The Japanese islands are made up of over 7000 volcanoes and have over 14,000 individual natural hot springs for that very reason. A national pastime is to soak in these steaming mineral treasures to relax and unwind, which for city dwellers means going out to the country to relieve the accumulated fatigue and stress. And it's not just the people of Japan that love these hot springs. The monkeys love it, too.

Japan, despite it's relatively small size, has quite a wide variety of wildlife. One of the most visible, and most popular, is the Japanese Snow Monkey. This breed of monkey is from the north of Japan, which coincidentally also has a lot of natural hot springs. In the winter months, it is not uncommon to have to share your spring with a group of monkeys, who, just like you, are soaking in the hot spring as snow falls and steam permeates the quiet, country air. It's an experience that many who have experienced say that they'll never forget.

One photographer is sure to never forget the experience he had, partly because he took a photo of it. The photo caught such an amazing moment, it won the People's Choice Award for the Best Wildlife Photo of the Year for the British Natural History Museum's photo  competition. Marsel van Oosten of the Netherlands was at Jigokudani Monkey Park when he saw that a monkey had stolen someone's iPhone. After fiddling around with the gadget for a while, the monkey held the screen up and stared at it, just like a person sitting on a train. van Oosten captured the moment with his camera, which is the photo used for the cover of this piece.

If you're ever planning a trip to Japan, a few winter nights at Jigokudani (which literally means Hell's Valley) Monkey Park are highly recommended. But keep an eye on your belongings.


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