Circus-like performances by snow monkeys in Japan contradict their long-revered status

Considered messengers of the gods, the macaques are now made to wear costumes, do backflips, and walk on stilts to please crowds.

Trainers with the Sen-zu No Sarumawashi performance group in Kawasaki take their diapered charges on daily walks in the streets. In the earliest stage of sarumawashi (monkey performance) training, baby monkeys are taught to sit on tiny stools. Gradually they learn to walk on stilts and vault over hurdles.

The monkeys wore soccer uniforms.

Six Japanese macaques standing erect on leashes obediently kicked the ball up and down the turf as their human trainers and a crowd of spectators cheered them on in a mock Japan-versus-Brazil match.

The monkeys in blue jerseys (Japan) looked sturdier, with fat tails sticking through the holes cut in their pants, but Brazil’s yellow lineup was quick—especially when player 10 stopped licking its hands. Suddenly, 10 got the ball, kicked, and scored. Victory! Japan’s team bowed. And the crowd exploded in laughter.

Read This Next

To regrow forests, the U.S. needs many more 'seed hunters'
How Berlin’s club scene is weathering the pandemic
Why you shouldn’t panic over the Omicron variant

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet