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March 16, 2017

Monkeys and Monkey Lore! (Ep. 4)

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March’s Uncanny Japan podcast is all about monkeys and monkey lore⁠—wordplay, superstition, and good luck charms. You can listen to that below.

Also, if you’re interested in me retelling/reimagining obscure Japanese folktales, take a look at my Patreon page. This month’s Bedtime Story (5$ and up reward) is “The Monkeys’ Ojizo Statue” (“Saru no Ojizo”).

monkey lore

(Me holding my smashed faced Sarubobo.)

Finally, below I give you a lucky saru. It’s a hanga-engraving I carved of a cheeky monkey flashing the peace sign while the character for ‘dream’ floats overhead. What could be luckier than that?

IMG 6936

Thanks for listening!


The intro/outro music of Uncanny Japan is a song by Christiaan Virant (“Yi Gui” from Ting Shuo).  The whole album is just gorgeous, as it everything else by FM3.

14 comments on “Monkeys and Monkey Lore! (Ep. 4)”

  1. I love the monkies. I couldn’t help thinking of the Monkey King stories from China. I wonder if they’re any relation?

  2. I’m a bit late the to the party, but…
    Many British, Australian and New Zealand people of a certain age will unknowingly be very familiar with the tale Saiyuuki that you mentioned in this episode.

    There was a Japanese TV production of Saiyuuki in the late 70s/early 80s that was overdubbed by the BBC retitled ‘Monkey’ or ‘Monkey Magic’ (it was also screened in Australia and New Zealand).

    When I was a child, it was shown at around 5pm every weeknight and me and my buddies LOVED it. To this day, it still has a cult feeling and its theme song remains very recognisable.

    But few fans of the show know the story’s true origin.

    Just found your podcast and am rapidly digesting all of the episodes! Thanks, it’s really interesting!

    1. I’m afraid I was in Japan and involved in watching other things. I totally missed the English-language version of Saiyuki. I wish I had seen it when it hit outside Japan. Thanks so much for listening, Stewart. New episode coming soon. It’s a wee bit creepy and gross.

  3. Hi Thersa:

    A colleague of mine told me about your podcast and I’ve become a fun of it immediately. (I’m a Japanese woman living in California for 20 years.)

    I like your approach about Japanese culture (I also like “weird, creepy” stuff. 🙂 I assume you have more and more topics in your mind, but here’re some requests/suggestions from me: “Kami kakushi”, “Mushi no shirase”, “Hyaku monogatari”, ” Iki-ryo”, “Yumemakura ni tatsu” , “Zashiki warashi” and “Ushi-no-koku Mairi”.

    Good luck and keep up with the great podcasts!


    P.S. My most favorite Japanese horror story is “Miminashi Hohichi”.

    1. Oh, Emi! Thank you so much. Yes, a couple of those topics (kamikakushi, ikiryo, zashiki warashi, ushi no koku mairi) are on my ‘To Podcast’ list. But the other suggestions are wonderful, too. In particular, ushi no koku mairi intrigues me (and scares me!). I want to do more reading about it. It’s sooo deep. I don’t know much about yumemakura ni tatsu, but I’ll read up on that. Thank you.

      Today I’m recording this month’s podcast and I’ll reveal here what it’s about so only people who read this response will know. This month I’m doing ‘Ubasute Yama’. I just love that story. Miminashi is very nice as well. Thank you for listening and for the ideas. I will definitely pick one out for next month!

  4. Hi Thersa, I’m listening in 2020 and I’m really enjoying your podcast. Actually I started with the newest episodes and gradually worked my way through to these older ones. I’ve been living in Japan since start of this year and I really appreciate the cultural insight you’re sharing! Regarding this episode: I’ve encountered monkeys a few times while hiking in the mountains. There never occurred any unpleasant situation even if I was always alone and in one case the group of the animals was about a few dozens large. Still, I feel pretty uncomfortable around them and I always pick up a stick or a stone when I see them, just to be sure. You mentioned you’ve had a negative experience with a monkey. Could you share the experience? I’ll understand if not. Thanks in advance and thanks for your hard work with this podcast!

    1. Laura, first, thank you so much for listening (and listening to all the shows as well!). And thank you for sharing your encounters with those chilling monkeys. My story is a little embarrassing. Back when I was younger I used to tell it and hilarity ensued. Back when I was an exchange student I would go with my friends to a local beach. One day while there we were at one of those covered shops that sell yakisoba and drinks. An old man had a tiny monkey on his shoulder (on a leash). I said something like, Oh, how cute! and the monkey jumped from the man to my shoulder and wrapped his little monkey arms around my head. I thought he was giving me a hug. Again, CUTE! Until I saw the faces of the old man and my friends and realized, nope, it was a very amorous monkey. I even got little scratches on my forehead from the owner pulling him off me. No one was harmed and it’s still funny when I think about it. Thank you again for listening, Laura!

      1. Thank you for your reply, I’m glad it wasn’t anything more serious! But still not a very enjoyable situation. I’m definitely not going to give up on sticks or rocks in my hand while hiking. 😀

        1. Absolutely! Last year I was taking this little local S&L train through the mountains, so relaxing, looking out the window at the trees and foliage. Then we turned a corner and this giant monkey was right there! Like within jumping distance. He didn’t bat an eye. Those wild ones are quite frightening. Definitely keep something on hand. I wonder if a nice thick hiking stick would do double duty, too? ^_^d Enjoy those hikes and stay safe!

  5. Hey, I just discovered this podcast. Starting at the beginning; can already tell this is right up my alley I love Japanese culture/history, horror/mythology and the uncanny in general. So I will probably binging all the episodes over the next week.

    1. Sean, thank you bunches for listening ????. The quality of the audio will get better as you go along, I promise! Both my sound guy (Rich) and me learned as we went along ????.

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About The Uncanny Japan Podcast

Speculative fiction writer, long-term resident of Japan and Bram Stoker Award finalist Thersa Matsuura explores all that is weird from old Japan—strange superstitions, folktales, cultural oddities, and interesting language quirks. These are little treasures she digs up while doing research for her writing.

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