Japanese macaque

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Suborder: Haplorrhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Superfamily: Cercopithecoidea
Family: Cercopithecidae
Subfamily: Cercopithecinae
Genus: Macaca
Species: M. fuscata
Subspecies: M. f. fuscata, M. f. yakui

Other names: Japanese macaque, Japanese monkey, Snow monkey; macaque japonais, macaque à face rouge (French); japansk makak (Swedish); macaca japonesa (Spanish); Nihon zaru (Japanese) (for vernacular names see Fooden & Aimi 2005:77); M. fuscata yakui: Yaku monkey; Yakushimazaru, Yakuzaru (Japanese).

Conservation status: please search the IUCN Red List.

Life span: 28 years (M), 32 years (F)
Total population: approx. 100,000
Regions: Japan
Gestation: 171 days
Height: 570.1 mm (M), 522.8 mm (F)
Weight: 11.3 kg (M), 8.4 kg (F)

Two subspecies of Japanese macaque have been described, Macaca fuscata fuscata and Macaca fuscata yakui. M. f. fuscata is the mainland subspecies of the Japanese macaque. M. f. yakui is restricted to the island of Yakushima at the southern limit of Macaca fuscata distribution and is distinguishable from M. fuscata due to differences in pelage and body size (Fooden & Aimi 2005).


Japanese macaque
Macaca fuscata

The fur of the Japanese macaque can vary among shades of brown from grey or yellow brown to exclusively brown (Fooden & Aimi 2005). Japanese macaques have a pinkish face and posterior with a short stump of a tail (Rowe 1996). There is a degree of sexual dimorphism between male and female Japanese macaques with the males weighing somewhat more than the females and on average having a longer body length than the females. The average body weight of the Japanese monkey is 11.3 kg (24.91 lb) (M) and 8.4 kg (18.52 lb) (F) (Fooden & Aimi 2005). In addition, there appears to be a correlation between climate and body weight, as Japanese monkeys from northern colder areas weigh more than those from warmer areas of Japan (Hamada et al. 1996). Average body length for males is 570.1 mm (22.44 in) and for females is 522.8 mm (20.58 in) (Fooden & Aimi 2005). The tail is short, averaging 92.51 mm (3.64 in) in males and 79.08 mm (3.11 in) in females (Hamada et al. 1996). Longevity for males has been confirmed as long as 28 years and into the 32nd year of life for females (Fedigan 1991; Nakamichi et al. 1995; Fedigan & Pavelka 2001). Actual average lifespan, however, is significantly shorter; with wild females living for an average of just 6.3 years (Takahata et al. 1998).

Japanese macaques are predominantly quadrupedal and can be considered semi-terrestrial. Females spend more time in trees than males and males spend more time on the ground than females. Leaping is seen in the Japanese macaque, but suspension from supports is not common (Chatani 2003). Japanese macaques are excellent swimmers and are reportedly able to swim distances of over half a kilometer (Mito 1980 cited in Fooden & Aimi 2005). This macaque’s fur is a unique adaptation to cold, as fur thickness increases as habitat temperature decreases and allows the monkey to cope with winter temperatures as low as -20° C (-4° F) (Hori et al. 1977).


Macaca fuscata

The Japanese macaque is native to the islands of Japan. Of the four main Japanese islands, Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, Japanese macaques are found on all but Hokkaido, the northernmost (Fooden & Aimi 2005). Even though its range is restricted to the three southern main islands of Japan, the species nevertheless represents the northernmost wild populations of non-human primates in the world. The absolute northernmost Japanese macaque populations are found at the northern tip of the island of Honshu on the Shimokita peninsula (Izawa & Nishida 1963; Uehara 1975). These northern populations exhibit significant cold adaptation as northern Honshu can be snowbound for up to a third of the year (Izawa & Nishida 1963). Japanese macaques also inhabit several smaller islands near the coasts of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu (Fooden & Aimi 2005).

