By Ken Hegan for MSN
So there’s a bar in Japan where the waiters are monkeys.
Yep, it’s true. Picture two adorable creatures who walk upright and are dressed like a little boy and girl. Oh, and the girl monkey wears a human mask and wig.
Am I dreaming? Or is this the stuff nightmares are made of?
If you needed any more evidence that your city is deadly boring (and you should quit your job and travel), this is it. The joint’s called Kayabuki and it’s located in the Miyukihoncho section of Utsunomiya, a city two hours north of Tokyo. Technically, Kayabuki is not a restaurant, it’s an izakaya which is a traditional sake house that also serves food.
According to Anna Ikeda who writes the terrific Budget Trouble blog, the two macaque monkeys are named Yacchan who’s presumably a boy, and Fukuchan who’s presumably a girl monkey. Understandably, Anna’s not sure of their exact genders, saying “sorry I didn’t feel like pulling down underpants.”
Which is probably for the best, due to health concerns. And by that, I mean that I’m worried for the monkeys’ health. Anna says the bar is “dirty and grungy” although “not enough to be a skanky dive. The food is OK, but just barely this side of OK.” Sample fare includes “teppanyaki with chicken and tofu with meat. Plus the usual sides of kimchi, gyoza and tempura.”
Want to see what a monkey waiter looks like in action? Anna shot this short video during her visit. The monkey looks positively rational next to the human customers who all sound drunk as skunks.
Oh, and don’t expect much human help here.
“The service is non-existent…when a British TV crew visited Kayabuki some time ago, some customers said that the monkeys were actually better waiters. At least they brought you things, which cannot be said about the human staff,” writes Anna.
It seems the monkeys are best at bringing you beer. In an interview with Reuters, retiree Miho Takikkawa said the monkeys understand customer orders.
When I reached Anna by email, she confirmed that Kayabuki is still open and the monkey waiter/waitress are still serving tables and handing out hot oshibori towels. Which is a remarkable streak of simian-human cooperation. Other reports say the bar owner, Kaoru Otsuka, is training three more baby monkey apprentices.
Best of all: there’s a sign on the wall asking you to leave a tip for your monkey. Which begs the question: who wouldn’t want to tip a monkey dressed like a little schoolgirl that brings you booze and hot towels?
Anna says the whole thing creeped her out. Me, I’m left with burning questions:
- How were these monkeys chosen? Was there a monkey casting call?
- Do the monkeys bathe in that sink, or do they just lick themselves clean?
- Do the monkeys fight to get the best sections?
- Do the monkeys serve any meals containing monkey meat or brains?
- Is this a unique dining experience, or do other animals run restaurants in Japan, too?
- Can we train Canadian beavers to deliver my nachos?
- What if masked monkeys brought us everything? Will monkeys soon deliver our mail, pizza, subpoenas, and divorce papers?
- Why am I so attracted to the monkey in the girl mask? What’s wrong with me?
How about you…would you enjoy being served by a monkey?
— Ken Hegan
IF YOU GO:
Phone: 028-662-3751 (call ahead, because the monkeys are only allowed to work 2 hours a day)
Parking is available
Read more of Ken’s travel stories here
Photos courtesy Anna Ikeda at Budgettrouble.com