Tokyo Tower Monkeys (Sarumawashi)

With it being the 55th anniversary of the Tokyo Tower, I thought it would be suiting to write about the free monkey show that takes place in front. These shows are not put on directly by Tokyo Tower, but permitted to entertain there. I have myself gone back multiple times now to check out this entertaining feat of two species, human and primate, working together to put on a show of acrobatics and humor.

Traditionally referred to as Sarumawashi in Japan, this has the literal translation of ‘monkey circling, or monkey dancing.’ This once was a common occurrence in the streets of Japan. Trained monkeys were displayed in street-side shows usually during the holiday or festival seasons, and as time went on, they eventually began to fade away, or more seen performed in places like zoos or even in the movies.

Monkeys are dressed in little people’s clothing almost like little children. They walk upright, walk on stilts, go up stairs, and do a variety of flips! It is easy to see the attraction for children particularly for these types of events. For me not having been raised with these wonderful types of live action animal shows right in front of me at the park or popular local attraction, my attention was fixed! Watching this show brought back nostalgic feelings of my childhood’s past. *Pro Tip* If at the end of the show you donate at least five-hundred yen, you will receive a gift postcard with the little monkeys dressed up.

A decline of these types of performances can be attributed to the criticism of these monkeys being put onto leashes, and being made to perform to do tricks. To those I say look at what we do with our own domesticated pets like dogs, horses, and birds; look at the institution of zoos. Trained animals work in the movie business and have been capturing the hearts of the world for years, and other trained animals work side-by-side with our law enforcement and military helping to save lives.

You can tell with the handler’s gentle behavior with these monkeys, they truly are their handler’s pets and babies. What I have observed and seen thus far, it appears that the monkeys are treated quite well, and are happy interacting with the adorning crowds. So kick off any negative stereotypes that might prevail, and let go to enjoy entertainment with a historical past.

by Alex

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