More About Monkeys


For those of you who enjoyed my previous post, CNN just did a little story on the Jigokudani Monkey Park–the video above gives you a better idea of what it’s like to actually be there alongside the monkeys, and it gives some of the park’s history. They show a bit of bickering among the snow monkeys, but when I visited, they were totally calm and sort of meditative looking (which came through in my photos, I think).

The bit about not-so-zen monkeys in other parts of Japan is indeed unfortunate, though most episodes aren’t quite so dramatic as the two examples they cite in the video–most of the human-monkey encounters in urban areas seem to consist of monkeys stealing unattended food or being a bit of a nuisance. This seems to be the case in Nikko, for example, where the only monkey I saw ran into a parking lot, grabbed someone’s box of souvenir snacks and jumped over a chain-link fence as he fled the scene. Country monkeys also encounter many of the same difficulties, but I seem to hear more favorable stories about their behavior. For example, I had a friend living in Shikoku who said that monkeys would sometimes come to the playground of the school where he taught, but they didn’t seem to cause too much trouble and were allowed to just wander around. He was really living in the country, so much so that he could hear the pitter-patter of little monkey paws on the roof of his house at night. But I guess that rural farmers sometimes have problems with monkeys interfering with their crops and the like.

In any case, if you come to Japan and you like animals, I’d definitely recommend trying to see some monkeys—they are scattered around in various places, but they’re concentrated or kept in parks in places like Arashiyama (Kyoto), Yamanouchi (Nagano), Mt. Takasaki (Oita), Yakushima, Miyajima, etc. If they’re not as mellow as the Nagano monkeys, you might want to keep Miyajima’s three (somewhat hilariously stated) monkey tips in mind:

Miyajima Monkey Tip #1

Miyajima Monkey Tip #2

Miyajima Monkey Tip #3

I love these three signs. They’re always there to greet me at the top of the Miyajima Ropeway, and they never fail to amuse me, no matter how many times I’ve seen them. Happy monkey watching!