Yasaka Koshin-do


The sanzaru (三猿 “three monkeys”) or English “Three Wise Monkeys” is a widely known example of monkeys in traditional Japanese culture. Their names are a pun between saru or vocalized zaru “monkey” and archaic -zaru “a negative verb conjugation”: mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru (見ざる, 聞かざる, 言わざる, lit. “don’t see, don’t hear, don’t speak”). The Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō has elaborate relief carvings over the doors, including a famous representation of the Three Wise Monkeys. The Three Wise Monkeys also represent the Kōshin faith. They are displayed in the Yasaka Kōshin-dō Temple in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, dedicated to Shōmen Kongō, known by his nickname Kōshin-san (庚申さん) with the -san suffix for “Mr.; Ms.; Mrs.”. This shrine also sells a kind of sarubobo (猿ぼぼ, “monkey baby”) “red, faceless doll amulet” called the kukurizaru (くくり猿) believed to represent the good luck of monkeys.