The southernmost population of Japanese macaques is that on Yakushima Island off of the south coast of Japan and has been assigned its own subspecies, M.f.yakui (Uehara 1975; Hanya 2004). In February 1972, a complete group of Japanese macaques numbering 150 individuals was transplanted from Arashiyama, near Kyoto on Honshu to Laredo, Texas where it was established in an arid brushland habitat and grew, having reached 470 individuals by 1989 (Fedigan 1991). The total population of Japanese macaques has been estimated to be 114,431 individuals and likely numbers around 100,000 individuals in its natural habitat (Hashiba 1989; Fooden & Aimi 2005). The Japanese macaque is rarely found in lowland areas owing to the high levels of human habitation in those areas (Amagasa & Ito 1978 cited in Fooden & Aimi 2005). The Japanese macaque has been studied in the wild longer than most primate species, having been observed in numerous habitats and locations throughout Japan for over 50 years (Yamagiwa & Hill 1998). Since the 1950’s, study of Japanese macaques has been undertaken at Arashiyama, near Kyoto (Huffman 1991a). This long-term study site has not only served to provide information as to the long-term changes within a Japanese macaque population, but also to serve as the source of the introduced Arashiyama West troop in Texas which has provided not only a study site for the Japanese macaque in north America, but a place to study adaptations of the species to a new habitat (Fedigan 1991). Within their range, the distribution of the Japanese macaque is expanding, at least partially as a result of the species losing their fear of humans, coupled with demographic and economic shifts in the Japanese human population (Watanabe & Muroyama 2005). This expansion may be misleading as to the status of the species however, because within the range, the total population is significantly limited by the distribution of the natural broadleaf forest that is available. In addition, the expansion of the range distribution was found to be correlated with the reduction of forests (Hashiba 1989).


Due to variations in the latitude and altitude of the Japanese islands, the habitat of the Japanese macaque varies greatly between the extremes of its distribution. Near the southern end of the population distribution, habitats include sub-tropical forest and at the northernmost reaches, sub-arctic forest is found in mountainous regions. Between these two extremes, both warm and cool temperate forests are found (Uehara 1975). These types of forest include both the deciduous forests of central and northern Japan and the broadleaf evergreen forests of the southwest of the islands. As is expected in a variable range, there is a large spectrum of vegetation within the distribution of the Japanese macaque (Suzuki 1965). The highest elevation at which the Japanese macaque has been reported is 3180 m (10,433 ft) (Izumiyama pers. comm. cited in Fooden & Aimi 2005). Of the habitats of the Japanese macaque, the two most important are the warm temperate evergreen broadleaf forest and the cool temperate deciduous broadleaf forest (Fooden & Aimi 2005). In the northern deciduous forests, leaves are absent from the trees for up to 5 months of the year (Suzuki 1965). Near the northern end of the range in the cool temperate deciduous broadleaf forest on the island of Kinkazan, annual rainfall averages 1500mm (59.06 in) with an average temperature of 11° C (51.8° F). At the extreme southern end of the macaque range on the island of Yakushima in warm temperate evergreen broadleaf forest, annual rainfall averages 3000mm (118.11 in) with an average temperature of 20° C (68° F). During the winter in high altitude or latitude areas of the Japanese macaque range, snow is often quite deep, having been recorded on the Shimokita peninsula and in the Shiga Heights in central Honshu to be between 2-3 meters deep during the winter (Izawa & Nishida 1963; Hori et al. 1977).


Japanese macaque foraging
Macaca fuscata

The omnivorous Japanese macaque is not a picky eater and will eat a great variety of foods including over 213 species of plant (Koganezawa 1975). Other main foods eaten include insects and soil (Koganezawa 1975). As expected, variable types of foods are available in different habitats and in some cases food availability is profoundly seasonal. In the south of the range in temperate evergreen broadleaf forest of Yakushima island, fruit predominates in the diet. At this location, the macaques will eat fungi, ferns, invertebrates, soil and other parts of plants, but the main foods were fruits, mature leaves, and fallen seeds (Maruhashi 1980; Agetsuma & Nakagawa 1998). Seasonality of the diet is seen on Yakushima, with a greater number of fruits being eaten in the summer and more herbs being eaten in the winter (Hanya 2004). In the deciduous broadleaf forests habitat of the north where food is scarce in the winter, the species must eat surplus high quality foods such as fruits and nuts prior to winter to store enough fat to survive through the lean winter (Hanya et al. 2006). This storage of fat is important because during snowbound winter months the only available foods are dead and poor in nutrition, including leaves and bark (Tsuji et al. 2006). In the deciduous broadleaf forest habitat on the northern island of Kinkazan, food items are mainly fallen seeds, herbs, young leaves and fruits (Agetsuma & Nakagawa 1998). The Japanese macaque has been observed digging up underground plant parts such as roots, eating soil, and consuming raw fish if other preferred food items are not to be found (Koganezawa 1975; Watanabe 1989; Iguchi & Izawa 1990).

