A few days ago I saw three or more monkeys playing in my “backyard.” It was one of those “we’re not in
Kansas Canada anymore” kind of moments. I was skyping with my dad and stopped midsentence to exclaim, “Monkey!” I took my laptop outside to show him the monkeys, who were playing in the forest and jumping from tree to tree.
It wasn’t technically my backyard. I don’t have a backyard, just a tiny fenced-in garden behind my apartment; beyond that there’s a small alley road, and immediately beyond that a forest. Monkeys are fairly common in these parts, and have been known to assault small pets and school children, but this is only the second time I’ve seen them in our neighbourhood.
The first time was about a year and a half ago. I had just finished telling a friend that we didn’t have monkeys in our neighbourhood, when I drove home only to see one on the street in front of our apartment, as if to spite me. It looked very confused, probably wondering what he had been drinking the night before to end up in such a strange looking forest of apartment buildings.
Most Japanese people I know aren’t big fans of the monkeys, I think they view them as pests in the same way we view raccoons in Canada. But I think monkeys are pretty cool. In Kyoto, there’s a monkey park in Arashiyama where you can go and hang out with the monkeys, but every time I’ve been to Kyoto the people I’ve been with haven’t had the slightest interest in seeing the monkeys. “You can see monkeys anywhere in Japan,” they’d say. “Let’s go see temples!” Because you can’t see temples everywhere in Japan…
So last year, for my birthday, when no one could tell me what I should or shouldn’t do, I went to Kyoto to hang out with the Arashiyama monkeys:
Pretty cool, hey? And these guys live in my neighbourhood! Because of how infrequently I see them, though, I like to imagine they only come out here when they’re on an adventure. Or recovering from a bad (banana) hangover, as the case may be.