More on those photogenic Japanese macaques, aka snow monkeys
November 17, 2014 2:59 PM   Subscribe

Last February, a Japanese snow monkey got hold of someone's smart phone (as discussed on Reddit and elsewhere), and Marsel van Oosten captured a great view of that same Japanese macaque, winning accolades and awards around the 'net and globe. If you'd like to know even more, he chatted with the 500 px ISO blog, discussing these hot-tub bathing macaques and nature photography in general. If you'd like to know more about Japanese macaques in general, here's a broad overview of the photogenic monkeys, and an hour long PBS documentary to delve even deeper. (Snow Monkeys bathing in hot springs previously)
posted by filthy light thief (14 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Japanese monkeys are assholes. I went to Japan with nothing against monkeys; perhaps in fact even a positive opinion towards monkeys. But so many of my students had stories of monkeys tormenting them I can't even give them the benefit of the doubt anymore.

One of my students lived on the grounds of a temple, which was next to a cemetery. Her father was a caretaker or something. Apparently monkeys would come down from the wooded hills and invade the cemetery at dusk to get any offerings left by cemetery visitors during some festival or another. They'd fight and scream and throw shit everywhere and as you might expect that is a fucking terrifying thing to hear coming from a cemetery at night.

Another student had one monkey in particular that used to mess with her. She was pretty short, and apparently monkeys will challenge short people, often children, too, and take their things. So this monkey would show up at her house and break in and steal her food. She would come home, and this monkey would be in her doorway chillin with a bag of snacks from her kitchen, munching away and staring her down. Some days she needed to get help from a neighbour to scare the monkey away just to get home after work.

This monkey with the phone? I'd bet he didn't just find someone's phone that they left on a picnic table somewhere. He likely snatched it right out of their hands and jumped in the water. These bastards will jump on your back and go through your bag and take what they want and be gone before you can do anything about it, and really what are you gonna do about it? Chase a monkey and look like an idiot? Tiny hairy jerks.
posted by Hoopo at 3:32 PM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


In this case, it was kind of inevitable under the circumstances - read what happened in the "Marsel van Oosten captured" link.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:38 PM on November 17, 2014


Japanese monkeys are assholes

All macaques are assholes. Or rather, they are very smart, highly adaptive, and become quickly accustomed to living in proximity with humans and to human food.

When I was working with a feral macaque population, one of our other researchers couldn't open a can of coke without a greyish-tan blur going past him, and subsequently, an adult macaque sitting a small distance away from him, drinking a can of coke.

Very young macaques can also be jerks. They are very curious, and will often approach you, and play around your feet, or occasionally try to climb you. Then one will get confused, or scared by something, and let out a particular sort of distress shriek (similar to the sound made by an excitable human child being chased around a swimming pool). In very short order, this will bring several angry adult macaques all up in your face.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:04 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


So has that monkey retained counsel to secure its royalties yet?
posted by Floydd at 4:13 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


How did snow monkeys get to Japan? Are there theories? Info on how long they have been there?
posted by larrybob at 4:28 PM on November 17, 2014




Macaques are great!! In Lop Buri a monkey stole a drink bottle from my backpack, opened it himself, and drank half of it. Then tipped it over just to watch the rest spill out. Then a bunch of tiny macaques climbed all over me and groomed my hair. And then an adult monkey got angry and bit us and we had to get rabies shots. But still, macaques are great.
posted by pravit at 4:35 PM on November 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


How did snow monkeys get to Japan? Are there theories? Info on how long they have been there?

During the last Ice Age Japan was connected to the Asian mainland due to lower sea levels. Some humans arrived at that time, but later humans (from SE Asia and even Oceania) had the advantage of boats.
posted by Nevin at 4:46 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


How did snow monkeys get to Japan? Are there theories? Info on how long they have been there?

It was a long time ago.

The sun goddess Amaterasu wanted to send her grandson Ninigi down to govern earth but a big monkey god named Sarutahiko was blocking the crossroads between heaven and earth, refusing to let anyone through. So Amaterasu sent the beautiful dawn goddess Ame no Uzume, known for her tricks, to dislodge the stubborn monkey.

Ame no Uzume went down to the crossroads and bared her breasts and belly at Sarutahiko, laughing at him. Sarutahiko, flustered, explained that he was just waiting to guide Ninigi and his governors down to earth. So he did.

Later Ame no Uzume and Sarutahiko get married, but that's how monkeys got to Japan.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:47 PM on November 17, 2014 [18 favorites]


Macaques in general are excellent swimmers, so I would guess some combination of island hopping and perhaps one or more critical events where tsunamis swept small populations across the larger sea gaps.
posted by tavella at 4:55 PM on November 17, 2014


The snow monkeys are cool, but the vast amounts of grain thrown in the water to entice them into the spring is rarely mentioned. They are as close to tame as wild animals can get. It's fun to visit, it's super embarrassing watch other tourists of your nationality - who really should know better about wild animals that are wild no matter how chill they seem - act like utter and complete dickheads with the monkeys. If you are Australian, that particular brand of shame will follow you anywhere in Japan where there is snow.
posted by smoke at 6:10 PM on November 17, 2014


This monkey with the phone? I'd bet he didn't just find someone's phone that they left on a picnic table somewhere. He likely snatched it right out of their hands and jumped in the water.

Yup, pretty much so:
Earlier this year, we hosted two of our annual White & White Japan tours. One afternoon, our group was photographing the snow monkeys when a large bus with day tourists from a nearby ski resort arrived for a short stop. Suddenly, we were surrounded by people shooting with iPads and iPhones, mostly selfies, of course. We were standing close to the edge of the hot spring (the monkeys are very relaxed with human presence), when one of the tourists started taking shots with her iPhone, moving her phone closer to the macaque after each shot. It was almost as if she was offering it to the macaque as a gift, so suddenly the macaque grabbed the iPhone from her hands and quickly moved away towards the middle of the hot spring—out of reach. The owner started screaming in agony, but the macaque was too fascinated by its new toy to notice.
I hope this doesn't lead to people handing the monkeys things to play with as ploys for better photo opportunities.

Fun fact: not all macaques enjoy hot tubs like this. in the broad overview of these photogenic monkeys, there's an interesting paragraph on this particular group:
Scientists have begun to rethink their ideas on culture within monkey society in a large part because of the Japanese macaques. It has been observed that the macaques invent new behaviors and pass them on by immitation. In 1963 a young female named Mukubili waded into a hot spring in the Nagano Mountains to retrieve some soybeans that had been thrown in by the keepers. She liked the warmth and soon other young monkeys joined her. At first the behavior caught on only with the young macaques and their mothers. Over the years the rest of the troop took up the behavior, which now finds shelter in the 109° F (43° C) hot springs to escape the winter cold. Young monkeys have also learned how to roll snowballs, which doesn't have any survival purpose, but with which they have a lot of fun, much like human children.
Creative little jerks.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:54 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Not sure if offended or flattered.
posted by digitalprimate at 1:47 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Chase a monkey and look like an idiot? Tiny hairy jerks.
posted by Devonian at 5:44 AM on November 18, 2014


« Older a fragment of a holographic reality that a higher...   |   Discover Us Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments