Week 4: Returning to Kyoto
Last week I concluded data collection at the Japan Monkey Centre (JMC) under the kind supervision of Dr. Yuta Shintaku. The collections I’ve been allowed to access at the PRI and JMC are excellent. I was able to obtain measures for many Ateles and Colobus specimens, as well as a few other New World and Old World monkeys for comparison. But, after 13 consecutive days of data collection, articulating and measuring 50 features of nearly 100 specimens, I was ready to take a little break from the numbers and do some sight-seeing!
A few days ago, I made my final move from Inuyama back to the city of Kyoto. I’ve settled down in a cozy apartment very close to Kyoto University, where I’ll be working with Dr. Nakatsukasa over the next few weeks to analyze the data. He has been a truly wonderful host and has made me feel very comfortable during my stay here in Japan. The hospitality I have received from him and his graduate students has made me feel incredibly welcome. And, after work he has been so kind to show me some of the exciting sights in the city! Last weekend he led me through a tour of the Fushimi Inari shrine. This site features trails that wind through tunnels of thousands of arches (torii). The tunnels are perforated by small open spaces where you can see hundreds – if not thousands – of smaller mounds for private worship. It is a serious hike up the side of the east basin surrounding Kyoto, but the summit offers absolutely stunning views of the city below.
After spending the morning at the shrine, he asked if I’d like to visit the Monkey Park Iwatayama – something I had really been looking forward to seeing! We travelled across the city to the west basin. After a short, scenic walk and another uphill climb, we reached our destination.
I was expecting the Monkey Park to be something like a zoo. I was utterly, and delightfully, wrong! Monkey Park Iwatayama is a park where visitors walk amongst wild macaques! The monkeys have become habituated to people over time, and they walk freely, comfortably, and fearlessly with their human visitors. There is a small building on the grounds designated for feeding. For a very small fee, you can purchase a bag of banana slices and the macaques have learned to come to the windows when they are hungry. I was astonished at how gently this tiny, wild hand reached through the bars and grasped the banana I was offering.
Over the next six weeks, if anyone is looking for me after office hours: check here! (Or the Cat Cafe, which is something to be explored next week.) Stay tuned!