Capybara Onsen at Saitama Children's zoo aka Saitama Children's Animal Nature Park

The Capybara Onsen, aka hot spring, is one of the (thee?) most popular annual events at the Saitama Children’s Zoo. Indeed the love of the Capybara Onsen in general is a phenomenon hard to explain – you just have to go and see for yourself. I guarantee you, even the most cynical among you, will get a kick out of seeing these giant rodents relax in a hot bath!

The official start date for the 2022 – 2023 capybara onsen is Tuesday November 15th.

Where can I see capybara in a hot spring in Saitama?

There are actually quite a few places around the Kanto plain that have a capybara hot spring in recent years, but one of the first (and one of the best) is the capybara hot spring in Saitama Children’s Zoo. Another place you can usually see them, in Saitama, is in Chikozan zoo where they also have a monkey hot spring.

Saitama Children’s Zoo Capybara Onsen

The dates for the winter 2022 – 2023 capybara onsen have been set. Each year the event starts in the middle of November and runs until the end of March. Even in 2020 when the daily cases of corona were quite high the event went ahead on schedule. Often it starts on Saitama Prefecture Day, November 14th. However, in 2022, just like in 2021, they are postponing the start date. The reason is to deter crowding as the Saitama Children’s Zoo is free in annually on Saitama Prefecture Day. This year, the 14th falls on a Monday, which is the one day of the week that the zoo is normally closed, but in 2022 the zoo will open specifically for Saitama Day in 2022. The capybara onsen will start the day after on Tuesday November 15th.

The capybara onsen is usually on until the last day of March, on the days that the zoo is open. It will be the same in 2023 – the onsen will run until Friday March 31st 2023. However, there is one big change from last year… Last year you could see the capybara in the onsen between 10 am and 4 pm. However, in 2023 they will only be in the onsen from 2 pm to 4 pm. They start filling the baths from 2 pm each day the zoo is open. They usually put Yuzu in the bath (as pictured below) from December 1st to December 22nd.

Capybara Onsen at Saitama Children's zoo

Foot spa event

The foot spa event has not been available at all during the pandemic. I have left this information here so that I remember to check for that information each year!! The foot spa event usually takes place daily on the days the zoo is open between 2 and 4 pm.  The first 12 customers in line will be able to get up close and personal with the capybara and enjoy a foot spa in the same enclosure. This part of the event starts from 2.30 pm and finishes around 3.30 pm. There is no additional cost for viewing the capybara, but there is a small fee for the foot spa event. Unfortunately, it seems like this event won’t be on in 2021 – 2022.

Other events

During the first week of the capybara onsen the animal stage event is usually on too. The animals put on a show in the main theatre (near the paddling pool, beside the Beatrix Potter museum). However, in 2022, for the first time that I remember, they don’t overlap. This year the animal stage will finish before the start of the Capybara Onsen. It is on from October 1st to November 13th.

The annual art festival is always running for the first few weeks of this event. And thankfully this year it will be the same. Moreover, just like last year, it will be on for longer than it used to be before the pandemic. In 2022, the art festival is from Saturday October 1st to Thursday December 29th. The theme is “dinosaur art”. On November 23rd (and 13th) they will have a dinosaur craft workshop at the zoo. You need to apply in advance to participate in the workshop.

Night illumination at the Saitama Children's Zoo
Night illumination at Saitama Children’s Zoo

Another event that can be enjoyed during Winter in the zoo is the annual gift giving to animals which normally takes place on a Saturday or Sunday near Christmas. The 2022 dates have not yet been set. There was also a bit of night illumination near the main gate of the zoo before the pandemic, but currently no word of that either in 2022 / 2023.

All of these events are free to participate in, once you have paid into the zoo itself. There are also some events with a nominal charge. Such as the ever popular butter making class which costs 300 yen per person. The butter making event was suspended temporarily in both 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. But it is back on now. It is on the second Sunday of each month. You have to get a ticket at the gate on the way into the zoo, subject to availability.

Zoo information

Hours: 9.30am to 5pm except winter when it closes at 4.30pm. Costs: 700 yen for adults, 200 yen for children between 6 and 15. Free for children under 6. CLOSED ON MONDAYS all year round (except national holidays) and on Tuesdays too during the month of January. The zoo is also closed for a few days over New Years, usually from the 31st of December to the 3rd of January. 

Parking: For 800 cars, costs 600 yen per day. At weekends during peak season, there is an overflow car park. There are also some unofficial parking areas beside the overflow car park that open on busy days and cost 500 yen a day.

TEL: 0493-35-1234

URLOfficial website

Even more photos and information in English

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