Monkeys huddle to form the kanji character ‘rabbit’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Monkeys form the kanji “u,” meaning rabbit, on Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture on Thursday.

SUMOTO, Hyogo — Wild monkeys at the Awaji Island Monkey Center gathered together to form the kanji character for rabbit – next year’s zodiac animal.

The center which is located in Sumoto, Hyogo Prefecture currently feeds about 350 wild monkeys living in the mountains and surrounding area, and is known as a park where visitors can come to observe them. Getting the monkeys to form letters is a project the center has been carrying out for more than 30 years.

On Thursday, staff placed wheat, soybeans and other foods that monkeys eat on the ground to form the kanji “u” for rabbit. The monkeys that were waiting on the sidelines dashed out and started eating the food, resulting in the kanji character being formed by their furry brown bodies.

There isn’t a strict hierarchy among the island’s monkeys, and they are generally on good terms with each other, rarely fighting over food. This makes it possible for them to work together to make the kanji. Th kanji event is not open to the public, but the center has uploaded a video of the event on its website at a later date.

According to the center, officials arranged the food on the ground about 30 times to find the most effective way to do so, thus enabling the monkeys to make a beautifully, well-formed kanji character.

“They formed the kanji neatly, thanks to the practice,” Toshikazu Nobuhara, the head of the center, said happily. “The monkey kanji is possible because they don’t fight for food and allow other monkeys to eat beside them.”