Monkeys have been around for millions of years, but only recently have humans started to notice them. The first people who saw monkeys were probably hunter-gatherers, like our ancestors.
They would’ve seen monkeys as food or useful tools, just like we see other animals today. As time went on, more and more people began to notice monkeys. People started to use monkeys as pets, and some even became domesticated.
In Japan, there are two types of monkeys: Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) and rhesus macaques (M. mulatta). These animals are native to Japan and are found throughout the country (see also our article on tigers). They are also known as the ‘Japanese monkey’ or simply ‘the monkey’.
There are several theories regarding why these monkeys are called the Japanese monkey.
One theory states that they were brought over from China during the Edo period (1603–1868), and another says that they were introduced into Japan after World War II.
Regardless of their origin, these monkeys are now considered part of Japanese culture.
Did you know that there’s a monkey population of about 1 million macaques living in Tokyo alone? So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the Japanese monkey in more detail.
Facts About The Japanese Monkey
The two types we are going to focus on are the Japanese macaque and the Rhesus monkey:
The Japanese Macaque
The Japanese macaque is a small primate with a long tail and large ears. It weighs about 5-10 pounds. Its fur color varies depending on its age and sex. Juvenile macaques have light brown fur, while adults have blackish-brown fur.
Macaques can be identified by their white faces, which look like masks. Their tails are short and thick.
The Japanese macaque lives in groups of up to 20 individuals. Males and females usually stay together for life. A group will consist of an adult male, his offspring, and one or more females.
When males reach adulthood, they leave their mothers and join other groups. Females remain with their mothers until they give birth.
The Rhesus Monkey
Rhesus monkeys are much larger than Japanese macaques. They weigh between 10 and 15 pounds. Like the Japanese macaque, the rhesus monkey’s fur color depends on its age and sex; it is mostly grayish-white when young and darkens with age.
Unlike the Japanese macaque, however, the rhesus has a longer face and smaller eyes.
Rhesus monkeys live in groups of up to 50 individuals. Groups typically include a dominant male, his offspring, a few females, and any juveniles. Rhesus monkeys are territorial and will attack intruders. If attacked, they may bite or scratch.
The Japanese Macaque And The Rhesus Monkey Are Not The Same Species
Although both species belong to the same genus (Macaca), they are not closely related. In fact, they are quite different.
The Japanese macaque is classified as a type of Old World monkey, whereas the rhesus monkey belongs to the New World monkey family.
Although the Japanese macaque and the rhesus monkey share many similarities, they do differ in certain ways. For example, the Japanese macaque has a longer tail than the rhesus monkey. Also, the Japanese macaque is slightly bigger than the rhesus.
It was once believed that the Japanese macaque was a subspecies of the rhesus macaque. However, recent studies show that the Japanese macaque is actually a separate species.
Japanese Macaques And Human Beings
In Japan, there are three main places where you can see Japanese macaques: Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa. You might also see them in parks, zoos, and even on farms.
You should never try to pet a Japanese macaque because they can be very aggressive. Even if you’re just trying to get a closer look, they may attack you.
If you want to observe these primates in person, you’ll need to go to one of the following locations:
- Tokyo Zoo – Located in Ueno Park, this zoo features several species of animals including Japanese macaques.
- Kyoto Zoological Gardens – This zoo is located in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City. It houses a wide variety of animals from all over the world (see also our article about squirrels).
- Okinawa Safari Park – This park is located in Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture. It includes various types of animals such as deer, rabbits, birds, reptiles, fish, and insects.
There are also some private zoos that house Japanese macaques. These zoos are often found near airports or train stations.
Can You See The Japanese Monkey In The Wild?
Yes! Although most people think that seeing wild Japanese macaques is impossible, there are actually two areas in which you can find them.
One area is Mount Fuji. On the north side of Mount Fuji, you can visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine. During springtime, you can see hundreds of Japanese macaques at the shrine.
Another place where you can see Japanese monkeys is the island of Shikoku. Many tourists come to Shikoku to enjoy the beautiful scenery. When visiting the island, make sure to stop by the Kameoka Forest Park.
Here you can see thousands of Japanese macaques roaming around freely.
What Do Japanese Macaques Eat?
Like other members of their primate family, Japanese macaques eat fruits, nuts, seeds, leaves, flowers, and bark. They also like to drink water.
Japanese Macaques In Movies
There are several movies featuring Japanese macaques. Here are some examples:
- “Babel” – This movie features a mother monkey who tries to protect her baby from being taken away by humans.
- “Kiki’s Delivery Service” – Kiki is a young girl who saves a baby monkey from being killed by hunters. She then adopts him into her home.
- “My Neighbor Totoro” – Two children find a pair of giant forest spirits called Totoros. One of the Totoros takes the form of a baby monkey.
- “Porco Rosso” – Porco Rosso is a flying pig who becomes friends with a boy named Marco. He later helps Marco save a baby monkey from being eaten by a hunter.
- “Howl’s Moving Castle” – Howl is a witch who turns herself into a cat. Her cat body is inhabited by a little girl named Sophie.
- “Monkey Magic” – A group of monkeys take over a human village. They make people dance and sing. Then they eat them.
Japanese monkeys are interesting creatures. Although they don’t talk, just like other monkeys, they communicate through body language and facial expressions.
They are social animals who enjoy interacting with others. You might even say that they’re smart!
If you are planning a trip to Japan, make sure you head to either Tokyo, Kyoto, or Okinawa to see these amazing monkeys in real life.