Monkey Business – Japanese monkey myth

Monkey Business – Japanese monkey myths

Explore Japanese Monkey Myths with us

In ancient times, monkeys were a familiar animal to see in the fields and villages of Japan, but due to urbanization in Japan they mainly live in the Mountainous areas now. Monkeys became a part of Japanese myths and legends, religion and art, and proverbs, we even have seen monkeys or monkey-like humans in anime such as Dragon Ball Z and Naruto.

Culturally the monkey’s meaning changes a lot through the centuries. In the 8th century, they were seen as mediators between gods and humans, while in the 13th century they became a metaphor for tricksters and dislikable people. In the 17th century, they represented the negative side of human nature. In Religion monkey deities are very common if we look at Hinduism as well as Chinese Buddhism and it is so more so in Japanese Buddhism and in the Shinto religion.

In ancient Shinto, there is a monkey God named Sarutahiko Ōkami (meaning ‘ monkey-field prince great god’ who is the monkey-like God of crossroads between heaven and earth. He is still worshipped at the Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Mie and Ōasahiko Shrine in Tokushima. Then there is Raijin, the God of Lightning who is usually accompanied by a shape-shifting monkey creature.

There is also the sanzaru (Three monkeys) also known all over the world as the ‘Three wise monkeys’. Their names are a pun in itself. Saru (or ‘zaru’ vocalized) means monkey in Japanese and –zaru is a negative verb conjugation. The three names are mizaru, kikazaru and iwazaru meaning ‘don’t see’, ‘don’t hear’ and ‘don’t speak’. These monkeys are displayed at various temples in Japan.

Young Goku

Young Goku

Monkeys are all over anime if you know where to look. In Dragon Ball Z there is Bubbles as well as the Great Saiyan Ape, In Fairy Tail there are the Vulcans, In Naruto one of the Spirit summons are monkeys. In One Piece Monkey D. Luffy is very monkey-ish and don’t forget that the DBZ Saiyans like Goku is born with monkey tails.

Here is a blast from the past as we watch Goku catch the monkey bubbles. Please follow our link:

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