Famous Nikko Monkey Theater To Reopen In April

Famous Nikko monkey theater to reopen in AprilA troupe of monkeys is making a return to showbiz in late April when a popular show at a theme park here reopens after a 17-month hiatus.
The Nikko Saru Gundan (Nikko Monkey Theater) park is reopening under the same name, but with “Saru” written in hiragana.

Nikko, famous for the Nikko Toshogu shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of Japan's most popular tourist destinations.

The head of the park, Taro Murasaki, and his predecessor, Toshio Manaka, announced the reopening on March 18.

Murasaki, who is 54 and a veteran monkey trainer and handler, will concurrently serve as principal of Osaru no Gakko (Monkey School), where monkeys give shows. He is best known for training Jiro, whose trademark was putting on an apologetic pose after misbehaving.

The theme park closed in December 2013 after struggling to stay open. Its foreign trainers left Japan after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. By that time, many of the monkeys were too old to perform.

Manaka, 66, his eyes glistening with tears, handed his trademark red jacket to his successor to mark the announcement of the reopening.

He said he became depressed “thinking the theater would be forever closed” when the park held its last show.

In past shows, the monkeys often acted as students and ninja. Twenty monkeys trained by the new handler will perform from late April. The park opened in 1992.