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 2023 – 2024 capybara onsen is Wednesday 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 2023 – 2024 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. Before the pandemic it started on Saitama Prefecture Day, November 14th, the one day of the year the zoo is free in for Saitama-jin. However, since the pandemic, in a bid to keep numbers down, the capybara onsen starts the day after on 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 2024 – the onsen will run until Sunday March 31st 2023. However, there is another change that has stuck around since the pandemic began: the onsen is only on from 2 pm to 4 pm. Before the pandemic you could see the capybara in the onsen between 10 am and 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.
Foot spa event
The foot spa event has not been available at all during the pandemic, not even in 2023. 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.
Before the pandemic, during the first week of the capybara onsen the animal stage event was on too. The animals put on a show in the main theatre (near the paddling pool, beside the Beatrix Potter museum). However, in 2023, they will not overlap. This year the animal stage will finish before the start of the Capybara Onsen. It is on Saturdays and Sundays between September 30th to November 12th 2023.
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 2023, the art festival is from October 1st to December 29th. The theme this year is “transforming animals”.
Another event that can normally 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 2023 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 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.
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.
URL: Official website