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(Redirected from Monkey)
Motif Information
Motif saru 01.jpg
Rōmaji Saru
English Monkey
Kana さる
Season #
Seasonal Exceptions #
Auspicious Yes
Motif Type Animal

Saru refers to the Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata). Japanese macaque can be distinguished from depictions of non-native monkeys by their brown-gray fur, short tail, and reddish face and buttocks.

Saru are native to Japan and are found naturally on every island except Hokkaido.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Text about seasonal use

Motif Connotations & Symbolism

Auspicious Nature

Saru sounds like -zaru, an archaic negative verb conjugation. In the case of the famous sanzaru (三猿, three monkeys), the pun can be read as mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru (見ざる, 聞かざる, 言わざる, lit. "don't see, don't hear, don't speak"). In English this is often expanded to "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

Saru can also be used as an auspicious pun on "to leave, to go away" as in ma saru (魔去る, evil is leaving) and for this reason saru are used as amulets for children like the saru bobo.

Saru were considered messengers of the gods in Shintoism.

Saru were considered guardian deities of horses in China and were frequently kept in stables.

The importation of the concept of zodiac animals from China added saru as an auspicious symbol for the New Year.

Common Motif Pairings

  • Crab and/or persimmon, references Saru Kani Gassen (さるかに合戦, Monkey-Crab Battle)
  • Other zodiac animals, especially horse
  • Dog and pheasant, references the story of Momotaro
  • With a sensu and noshi, Heian hat, this implies a sarumawashi(lit. dancing monkey)
  • Octopus, references a version of Kurage Honenashi (水母骨なし, Boneless Jellyfish) where after the jellyfish has failed, the octopus is sent to fetch monkey

Identification & Style Variations

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Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

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In Poetry

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions

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Image Credits

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Authors & Contributors

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