Of Men and Monkeys

“Why do you care about monkeys so much” asked my Kyoto-based Couchsurfing host.

It was a good question, and one i hadn’t thought about too much before. I mean, the answer seemed obvious enough – monkeys are awesome. Little furry people who chuck poo and cause mischief.

Who doesn’t want a pet monkey? I mean, in the purely ideological sense being that they would become a sort of friend/servant, ignoring the logistical issues of defecation-hurling, possible face-mauling and general abuse of their natural rights. Surely everyone wanted a little monkey buddy?

Meeting my friend, Kevin, and ambling up the steep incline of Arishiyama Monkey Park, i felt a tingle upon reading that we were going to see Snow Monkeys,which i’d first been introduced to by the film Baraka.


I also learned, from the above sign, that the monkey park was not only a monkey. Interesting. Perhaps the birds and deer know more about this.


Expressions, particularly eye gesticulations, make monkeys so special in their relevance to humans. The feeling that they have so much internal cognition and would verbally express it in an instant if only they knew how. You could see this emotive twinkle in many of their faces, that desire to explain their current state of mind. A quick glance at their furrowed brow and knowing glare and I knew what they were thinking. It was: “Feed me, tourist, or get the fuck off my mountain.”



Although wild, they choose to spend their time in and around the park, which provides them with a panoramic view of their balder cousins’ urbane dwelling below.


Visitors are able to feed the roaming furballs by stepping into a caged hut and passing them nuts from the inside, in a reverse zoo perspective.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInterestingly, i noticed that if you make a ‘surprised’ expression, some of them will emulate it, aping the exact same face you make. This is wondrous up until the second time you try it, after which it attempts to rip your face off.At that point, you give the monkey it’s nut before you become a marked man on the outside.




Have we evolved much since life in the trees? Of course – in developing language, architecture, medicine, technology and countless other endeavors humanity has created for itself a world far beyond what any other living earthling has. Yet upon observing the snow monkeys and their microcosmic fights for food and territory, it seemed that many things haven’t and may never change. Maybe we’ve just made more distractions for ourselves this man-made matrix we define as reality. No matter how far we think we, as a species have come, we can’t ignore the fact that we carry with us much of our inherited animal nature.



As Kevin and I were seduced that day by the simple life of the simian, as is so often is the case in our own society, it became a matter of monkey see, monkey do.



2 replies to “Of Men and Monkeys

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