“Sweet-Potato Washing” Revisited

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Abstract

Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata) on Koshima Island wash sweet potatoes. This fact is quite well known, and is often discussed as an aspect of “culture” in nonhuman animals. However, the full picture is not always entirely understood. The finding of sweet-potato washing among Koshima monkeys followed theoretical considerations of culture in nonhuman animals presented by Imanishi, and from the beginning research on Japanese monkeys has developed from anthropological concerns about human evolution. In this chapter, we would like to illustrate the history of sweet-potato washing and other characteristic behaviors shown by Koshima monkeys (for reviews, see also Itani and Nishimura 1973; Nishida 1987).