Senryu : Monkey Mountain

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monkey zoo mountain
no fences; just food daily
wild ones love freebies

senryu by M. Nakazato LaFreniere

Monkey Mountain

I used to call Mt. Takasaki,  Beppu Mountain because it was on the edge of the town of Beppu. Beppu is on the coast of Oita-ken with many natural hot springs spas that attracted tourists year round.

I wrote about the monkeys a little before when I wrote Senryu : Amble.

The farmers in Oita-ken had a problem with the wild monkeys eating their crops.  To solve the problem of the macaques without killing or imprisoning them, the government decided to bribe the monkeys.  On Takasaki, they created a national park and started putting out food daily.  The macaques had lived on the mountain for more than 400 years but with the daily bribes, the government hoped they would stop their forays into the cultivated rice paddies and farmlands. The government even built monkey bridges over the highway to help the monkeys get to the mountain safely.    The monkeys wander around at will on the mountain and can leave anytime. For the most part, the plan has worked although the occasional single monkey will go adventuring.

There are two wild tribes numbering around 1300 or so that live on Beppu Mountain (Mt. Takasaki) in Oita-ken.  They don’t get along so they come to the main daily feedings by the park personnel at different times.  There are smaller feedings hourly.  This first video is a smaller feeding I think because the ranger is throwing out the food by hand. I remember the park employee pushing out a wheelbarrow when I was there.

In this next video at around the 7minute mark , you can see the wheelbarrows they use for the main feedings.  You also can see that while there is a fence, there is no gate so the monkeys are not really separated from the tourists.  They can and do walk out in the same areas the tourists are.  So you can get some awesome closeups — just don’t sit or stand too close.

If they feel threatened, the macaques will bite. Make no mistake, despite the regular feedings, they are wild. There are signs in Japanese and English saying don’t stare the monkeys in the eyes, touch them or feed them.  The monkeys wander in among the tourists but will bite if you touch them. And if you are holding any food, sandwich bag, or can of cola loosely, they will steal it from you.

In the video, you will see a monkey around the 13min mark — looks like something is wrong with his paws.  I can hear the ranger saying “kawaii so” which means “poor thing” so I think something happened to that monkey.  Unfortunately, that is the extent of my Japanese so I don’t know what happened.

Romeo and Juliet: Monkey style

Now the two monkey tribes will have nothing to do with each other; think Montagues and Capulets.  The rangers call them Group B and Group C. And they come in the main feedings at different time.

Once upon a time there was a tough guy, Bentz, who rose to boss in Group B and naturally the girls in Group B wanted him but he had eyes only for … you got it .. a Group C girl. I could not find her name mentioned anywhere which is too bad. Can you imagine Bentz saying to his lady love, “Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.” ?

So Bentz ran off to join Group C to be with his love in 1990 and it was back to the bottom of the heap for him. I remember the ranger, as he threw out food to the monkeys, told that story to Rie and she translated it for me.

The next bit I got from various websites as it happened after I left Japan. Slowly Bentz rose up the hierarchy in Group C and by 2000, was number 2.  When Group A went to war against Group B, Bentz led Group C in as allies and together they drove Group A off the mountain in 2002.  The battle increased tolerance between Group B and Group C.  Eventually Bentz became the boss of Group C in 2011.

In December 2013, Bentz disappeared never to be seen again.  He was 35 which in human years is over 100 years old.  Because he had disappeared earlier that year to be found in the middle of Oita, I looked to see if he had been found but couldn’t find any other reference to him.  I am handicapped, though, since I don’t read Japanese. I think, though, perhaps Bentz went away to die. A sad good-bye to Romeo.

 

References:

Photo taken 1995 Beppu Mountain by M. LaFreniere

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLOpywVpFKE Mt. Takasaki Monkey Park feeding time
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEzlJCAxWlQ 大分・高崎山のおサルたち 前編 Wild Japanese Monkeys in Takasakiyama Part1

Mount Takasaki Monkeys
Japan Visitor

Takasakiyama National Park (Monkey Park)
Beppu International Plaza

“Monkey Park”
Trip Advisor – Oita

Monkey of Mount Takasaki, made famous by Charlotte and the boss monkey Bentz
Xperience

A Skyflower Friday: Goodbye
imaginary garden with real toads

OLN #209 and dVerse Anthology
dVerse Poets Pub

Zoo
Daily Prompts, Daily Post

From Amazon Books: some travel guides that might be helpful. I thought it was interesting that you can buy Lonely Planet chapters (Kyushu&Okinawa) on kindle instead of the whole book. The other one is from Tuttle Publishing which I thought looked intriguing. When I was living in Japan, I often bought books by Tuttle — a publisher in Japan, they produced books written by folks living in Japan, including Europeans and Americans.


