Nobody Here but Us Monkeys (and Badgers)

With only a couple of weeks to go until the Kama Tunnel opens to public transit on April 15th, anticipation for the new season is running high.  Soon, the shady lanes of Japan’s favorite alpine playground will echo with human footsteps once more, but for now, it is a different kind of traffic  on the paths, and these guys aren’t guests but bona fide inhabitants.  Of course, I’m speaking of Kamikochi’s locale primate population, sometimes placid, often mischievous, always inrtiguing.  The ニホンザル (nihonzaru or “Japanese macacques”) currently rule the roost in the Japan Alps, but will soon have to make room for more advanced primates.


This entry takes substantial inspiration (and all of its photos) from a post on the wonderful “National Park Guide” website.  Thanks once again to the dedicated men and women of NPG for all of their hard work:



One might wonder why people visiting Kamikochi are so likely to encounter monkeys, when a great many other species of local fauna go largely unoticed.  Part of the answer to this is that, while humans and other primates are active mostly during the daylight hours, other species of mammal prefer to go about their business at night (for genius points, I just learned 夜行性 [yakousei] is the Japanese word for “nocturnal”).


ニホンザル  ニホンザル


Another reason people are less likely to spot other forms of wildlife is that, even when we do venture out at night, our native abilities to notice animals lurking in darkened groves is simply not that advanced.  Nocturnal animals own the night.


As for our furry little buddies from from the cercopithecidae family, anyone who has encountered them knows that they lost their fear of humans some time ago.  Far from recoiling from human contact, monkeys often conduct themselves with a pronounced boldness when approached. We strongly recommend that you not approach them or even make eye contact as they may become excited an even attack. There are no recorded cases of this happening at Kamikochi yet, but do you really want to be the first?  No you do not.


They are fascinating to watch from afar however.


A much less heralded tennant of the Chubu Sangaku National Park is the intrepid badger, seen here taking a rare daytime stroll.



Needless to say, there are also many many species of wildfowl in Kamikochi and they will likely provide fodder for an upcoming blog post once they start appearing en masse in the park.


That’s all for now, but please stay tuned to the SHK homepage and also the “Kamikochi and Matsumoto” Facebook page for useful, up to date info about the 2016 spring Season.  It’s just around the corner!


Sources of information:


National Park Guide website: