You don’t want to get on Samurai Monkey’s bad side.

Okay, that’s not entirely true, as Samurai Monkey is merely the subject of “Suo Sarumawashi,” an art series by Los Angeles-based photographer Hiroshi Watanabe that focuses on Sarumawashi, also known as “monkey dancing.”


An interview with Lenscratch revealed that Watanabe initially got involved with the artform after visiting a zoo and noticing the monkeys’ wide range of emotions and facial expressions. After being granted permission from the Suo Sarumawashi Association to photograph them, he dressed them up and went to town. Throughout their career, the monkeys will work one on one with a trainer before retiring several years later.

This 1,000-year-old tradition is historically tied to religious rituals wherein trained monkeys would protect the horses of warriors through stunts, dancing, and comedic skits. These trained macaque monkeys eventually became mere entertainment for the imperial court and festivals. Due to the rising urbanization of Japan, this practice almost went extinct before being revived by a group of dedicated sarumawashi practitioners.

More info and photographs can be found at the Kopeikin Gallery.