Home Society & Culture Does Japan Have the Cutest Winter Solstice Tradition? Why Capybaras Take Yuzu Baths to Celebrate the Start of Winter in Japan

Does Japan Have the Cutest Winter Solstice Tradition? Why Capybaras Take Yuzu Baths to Celebrate the Start of Winter in Japan

5 min read
Comments Off on Does Japan Have the Cutest Winter Solstice Tradition? Why Capybaras Take Yuzu Baths to Celebrate the Start of Winter in Japan
10,058

Capybara + yuzu baths = A cute modern tradition in Japan

You know it’s winter in Japan when you start seeing capybaras taking yuzu (a type of citrus fruit) baths.

Capybaras relaxing in a nice yuzu bath
Every year right around the 21st of December there is a flood of news reports about cute capybaras all over Japan taking baths filled with the aromatic East Asian citrus fruit, yuzu.
The most heartwarming Winter Solstice tradition ever
Although having huge rodents bathe with asian fruits seems like a very random thing to do to celebrate the start of winter, this peculiar modern tradition actually has its roots in an old Japanese custom.
Start winter off with a generous dose of cute
The yuzu bath (yuzuyu) is a tradition associated with the winter solstice (December 21st) that dates back to the Edo Period. Taking a yuzu bath is said to ward off colds and also be good for your skin. Capybaras are of course not familiar with the long history of yuzu baths and their potential health benefits but they do love being in warm water. Thus it was only a matter of time before some Japanese zookeeper out there realized that capybaras might enjoy a nice hot yuzu bath and that this could be used as a source of cheap publicity.
This year at least three different locations, spread across the prefectures of Fukuoka, Shizuoka and Nagano, have all provided their capybaras with yuzu baths in honor of the winter solstice, which in Japan is known as tōji (冬至). The news report below was filmed at a Shizuoka theme
park that started doing this tradition in 1996. In it both the capybaras and yuzu can be seen floating in the water, which has been warmed to the capybaras’ preferred temperature of 40°C (104°F).

This capybara yuzu bath phenomenon has been going on long enough and become so commonplace that even Kapibara-san (カピバラさん), a popular anime style mascot character modeled after a capybara, has started taking part in this tradition. The video below is for a song called “Mukyutto Nukkushi,” which is about winter, baths and Kapibara-san. In it Kapibara-san and his friends can be seen taking a nice winter bath, complete with, you guessed it, yuzu. And yes, you can even hear yuzu mentioned in the song lyrics.

Ultimately, yes, having the world’s biggest rodent bathe with citrus fruits seems to have started out as a PR stunt simply meant to get people in Japan to visit zoos and theme parks during a cold time of the year when they’re less likely to leave the comfort of their warm houses. Nevertheless, it’s definitely one of the cutest traditions in the world associated with the Winter Solstice, so for that we say: Thank you Japan? Plus, seeing all those cute capybaras with yuzu floating around them kind of makes you want to take a yuzu bath yourself, doesn’t it?

Source: Asahi Shinbun, Nittere News24, ANN News, Mynavi News

Comments are closed.

Check Also

The Real Reason I Walked from Kyoto to Tokyo | Japan Station 124

  On this episode of Japan Station, we talk about why I decided to walk the old Tokai…