I’ve posted a couple of the photos before but not the whole series of this wonderful traditional style monkey performer in Gaienmae last year. At some festivals in Japan you’ll see this, if you are lucky. After more than a decade in Japan I have been lucky enough to see it 3 or 4 times: Sarumawashi or Sarugei. At least as early as the Nara period (710-794) you would be able to see these wandering performers entertaining townspeople with their acrobatic monkeys. If you see these delightful combos around town, make sure to see it out!
A couple of months ago I mentioned on the blog how I had visited Kamikochi National Park in Nagano Prefecture, north of Tokyo. Here are some photos from this trip, more specifically some of the wildlife I met walking around Taishoike, the lower parts of the river that is the centre of the national park. Due to it’s high elevation, it remains pretty cool even in the summer and nights tend to get chilly, as I discovered trying to sleep rough on the way up there to save on hotel money. As with all Japanese national parks, it is not the most tiring of hikes, easily enjoyed even for the elderly and children. I guess the Japanese perception of nature plays in here: no matter how much we wish to preserve nature, there’s a few vending machines even here! Still, for a long weekend out of Tokyo, it is hard to beat in terms of sheer beauty! Entrance is free but the ride there can get very expensive.
I do love zoos and museums of natural history but nothing beats meeting wild animals in their natural habitat. On a hiking trip one early morning (just after sunrise at about half past five in the morning), I came across some animal droppings I didn’t recognize. They looked human but they were green and didn’t smell. On the side of the narrow trail just a couple of meters in front of me as I turned a corner in the forest I met a small group of Japanese Macaque (Macaca fuscata fuscata). I have seen these creatures in the zoos around Japan many times but seeing them in the wild like this, just minding their business and not at all interested in me was just a different experience. Ever since I first came to Japan many years ago my dream was to one day meet wild monkeys, and finally, finally, I was rewarded. There were four of them, two females and two kids, one just a couple of months old and another one that must have been born during the winter.
Even being no zoologist or primate expert I can tell these monkeys have a fantastic life. Look at their coats, their eyes and skin, it’s absolutely the healthiest monkeys you will ever see. These have not yet been lured by the treat of fruit orchards or the left overs from campers. I must have spent half an hour with them before they finally decided it was time to move on.
I know some people live in areas where they meet monkeys daily, but for me, a die-hard tokyoite, this was an amazing meeting and truly one of the best days in my life. At closest I was only a meter or two from them. I will post more photos later, for now, Enjoy!