Tag: Japanese macaques

A Royal Edict From King Buddy

Dear Big Buddy,

This letter is to serve as notice that I, Little Buddy, forbid you from befowling my blog with images of any other animals, including humans and snow monkeys. (With the exception of turkey, of course.)

The blog is called Buddy: An Awesome and Handsome Cat for a reason. Readers come here to see me! We don’t want to confuse them with photographs of ugly beasts who fling their poop at each other.

Signed,

Buddy the Handsome, First of His Name, Protector of the Apartmental Realm, Sole Sovereign of the Fields of Turkey, Prime Despiser of Vacuum the Infernal Menace

Dear Little Buddy,

No problem, little guy. I won’t befowl your blog with photos of lesser beasts like humans and monkeys. I’ll befoul it! Muahahaha!

– Big Buddy

Snow Monkey at Mt. Takao
Who is this Buddy the Cat you speak of?
Macaque baby
“What’s a Buddy?”
Snow monkeys at Mt. Takao
“I have my own Buddy, thank you very much.”
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“Look at what a cute baby I am! I’ll bet Buddy was never this cute!”
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“What? He’s on another continent?! What’s he gonna do, bite you? lol.”
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“I heard cats groom themselves, the selfish jerks.”
Japanese macaque mom and baby
“A who? No thanks, I already have an annoying little life form to take care of.”
King Buddy the Cat
“Let all the realm know what Buddy has decreed!”

 

Mt. Takao: Snow Monkeys and Shrines

I arrived at Mt. Takao’s monkey park just in time to watch an exciting part of the day for the troop: lunch.

One of the keepers entered the exhibit with a bucket of seeds, and this little guy decided he wanted a ride:

Mt. Takao snow monkey rides a keeper
A juvenile snow monkey at Japan’s Mt. Takao hops on a keeper’s shoulder.

After a few minutes of snatching up seeds, the little monkey decided he liked the keeper’s hat, so he helped himself to it:

My. Takao snow monkey steals hat
A young snow monkey hides from one of his keepers after running off with her hat.

The keeper couldn’t get the monkey to give up the hat, so she called in reinforcements. For the next few minutes, two keepers tried to grab a hat from one monkey hiding in a den with five exits.

It was like wack-a-mole as his little face kept popping out of the various holes only to beat a hasty retreat and try for another when one of the keepers spotted him.

Eventually they did get the hat back after the prankster grew bored.

Snow monkey baby and older sibling
A weeks-old snow monkey baby wants to play with her older sibling, who’s picking seeds off the ground.

Snow monkeys are macaques, just like rhesus monkeys, bonnets and long-tails. What makes them unique is the fact that they are the northern-most, coldest-dwelling non-human primates on the planet.

No other monkey or ape can tolerate the extreme cold like Japanese macaques. Most people have seen images of them in snowy Nagano, where they bathe in hot springs during the deep chill and sleep in tightly-packed “group hugs” to share body heat.

Japanese macaques live in matriarchal societies. Each troop is headed by an alpha and a matriarch. Troops have strict hierarchies, and rank is matrilineal — a monkey’s standing in the troop depends on who his or her mother is.

Females stay in their maternal troops for life, while males are driven out by the alpha and his lieutenants on the cusp of adulthood, usually around six or seven years old.

This has the benefit of removing potential challengers to the throne as well as preventing inbreeding. The ousted males will spend their next few years trying to prove themselves to new troops, or decide to start their own.

I spotted the group’s alpha in the most well-shaded corner of the enclosure, attended to by three lesser-ranked monkeys who were grooming his fur. Grooming is a big deal in macaque society — it’s one of their primary social activities, where relationships are forged and problems smoothed out.

It pays to be king: The alpha always eats first, has first claim to choice spots and first crack at propagating his DNA.

Also present were two nursing moms with infants. Macaques, especially Japanese and rhesus monkeys, are extraordinarily dedicated mothers.

Japanese macaques mom and her baby
A snow monkey mom encourages her baby to take a few steps.

Babies spend almost the entirety of their first six to eight months of life clinging to their mothers by clutching their fur. As the babies become more ambulatory, their mothers gently nudge them to crawl, to take their first steps or climb their first obstacle.

Upon success, the babies will hop back into their mothers’ arms. Life continues that way for several more months until the babies are about a year old and start to venture further from their moms. They continue to nurse for up to two years.

Japanese macaque and baby
A patient mother encourages her weeks-old baby to climb.

After the impromptu monkey show, I met up with my brother and we made our way up mountain toward several shrine complexes and temples.

Mt. Takao, Tokyo, Japan
Visitors make their way toward a shrine on Mt. Takao.

Mt. Takao tops out at 1,965-ft, and the ascent to its peak is peppered with mixed Buddhist-Shinto shrines. They’re the real deal, with centuries-old woodwork and artifacts that date back even further.

Each shrine in the country has its own unique stamps and calligraphic symbols. Visitors can buy blank books and collect stamps and calligraphy from each shrine they visit.

In this photo, a woman paints calligraphy onto a blank page with precise brush strokes:

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Further uphill are the temples:

Woman in prayer
The shrines and temples aren’t just part of history, they’re sites of religious importance.
Buddha statues
Statues of Buddha on tall plinths line a path adjacent to a medium-size temple

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Going to Japan

Big Buddy is heading to Japan for a couple of weeks. What does that mean for Pain In The Bud?

Photographs! I plan to shoot as much as I can while I’m there. Snow monkeys (Japanese macaques) are on the itinerary, and I can’t wait to shoot Japanese night life and Tokyo itself, but Japan is a famously cat-obsessed country so I don’t think I’ll have any trouble finding kitties and kitty-themed everything to photograph.

Of course I’m also planning on visiting a cat cafe or two while I’m there, because I’ll definitely miss my Little Buddy.

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Which brings me to the next order of business: Buddy himself will be in the care of my mother. This gives me an opportunity to lay an enormous guilt trip on her for refusing to allow Buddy to sleep in bed with her.

“Think of poor Buddy, mom. All alone, missing me terribly, accustomed to curling up with his beloved Big Buddy at night, and you’re not going to allow him in the bedroom? What kind of person is so cruel? You’re telling me you’re going to hear his plaintive meows for comfort, his tiny little paws beating on the door as he desperately seeks human contact, and you’re going to coldly lay there and ignore him? You’re a terrible person.”

I’ve already made it clear I expect daily photographs of Buddy next to the current day’s edition of the newspaper, so I can verify he’s still alive and well in the care evil clutches of my mother.

In reality he’s probably going to drive her crazy, so the joke’s on her. Muahahaha!

(Mom, if you’re reading this, you know how much I love you!)

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Finally, there’s the matter of separation anxiety for the Buddies. I’m going to leave a dirty t-shirt or two on my bed so Bud can take in my familiar scent — which smells of victory, bad assery and Curve all at once — and take comfort from it. As for me, I’m going to see if he’ll acknowledge me via Facetime through an iPad screen. That should be interesting.

The last time I was gone for an extended period of time, I walked in the door and Buddy was so excited he puked. I hope he keeps his lunch this time around. 🙂

I am going to miss my Little Buddy!

Pain In The Bud will be updated a few more times before the trip, and by late Sunday or Monday I should be updating from the Land of the Rising Sun!