Lonely Planet Japan

Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats and Ramen

Kyushu & Okinawa chapter, Lonely Planet

Fodor’s Japan

Disclaimer: I have signed up as an Amazon affiliate so I may get a small payment if anyone buys anything by clicking the amazon links. The sheet said 4.5% if it’s a book. I think this next quote is required but I’ve noticed on some sites they have written their own personal text so I’m not sure. “We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”


Also published on Medium.

20 thoughts on “Senryu : Monkey Mountain”

  1. I love that story! It’s so great that they found a way to deal with the problem without killing. I also love that the people are told not to pet ect and the monkeys are allowed to be wild. There are so many elements that are just fascinating.

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  2. This is a very interesting post. However, please note that when linking your blog to the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, there is a specific prompt or theme to which one must write. The only available open link for a poem of your choice is on a Tuesday. Thank you.

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    1. Hello Kerry (she wrote the Real Toads prompt), you said I did not post according to the parameters of this prompt. I am pretty sure you did not finish reading the post or you would have seen I did post specifically to Real Toads as well. My understanding of the prompt was “good-bye” and pruning of old to make way for new. If you read the whole post, you will see not only did I use the shakespeare quote from Real Toads but there is also a good-bye to Bentz.

      I know it’s a long post and maybe you did not have time to finish reading it all. The beginning part explains about Monkey Mountain which I think is needed to explain Bentz,a monkey who lived on Mt. Takasaki. So I first explain the setting, next the story of Bentz and then said good-bye to a very interesting monkey. I used to live in Japan and the story of Bentz was something that always stuck in my head. Your Romeo/Juliet quote reminded me of Bentz so I went looking for him. When I lived there, Bentz and and his girlfriend had both left their tribes and were hiding on the mountain. He had not joined up with her tribe yet.

      When you get older, a lot of your good-byes will also be to memories, things you held onto because you never knew the end of the story, or even to places. Letting go of another place/time let’s you be more present in the place that you are which gets a lot tougher as you get older. I just wanted you to know that I gave a lot more thought to your prompt than you gave me credit for. And in fact that’s why I went looking for the story of Bentz even though I didn’t know his name — only remembered he left his tribe for love so it took awhile to find. If I had not seen the Real Toads prompt, the post would have ended without the story of Bentz. I enjoyed finding out his whole story but sad that he has passed so I thank you for that.

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  3. Interesting to read and I can’t imagine those monkeys in the city where I am ~ But I do appreciate the culture and reverence of the people for these creatures ~

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    1. thank you! Yeah, I don’t like to see monkeys in regular city zoos because they get bored I imagine. Thinking about monkeys living wild on rooftops — think that might be hard because it might be really difficult to forage for food.

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  4. Very interesting! And just think, if the humans never began to feed them we would never know Bentz’s story, his search of love and rise to emperor. I am such a romanticism 😊

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    1. Me too! I think being a romantic is why that story stuck in my mind because I hadn’t realized monkeys had stories like that. I thought they stuck with their tribes pretty much.

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  5. I am heartened that the government solved the problem humanely, unlike the barbaric actions of governments in North America, who “cull” (kill) wolves, shooting them from helicopters, to “help” the elk population. The problem is not the wolves, it is lost habitat. But our governments seem to be light-years away from enlightenment. I am very happy to learn of the monkeys….and I imagine that the poor elder monlkey did indeed wander away to die. Sigh.

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    1. Yeah, wolves have a hard time of it as humans have been trying to kill them off for centuries. And lost habitat is a huge problem for most animals. I thought that too about the elder monkey.

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    1. Oooh, I love West Side Story. Great songs. I agree with you that it seemed like a marvelous solution to the problem. Although they might think we are the problem, lol.

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