In Rural Fukushima, ‘The Border Between Monkeys And Humans Has Blurred’

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Shuichi Kanno, 79, walks in front of his home at dusk. Kanno has been dealing with hordes of macaque monkeys in his neighborhood in Japan. They frequently wake him up as they climb over his roof in the early morning hours.

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Kanno stacks fireworks on his coffee table to distribute to neighbors. The fireworks make a loud noise meant to scare, not injure, the monkeys.

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A macaque monkey in a tree in Fukushima prefecture. After the 2011 nuclear disaster, towns and neighborhoods in Fukushima were left devoid of humans for years, and nature started to reclaim the space.

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From left: Shuichi Kanno, Shigeko Hoshino, Hiroyuki Shima and Hachiro Endo are neighbors who moved back to Fukushima after the nuclear disaster and who get regular visits from monkeys that eat fruits and vegetables from their gardens.

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Yuriko Kanno, 75, is amused by the battle between her husband and the monkeys.

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Kanno drives his truck down a main road in his neighborhood, chasing monkeys that he saw scampering around his house not long ago.

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A troop of monkeys scampers across a road in Fukushima prefecture.

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Kanno grins after shooting off a firework to scare off monkeys that were roaming through the neighborhood.

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Kanno grins after shooting off a firework to scare off monkeys that were roaming through the neighborhood.

Claire Harbage/NPR

Three loud booms echo through the trees. The monkeys scatter. Kanno bursts into a grin, giggling. Then he runs to every house nearby, making sure his neighbors know that he just saved their gardens from almost certain devastation.

«They won’t be back tomorrow!» Kanno calls, waving the spent firework, giddy with excitement. «I won today!»

But even as he says that he loads a fresh firework and tucks it into his coat. The monkeys will be back, and the battle will continue.

Kat Lonsdorf (@lilkat_bigworld) is NPR’s Above the Fray fellow. The fellowship is sponsored by the John Alexander Project, which supports foreign reporting in undercovered parts of the world. Follow the fellowship on Instagram (@thejohnaproject) and Twitter (@thejohnaproject).

  • Asian wildlife
  • macaques
  • monkeys
  • wildlife
  • fukushima
  • Japan

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