has to confirm the observable actions. Plus you get to work with monkey poop! Ahhhhh. Already, I feel better about my job. My stress hormone levels have lowered, I'm sure and you don't even need to test my poop.

I suppose it's a science news story because someone finally proved that a good hot bath can remove one's stress if you are a Japanese macaque...

... now we have to do studies to see if the same holds true for other types of monkey... and then apes! 

Hey! Has anyone actually published research papers to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that hot bath will have a similar effect on a human being?

It ain't true until a science journal tells us it is.

On the plus side, I really think Hiroko Tabuchi is awesome.

Somewhere having a cold shower,
Andrew Joseph
PS: So... if a hot bath helps lower the stress levels in a macaque monkey, is it true that the same holds true for humans?
PPS: If so, why is one (human) told to have a cold shower to remove sexual tension? Is it merely the shock to the system that removes all naughty thoughts? If so, isn't the shock of suddenly immersing one's self in a hot spring likely to have the same effect?
PPPS: Won't the same sexual feelings pop up again once one gets used to the heat or the cold?
PPPPS: Or is there a raisin bag phenomena for males in the cold, or perhaps the heat lowers sperm count? Actually, both are true.  

PPPPPS: Help me science journal researchers, help me. You're my only hope.

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