February 13, 2015

1457 JAPAN (Chūbu) - Japanese macaques in the hot springs of Jigokudani Monkey Park

The largely temperate Japan has its own endemic species of monkey, which comes as a surprise to those who associates these mammals with tropical and sub-tropical areas. In fact, these monkeys are unusual in being among the northernmost of all non-human primates. The Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata), also known as the snow monkey, is a terrestrial Old World monkey species found on three of the four main Japanese islands (Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu), in a variety of habitats. The total population has been estimated to be 114,431 monkeys, and the northernmost point where they live is the Shimokita Peninsula, on Honshu island. In modern times, they have lost their fear of humans and have increased their presence in both rural and urban areas, with one macaque recorded living in central Tokyo for several months.

Individuals have brown-grey fur, red faces, and short tails, and are sexually dimorphic (the males weigh on average 11.3kg, while females average 8.4kg). They mostly move on all fours, and are great swimmers. The longevity averages 6.3 years (at least for females). However, they have been known to live much longer; males have lived up to 28 years and females up to 32 years. They live in matrilineal societies, and females stay in their natal groups for life, while males move out before they are sexually mature. Males within a group have a dominance hierarchy, with one male having alpha status. It is also a very intelligent species. Macaques in areas separated by only a few hundred miles can have very different pitches in their calls, their form of communication.

Very well known are the macaques which live in Jigokudani Monkey Park (part of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park), located in the valley of the Yokoyu-River, on Honshū island. The name Jigokudani, meaning Hell's Valley, is due to the steam and boiling water that bubbles out of small crevices in the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs and formidably cold and hostile forests. The heavy snowfalls, an elevation of 850m, and being only accessible via a narrow two kilometre footpath through the forest, keep it uncrowded despite being relatively well-known. Starting in 1963, the monkeys descend from the steep cliffs and forest to sit in the warm waters of the onsen (hotsprings), and return to the security of the forests in the evenings.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of a series of two, issued to celebrate the Year of the Goat.

Japanese macaque - Wikipedia
The Japanese Macaque: Messenger of the Gods - Japan Visitor

Sender: Akiko Watanabe (direct swap)
Sent from Kitakyūshū (Kyūshū / Japan), on 06.02.2015

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