While the rest of the world celebrates the Year of the Dragon, the Clampitt clan has been in a parallel universe celebrating the Year of the Monkey. Primates, those in addition to the hairless version in my family, have participated in most of our family vacations throughout the past year. Orangutans, lemurs, (are they monkeys? I`m counting them) macaques of various renditions, and dozens of others I can`t name have blessed us with their howling presence. Having never observed a monkey outside a zoo, this led me to evaluate their presence whereby I concluded it`s my fault. I`ve been abusing monkeys for years- karmically speaking- and now the karmic monkeys are on my back.
It started innocently when as a child I swung from one monkey bar to the next.
In the 70`s I learned that people recovering from heroin addiction wore leather monkey fists around their necks.
My favorite watering hole in college was the Brass Monkey.(Roll Tide)
When the Offspring came along I routinely chastised with,
” Stop monkeying around,” and
“Quit with the monkey business.”
I now sit in the lotus position while I pass along sage advice to my sisters such as,
“Well, if they do it at home, they`ll do it everywhere else. Monkey see, Monkey do.”
A foiled plan results in an eruption of, “Well that certainly throws a %&'(&’~ monkey wrench in things.”
After the last anthropoid encounter however, I may have reached the required level of enlightenment to move to the next dilemma in a long list of karmic “to do`s.”
It started with a four-day snowboarding trip to Nagano, Japan, site of the 1998 Winter Olympics. It ended with some snowboarding and a snow monkey tour.
Technically snow monkeys are the Japanese Macaque. Unique to cold areas of Japan, other than man, these monkeys are the northern most climate dwelling primates.
The tour started with a 40 minute hike up the mountain in to a National Forest.
Nestled at the top of the mountain is a 200-year-old hotel. Its attraction was the hot spring water piped in to hot tubs set in the snow. Originally, the monkeys used the pipes as heated walking paths. The sighs of ecstatic human bathers soon caught their attention and – monkey see, monkey do- they joined in the revelry. In order for the hotel to remain viable, the monkeys got private baths.
At the ranger station I wondered what type of entertainment was on the agenda.
Onsens (hot springs) are as relaxing to monkey as man.
Feeding the monkeys is strictly forbidden so they have no interest in the people taking pictures. Including this baby trying to step on a leaf.
Of course there`s always a show off. This one spotted the tall gentleman and decided to prove who was the man of the hour. Size does matter in the wild apparently.
They were just asking to be picked up for a blogging photo op.
We were told that although docile and uncaring of our presence, touching one would bring on the wrath of the entire clan. A boy threw a snow ball at a baby. We then observed the genesis of the phrase “going ape shit” as the baby`s mother “went ape shit” and chased him off the river bank- both screaming and hissing. Offspring #2 and I gave the mother a high five as she ambled by. Throwing snowballs at that kid had crossed my mind several times. Or maybe something else that would splatter upon impact.
On the way back this fellow posed proudly. Racougar hat?
Zenkoji Temple was a part of this tour. Allow me to give you the highlights. The first statue of Buddha to reach Japan is reputed to reside inside the temple. I say reputed since no one`s seen it for 1100 years or so. The receiving priest confirmed it was in fact the Buddha when interred. A copy of the now hidden Buddha was made.The copy is shown once every 4 years. Our timing was off so we saw a picture of the copy.
The Temple also houses the bell that was rung to signal the start of the 1998 Olympics.
Those are the official reasons to visit. Then there`s the unofficial reason.
The tunnel underneath the temple.
Fun was had by all as we descended in to the depths beneath the temple on a quest to turn a key that would allow us to gain entry to Heaven. Really, we all need the insurance. So dark was this hole that the only means of orientation was by keeping a hand on the wall to the right. I was more concerned about oxygen deprivation as Offspring #2 had a death grip on the hood of my jacket cutting off the air flow through the wind pipe.
The guy directly in front of me pronounced loudly “Someone has her hand on my bum.” (Always good to have an Aussie along for entertainment)
We tried the local delicacy- fried locusts. Although they looked more like crickets to my eye.
A demonstration to prove the edibility of plague causing insects:
My peace is made with the monkey.
I hope I`ve not abused the shark.
Tour led by Evergreen Outdoor Center in Hakuba, Japan