The average group size of the Japanese macaque is 41 individuals but they can range from 10 to as large as 161 (Fooden & Aimi 2005). If provisioned, groups are typically larger than wild groups and in an extreme example a provisioned group grew to over a thousand individuals (Sugiyama & Ohsawa 1988; Fooden & Aimi 2005). The home range averages around 3.7 km² (1.43 mi²) and correlates with habitat type (Fooden & Aimi 2005). Home range decreases with access to cultivated land, as this provides concentrated food sources which the macaque troops can utilize (Izumiyama et al. 2003). There is also pronounced seasonality of daily path length, even in the southern reaches of the Japanese macaque range on Yakushima. At this location, the daily path decreased from an average of 2.0 km (1.24 mi) per day during August and September to 1.2 km (.75 mi) per day later in winter (Maruhashi 1979 cited in Maruhashi 1981). In habitats further north during the winter, movement is even further restricted, averaging only .577 km (.36mi) for females and .529km (.33 mi) for males (Koganesawa 1986). As less food is available in the winter and more in the summer and fall, daily travel seems to be directly influenced by food availability; with less food there less travel (Yotsumoto 1976).

Japanese macaque enjoying hot spring water
Macaca fuscata

The Japanese macaque is diurnal. Daily activities vary with the seasons as well as with habitat. In colder areas during the summer and fall when food is abundant, discrete daily patterns of activity emerge with little variation. In the winter and spring when less food is available, levels of activity fall and vary significantly from day to day (Yotsumoto 1976). In the autumn to early winter, the daily activities are characterized by three bouts of feeding separated by other activities. In the winter, two to four periods of feeding are observed with conspicuously less daily activity. Finally, in the spring and summer, there are two or three bouts of feeding per day (Yotsumoto 1976). The macaques typically sleep in trees but they also sleep on the ground, often on flat rocks and fallen trees or behind rocks or fallen trees (Wada & Tokida 1985 cited in Fooden & Aimi 2005; Takahashi 1997). In the winter, Japanese macaques will huddle together on the ground for warmth in sleeping groups which grow larger with lower temperatures (Takahashi 1997). In warmer areas of the Japanese macaque range on the island of Yakushima, daily activities were highly variable but time is spent on average, 20.9% inactive, 22.8% traveling, 23.5% feeding, 27.9% social grooming, 1.2% self-grooming, and 3.7% other activities (Maruhashi 1981). In Shiga Heights in central Japan, the macaques enter and remain in hot springs in the winter, probably to regulate their body temperature behaviorally (Hori et al. 1977).

Japanese macaques are preyed upon by several species including feral dogs and Mountain Hawk Eagles (Spizaetus nipalensis) (Miyamoto 1976 cited in Fooden & Aimi 2005; Iida 1999). In addition, raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) may be a predator of the Japanese macaques, especially infants (Iwamoto 1974). Japanese macaques are also killed in Japan when their crop-raiding and interactions with humans become a problem. The annual kill surpassed 10,000 individuals annually in 1998 (Watanabe & Muroyama 2005). This is significant because this annual kill represents around a tenth of the entire estimated population.

Content last modified: April 26, 2007

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Sarah Turner.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2007 April 26. Primate Factsheets: Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/japanese_macaque/taxon>. Accessed 2020 July 21.


Japanese macaque groups are matrilineal groups (Fooden & Aimi 2005). Female Japanese macaques remain with their natal groups for life while males emigrate before becoming sexually mature (Fukuda 2004). Groups are typically multi-male and multi-female populated with several males which have immigrated from other groups and females, still in their natal group (Fukuda 2004). Several, and often many, matrilines can be present in a single Japanese macaque troop. In a troop it is possible to arrange kin groups according to rank on a linear continuum (Koyama 1967). Thus, all of the members of a specific kin group are higher ranked than all of the members of a lower-ranked kin group. Group composition averages around 18% adult males, 32% adult females, 35% juveniles, and 15% infants (Fooden & Aimi 2005). Males typically emigrate from their natal group between five or six years of age and sometimes form temporary all male groups (Fukuda 2004). Males which have emigrated often join and leave groups several times in their lives and may stay in a new troop for years (Fukuda 1982 cited in Fukuda 2004). These new groups can be considerably far away from the male’s natal group, and in exceptional cases, involving travel surpassing 100km (62.14 mi) to reach (Yoshimi & Takasaki 2003). In fact, many males spend a significant amount of their lives outside of membership in any group (Sugiyama 1976).

