A pack of wild monkeys terrorized a seaside resort town south of Tokyo last week, attacking 30 people and sending eight of them to the hospital with bites.
The victims, mostly women, were attacked from behind, often in their own homes, by monkeys who bit them on the ankles, calves and backs. One woman, 62, was bitten as she vacuumed her living room; another was jumped on the street and pushed to the ground.
“I have lived for 77 years,” she said. “And this is the first time I’ve been attacked by a monkey.”
Officials in the town of Ito, on the lovely Izu peninsula, have no idea why the usually peaceful monkeys came down from the mountains. They speculate that an unusually snowy winter has made it hard for them to find food, forcing them down into town to scavenge.
But that doesn’t explain the bad attitude, or why 26 of the 30 victims have been women between the ages of 40 and 80. At least five monkeys, each standing as high as three feet, have been spotted tangled in people’s laundry, breaking into homes, and trying to steal the ceremonial fruit on the Buddhist altars many people have.
The town is fighting back. At one school, a “monkey patrol” is guarding the building with long sticks to swat away any monkeys who come near the children.
Loudspeakers, which normally warn townspeople in the event of earthquakes, are now broadcasting this message: “Monkeys are on the loose. If you go out, lock your door. Be cautious. Do not give them food.”
The monkeys have shown a remarkable aptitude for opening unlocked doors and entering people’s homes.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” said Fukuyo Inaba, who was vacuuming when a monkey sneaked up and bit her on the ankle. She said she felt the pain and saw what she thought was a dog running out the door.
She pulled the sliding door shut and returned to work, only to be confronted again. This time, she saw that her attacker was a monkey and that it had managed to pull the sliding door open again. When she shouted and began banging on a chair, the monkey retreated.