Japan is one of the few countries, where people are not the only primates who live freely, the others are wild monkeys that live in the forests and national parks of the country, occupying the area from the southernmost Yakushima Island in the Kagoshima Prefecture to the northernmost territory of the Shimokita Peninsula in the Aomori Prefecture.
The Japanese have had a close relationship with wild monkeys since early times; this is shown in clay images of the primates, found in ancient tombs and ruins. Until today, there are many superstitions connected with monkeys; one of them is that monkeys can keep evil away. Wild monkeys have a distinguished value for the Japanese people and the country maintains monkeys' preservation programs maintained since two years ago it was banned to shoot them.
How do they live? Wild monkeys live and sleep in trees or other plants and eat shoots and young leaves in spring and fruit and seeds in autumn. They sleep alone or keep warm by hugging each other. Their life span is about twenty five to thirty years. They are very social and live in large groups. These groups often consist of a few males and much more females and their children. The females normally spend their life in the same group, while most males leave the group where they were born when they are adult. During its life, a male joins and leaves several different groups. The breeding season is from October to June and it is the best time to see wild monkeys in the middle of March, when the children are a year old and very attractive. They play, annoy the adults, wrestle around and bounce, pulling each other's tails.
There is a large habitat of wild monkeys in the Nikko National Park, located not far from Tokyo; in addition, you can see wild monkeys in Tokyo, as they live in the mountains of Hinoharamura, Okutamacho and some other municipalities in the western part of the capital. Certainly, you can see wild monkeys in the zoo, though the most interesting activity is to observe them in their natural habitat.
Unfortunately, recent reports on the Nikko National Park announce that wild monkeys have lost a fear of people and attack tourists, who want to feed them and also eat crops of nearby farms. Evidently, certain measures are being taken by the Tochigi prefectural government to prevent the cases, but sometimes people are guilty of the incidents themselves. When you go to the Nikko National Park, there are several rules to observe. Wild monkeys are not pets as many tourists think, and if they are frightened, they can bite or scratch. Therefore, it is important not to touch them. You could see on television how the tourists in Japan feed the monkeys from their hands, but you should not do that under any circumstances. A human being should never initiate a contact himself. You are a guest in their home and an inappropriate behavior can be accepted as a challenge. Finally, such pets as dogs and cats are monkeys' enemies; thus, leave them at home.
Actually, it is fun to observe these lovely creatures in their natural surroundings. If you follow the rules described above, you will have a good time to remember.