Capybaras in Lemon Hot Springs At Shaboten Zoo, Izu
You might have heard of monkeys bathing in Japanese hot springs, but monkeys are not the only animals that enjoy a nice bath. In the Shaboten Zoo in Izu, Shizuoka prefecture, you can experience that capybaras also like to bath in hot springs.
Annual Capybara Hot Spring Event at the Shaboten Zoo
Every year in winter, the Zoo holds a capybara hot spring event. It usually starts at the end of November and lasts until early April. During the event on most weekends and certain weekdays the capybaras of the Zoo will take a bath in hot springs that the zoo constructed specifically for the capybaras.
For details on which days the event takes place you can check their website.
The bathing times are from 10:30 to 11:30 and 13:30 to 14:30 on weekends and 13:30 to 14:30 on weekdays. You do not need to pay any extra fee for watching the capybara hot spring bath, a ticket for the Zoo is sufficient. Just go to the event area on the designated times.
Cherry Blossom Baths and Apple Baths for the Capybaras
Just like humans that enjoy different types of bath salts, the capybaras also get to enjoy different types of bath additives. According to the season, the Zookeepers will add different kinds of fruit and flowers to the bath. For example, during cherry blossom seasons, they will add cherry blossoms to the bath and on Valentine's Day they will add heart-shaped apples. The most popular variant is probably the Yuzu lemon bath, that is also popular for hot springs for humans. I do not think the capybaras care too much what you put in their bath, but it definitely looks nice in photos. If you plan a trip you might want to check what kinds of baths they have in advance.
If you want to take nice pictures you might want to arrive at the event space a little early to save a good spot. However, most visitors usually do not spend the whole hour watching the capybaras so you still might get a chance for a good spot even if you arrive a little late.
In the pictures here, the Capybaras are bathing in daidai, an Asian variant of the bitter orange that are typical fruit for the prefecture.
They Also Have A Capybara Petting Zoo
Besides the capybara hot spring event, you can also enjoy capybaras in a petting zoo. Here you can pet and feed them. The petting zoo also has a small bath for the Capybaras, so please do not confuse it with the hot spring event, as the event is held in a different area of the zoo. In the petting zoo, you can see the capybaras enjoying a bath outside of the event times as well, but the bath is smaller, and no special additives are added.
In the petting zoo, you can buy capybara food for 200 Yen and feed the cute animals as well as just hang out with them. If you enjoyed the event, you also take home a special hot spring capybara from the souvenir shop of the zoo.
I personally did enjoy the event quite a lot. If you plan to visit Izu during the event times a visit to the Shaboten Zoo should definitely be on your schedule.