I didn’t know this before I came to Japan, but there’s wild monkey just outside Kyoto in Arashiyama. I’ve seen many images of the red-faced macaques in Hokkaido, sitting in hot springs, but I didn’t know these same macaques live throughout Japan, and that they are the only kind of monkey in the country. We decided to hike up to “Monkey Park” and see for ourselves.

The last time we were in Arashiyama was at the beginning of our trip, and we went to the Tenruji temple, which had the best gardens we have seen. We definitely had caught it at the right time. This time we walked past all that, over the Togetsukyo Bridge and up to the monkeys. Along the way there are many, many warnings not to look the monkey in the eye, or offer food, or take pictures of them along the way. I guess any of these things can cause them to go ape shit. Ha ha! Couldn’t resist that one. They also mentioned not throwing stones, which I guess some morons might be tempted to do.

About half way up the hill, K pointed above my head, and there was a monkey just sitting in the tree. I thought, that is not real. That’s a monkey, just hanging out. I haven’t seen a monkey in a bout 15 years, at which time I was working at a humane society. There was a monkey that had been confiscated as an illegal pet and was being held while his fate was decided. I can’t remember whether he ended up at a zoo or sanctuary. I do remember my coworkers telling me to go see the monkey, so I did. I stood in front of his cage. He looked at me and I looked at him and I thought, that really just looks like a little furry human. I mean, it was freaky how similar we looked, especially our eyes.

Seeing this wild monkey was the felt the same in that respect, but even more amazing because this one was wild and free.

Once we got to the top, there were macaques everywhere. The ones that hang out in that area are very tame and you can look at them and photograph them but not touch or approach them. There was one just dozing off, his eyes opening more and more slowly as he drifted off into a slumber. He looked just like an old man.

To feed the monkeys, you had to go inside a cage and purchase food for them at a reasonable price. Yes, the humans were in the cage, as it should be. They had yams, apples, and peanuts for sale, and we bought all three. Then we stood next to the wire, one by one, and held out the treats in our palm while the monkeys snatched them up. While one of us fed the monkeys, the other two were taking hella photographs. I had that freaky feeling again when I saw one of their hands on mine, that it was JUST LIKE MINE except smaller and covered in fur.

We saw monkey grooming each other, monkeys fighting with each other, monkeys being whiny, monkeys just taking it easy. I don’t know how anyone could look at all these monkeys acting just like people and not have a seed of doubt planted in their mind about supposed human superiority. They really didn’t seem very different. Now you many say, oh but those macaques don’t have smartphones or space shuttles, but on the other hand they are not destroying the planet, are they? So how smart are we, really? Smart enough to cause our own demise and many other species.

Yes, well, ahem. Happy Belated Earth Day.

After we had our fill of monkeying around (ergh! Actually, K said that when we departed from the monkeys), we descended the hill and took a walk along the river. There were boats for rent and people were fumbling about in rowboats or being taken for a ride on a type of gondola. It was very relaxing and scenic. We passed a man, a foreigner, who said he had just moved there from Okinawa and was loving it.

In the evening we finally found the sushi place we’d been trying to find for about a week and a half. It was a sushi boat place but unlike in the U.S. the sushi was good. They had types of vegetarian sushi I hadn’t had before, including pickled eggplant, tofu skin, and field mustard. The chef nearest me saw me greedily eyeing the field mustard, and when I ate some he asked me what I thought of it. I said, “Oishii!” (delicious) and he muttered “oishii” to himself and smiled. I guess he didn’t expect me to say it in Japanese. The smile was disarming, since the sushi chefs usually look so focused and serious.

Speaking of disarming, I’d like to finish with a word about the rickshaw rickshaw drivers. I don’t know if any women do this work, I haven’t seen any yet. So. Those guys are often really good looking. They stand around on corners trying to get you to take a ride, tanned and wearing a traditional outfits. But some of them wear these little shorts so you can see their muscular legs. I’ve mastered the surreptitious glance at those legs. Let me tell you, those thighs are something else. Thank you, rickshaw drivers of Japan who wear the little shorts, for enhancing my vacation.


Leave a Reply