Japanese macaque grooming
Macaca fuscata

There is a discrete hierarchy of rank in males within Japanese macaque groups and one individual attains alpha status dominant to, yet tolerant of, other males in the troop. There are several mechanisms by which male alpha status is acquired, including the death or departure of a former alpha male, a loss of rank by the former alpha male, the splitting of a troop such that there is a new alpha position, and a non-group male aggressively appropriating the alpha male position (Sprague et al. 1996). In general, succession by means of death or departure of the former alpha male is the typical method by which dominant status changes (Sprague et al. 1996). The period of time a male has been in the group often correlates with his status and the longer he has been a member of the troop, the higher his status is likely to be (Takahashi 2002). The relationships dominant males have with dominant females help reinforce male hierarchy and allow males to retain dominance where otherwise they would not (Nakamichi et al. 1995). In fact, there is evidence that alpha males often are able to maintain their position by relying on the alpha female, especially when the alpha male is old or infirm (Nakamichi et al. 1995).

Dominance hierarchy exists among females as well as among males (Koyama 1967). The ranking hierarchy among females is stable and female offspring assume similar rank to that of their mothers. Among female siblings, the younger usually has the highest rank although there are exceptions to this rule (Koyama 1967; Takahata 1991). In addition, the ranking of an individual’s matrilineal kin group can affect the status of offspring and serve to help that monkey of the same matriline gain hierarchical status (Koyama 1967). Finally, there is a higher level of social cohesion among higher-ranking matrilines which serve to reinforce the troop cohesion as a whole (Koyama 2003).

When Japanese macaque groups encounter one another in the wild, the nature of their interactions varies with the demographics of the groups involved, with reproductive seasonality and with group identity (Saito et al. 1998). Among various troops, home ranges overlap 20% of the time, but troops tend to avoid one another as they get closer (Kawanaka 1973). Aggressive behavior during inter-group encounters between Japanese macaque troops serves several purposes including mate guarding by males, food competition among females during non-mating season, and male investigative behavior preceding potential emigration to another group (Saito et al 1998).

Japanese macaque mom with infant being groomedThere are three different ways in which troops of Japanese macaques experience social change. These are troop fission, or division; takeover of control by a new alpha-male; and extinction, in which the troop ceases to exist (Maruhashi 1992). Most social changes within troops of Japanese macaques occur as a result of interplay between the mating strategies of both male and female members of the troop vying for reproductive advantage (Maruhashi 1992). Fission in groups helps to control group size, maintain male hierarchies, and to possibly limit inbreeding (Furuya 1969).

Grooming plays an important role in female social organization. In Japanese macaques, as in other primates, grooming serves to reinforce social bonds and friendly social relationships between individuals, in addition to serving hygienic purposes (Majolo et al. 2005). There is a strong correlation in grooming between pairs who are matrilineally related as opposed to unrelated individuals (Koyama 1991). However, grooming among individuals who are unrelated does occur and serves to reinforce group cohesion as a whole as it strengthens bonds between different kin groups within a troop (Nakamichi & Shizawa 2003). Females tend to groom only a small cohort of other females, even if group size increases (Nakamichi & Shizawa 2003). Allogrooming of other individuals by the Japanese macaque is independent of climate and season differences, which supports the view that its function is primarily social (Ventura et al. 2005). When males are groomed by females, it is likely for skin-care purposes but helps the females attract and retain high-ranking males in the troop for reproductive purposes (Tsukahara 1990). Grooming techniques are passed from mother to offspring, probably through social means and not genetically (Tanaka 1995).

Japanse macaque steals iPhone from tourist
Macaca fuscata

Several provisioned Japanese macaques have been observed washing sand off sweet potatoes in water and passing this behavior on to others. This behavior is described as being pre-cultural, having been picked up and spread among a number of individuals within a troop (Kawai 1965). Macaques in both wild and feral groups have also been known to construct snowballs, repetitively and stereotypically manipulate stones, and to transmit these behaviors to other individuals (Eaton 1972; Huffman & Quiatt 1986).


