There is a delightful short story in the current New Yorker (Feb 13 & 20, ) called “A Shinagawa Monkey”, by Haruki Murakami. It is a brief enigmatic piece. Buy a cheap copy of A Shinagawa Monkey book by Haruki Murakami. ISBN: [Japanese Import] Free shipping over $ A SHINAGAWA MONKEY. BY HARUKI MURAKAMI. Che sometimes had trouble remem- birthday, and passport number were no didn’t explain how they could.

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It is a brief enigmatic piece, about 20 minutes reading time, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel. If it is a parable, it is hard to say what it is a parable of; it is nominally about a monkey who steals names. Yuko is very troubled with questions about jealousy, an shinagaea Mizuki has never really thought about and for which Mizuki can offer Yuko no answers. When she leaves school for the workaday world, she adds her own name tag to the little box where she stores mementos.

She goes on to get married and takes employment with a Honda dealership. She forgets nothing else, but is worried it could be symptomatic of some deeper problem. The story departs from the expected monkwy ordinary with the discovery that a monkey has stolen the name tags. Why has he stolen the tags, and what is done when he is detected? How does Mizuki get her name back?

It would be remarkably poor form to give away the story, which is highly recommendable. But the story leaves us with far more questions than answers. Why a monkey, at all? Why, specifically, a sentient, feeling, highly articulate monkey? Why is this monkey living in the sewers of Tokyo, instead of a lush forestland, if indeed monkeys of any kind are native to the islands of Japan?


Given the reasons this monkey ultimately offers for stealing the names, what is it about these name tags that completes his quest for human affection? What property of a name tag could cause moniey to forget our own names if we lost our tag? And this is the only method I know, too.

Some one else, from a different culture, might see immediately that this monkey is here a symbol of thus-and-thus, and that the name tags, like lockets of human hair in still other cultures, have some magical mysterious power to capture the human soul. Let harm come to that locket of hair, and the human will suffer. As you might imagine, Mizuki suffered terribly when she believed she might be losing her mind or identity. We discover that the monkey seems to be one of a kind; there is no mention of other sentient monkeys.

The monkey is also a victim of the circumstance of who he is. But what exactly, to the beautiful fast-track people in Tokyo and the rest of the world, is a monkey? Humans arrive to briefly inspect a given monkey habitat mojkey the cages and monkey islands of the zoos of the world.

The caged, controlled habitat, or else the complete w of the wild, is where the monkey belongs. Monkeys are to be seen and inspected.

At the end of the day we leave them to sling sbinagawa at the tourists, while we are free to leave and wander off, reinvigorated with smiling appreciation for what a difference there is between humans and those mere monkeys.

A sentient monkey is a monkey of a different color. Could any really exist? So what does he mean?

monnkey Does the sentient monkey symbolize all those who admire us, who perhaps want to emulate us, whom we in turn are generally encouraged to despise and ignore? Does he represent the outcast, or societal outcaste, a byproduct of the socially stratified societies of Japan and Europe of two hundred years ago?


A Shinagawa Monkey by Haruki Murakami

If the monkey is a symbol of exclusion, is he a symbol of those rejected at the personal level, or the societal — or both? The fact of sshinagawa matter is, this particular monkey stole the name without permission of its owner, bringing great hurt and difficulty to her. She almost lost her identity.

She almost never knew why. Such are the obvious and manifest dangers of sentient monkeys.

This monkey did turn out to be a rather nice monkey. And this monkey also gave back to Mizuki something much more precious than the name tag.

He gave to her the key to something else she had been missing since earliest childhood. If we befriend a monkey, or even allow ourselves to be enviously spied upon by one, is it possible that we can lose our very identity, for example, our name?

A Shinagawa Monkey

No one can tell. Here, as in real life, we have to decide for ourselves when it is really appropriate to risk exposing our identities to all those others. Surely this is one most unusual monkey. These are most unusual name tags. What do they mean? But what can we say of this monkey?