The “Floating Shrine” of Itsukushima is located outside of Hiroshima, Japan on the island of Miyajima. For some reason I didn’t record my visit to the island in the journal I kept during my 2002 trip to Japan. The thing I remember most about the island was the distinct lack of monkeys.
Both my guidebook and local tourist brochures promised that there were rambunctious monkeys roaming freely on the island. Most of my previous experience with monkeys has been limited to visiting the zoo, so the idea of an entire island full of wild primates was exciting. I arrived on the island via ferry, visited the quiet town and beautiful shrine, and then hiked up the mountain to where the monkeys lived. I don’t remember how long it took me to climb the 530 meter Mt. Misen but it wasn’t easy.
As I neared the summit I began to see signs illustrating the rules and regulations when dealing with the monkeys. One warned, “We do not like to be stared at our eyes. If you do so, we are not responsible for what will happen.” (Scroll down on this link to see photos of the signs.) Not only was I going to see some monkeys but potentially dangerous ones, I was excited. I put my bag into a locker as recommended by the park officials and then scouted around hoping to spot some monkeys. But alas, I didn’t see a single monkey. I don’t now if it was the wrong time of year or if all the monkeys were on their lunch break, but there were no monkeys to be found. As I hiked back down the mountain I felt like the victim of some sort of monkey conspiracy.