Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Why are two waiters at the Kayabukiya sake house the talk of the town?

Because they are not people, but Japanese macaque monkeys!

The Kayabukiya sake house, in the city of Utsunomiya north of Tokyo, uses a pair of uniformed Japanese macaques called Yat-chan and Fuku-chan to serve its customers. The younger of the two, Fuku-chan, usually begins the first shift and is quick to give customers a hot towel to help them clean their hands before they order their drinks, as is the custom in Japan.

But while Fuku-chan only gives hot towels to customers, twelve-year-old Yat-chan is actually able to respond to customers' requests!

"We called out for more beer just then and it brought us some beer," said one customer.

Yat-chan gets a beer from a fridge

Now that might be okay if you aren’t fussy about what beer you drink, but if you asked him to bring a can of Fosters and a packet of crisps I bet he wouldn’t have a bloody clue what you were on about. After all, monkeys can learn simple repetitive behaviour but they don’t really understand what they are doing.

Apart from pleasing the twats who think it is funny to look at monkeys all dressed up in people’s clothes, “employing” monkeys is also good business sense in another way as well – they don’t have to be paid in cash (although they are apparently tipped with boiled soya beans).

As for the ethics of employing monkeys, that isn’t a problem either. After all, monkeys have aspirations just like us too.

And who knows where their career path may take them?

Possibly even into outer space….

Sam the rhesus monkey flew to an apogee of 88 km in 1959. (NASA)

Background: Monkeys have been employed as astronauts to determine the biological effects of space travel. The US sent most of the monkeys into space between 1948 and 1961 although one did go in 1969 and another in 1985. Different types of monkeys have been employed – NASA is a non-discriminatory employer remember! – including rhesus monkeys and pig-tailed macaques.