A key feature of the reproduction of the Japanese macaque is the consortship . This association between a male and a female Japanese macaque is characterized by a pair mating, feeding, resting, and traveling together, and lasts an average of 1.6 days during mating season (Huffman 1992). Over the course of a mating season, Japanese macaque females were observed to enter consortships with over 4 different males on average (Gouzoules & Goy 1983). Typically there is a correlation between male rank and consort duration, with higher-ranking males remaining in consortships longer than lower-ranking males (Huffman 1992). Higher-ranking males will interfere in the consortships of lower-ranking males in an attempt to disrupt them (Perloe 1992).

Females attempt to mate with males of all ranks, but are more likely to actually mate with higher ranking males due to their ability to mate-guard and aggressively prevent mating with lower-ranking males (Soltis 1999). Ultimately, it is the female who makes the decision as to whether or not mating will occur (Huffman 1991b). There is some ambiguity as to whether or not an ultimate correlation exists between male dominance rank and ultimate reproductive success, but male dominance rank does not ensure mating opportunities with receptive females (Fooden & Aimi 2005). In addition, females will typically mate with more than one male during an estrus season (Matsubara & Sprague 2004). Finally, a significant number of copulations by females are with non-troop males who enter the troop during mating season and then depart after the season (Sprague 1991).

Japanese macaque infant
Macaca fuscata

Same-sex mounting is seen among female Japanese macaques. This behavior appears to be hormone-linked and represents a greater number of mounting postures than seen in male mounting behavior (O’Neill et al. 2004; Vasey et al. 2006). Both male and female autosexual behavior has been observed (Fooden & Aimi 2005).

Presenting behavior can include several signals including looking backward over a shoulder, remaining very still, or walking backwards towards the potential partner (Hanby & Brown 1974). The most typical copulatory position is a posterior mount with both of the male’s feet clasping the legs of the female (Hanby et al. 1971). Copulation occurs both arboreally and terrestrially (Yotsumoto 1976). Two types of female reproductive vocalization are typical. The first is a “smooth-late-high coo”, or “squawk” or “squeak” uttered before copulation, possibly to solicit mating. The second is an atonal “cackle” uttered during copulation. Male Japanese macaques do not emit copulatory vocalizations (Oda & Masataka 1992).

Reproduction in Japanese macaques is seasonal, but its exact timing varies with locality and group. Within each group of macaques however, the birth season is discrete and occurs between March and September across the species’ range (Kawai et al. 1967). The mating season lasts between four and five months and ranges between September and April (Kawai et al. 1967). Differences in birth season between different groups across the Japanese macaque range are correlated with the latitude of the habitat (Kawai et al. 1967). This does not mean, however, that nearby troops will exhibit the same birth season as two troops located near to each other exhibited a two-month difference in average birth date (Fooden & Aimi 2003).

In females, estrus usually is first seen around 3.5 years of age. Male mounting behavior can occur as early as 1.5 years but ejaculation among males is first seen later, at 4.5 years of age (Takahata 1980). Average age at male emigration from his natal troop is 5 years (Sprague et al. 1998). The female estrus cycle averages 27.1 days during the mating season but becomes irregular or might not occur at all during the non-mating season (Nigi 1975; Fooden & Aimi 2005). Gestation averages 5.64 months (171.7 days) (Fooden & Aimi 2005).

Discrete morphological color changes occur in both male and female Japanese macaques during mating season. In the males, the face and genitalia turn deep red and the tail will stand erect, exposing the bright genitals (Wolfe 1979). Female Japanese macaques exhibit similar morphological changes during estrus with their faces and anogenital regions turning scarlet red (Wolfe 1979).


To give birth, a Japanese macaque mother will move to the periphery of the troop and to a private spot (Fedigan & Zohar 1997). However, if the troop moves during birth, the mother will move to remain with the group and will not allow herself to be separated from it (Nakamichi et al. 1992; Thomsen 1997). Birth in the wild typically takes place on the ground (Fooden & Aimi 2005). Infant mortality before one year averages 28.4% in wild groups of Japanese macaques (Fooden & Aimi 2005). Weight at birth for Japanese macaque infants averages 546.8 g (1.21 lbs) for females and 538.7 g (1.19 lbs) for males (Fooden & Aimi 2005). At birth, the fur of the infant Japanese macaque is very dark brown and lightens progressively over the next six months while still remaining somewhat darker than the coat of the adult during that time (Hiraiwa 1981). Solid food consumption by the infant is first seen at 5 or 6 weeks of age followed by foraging independent of the mother at 7 weeks of age (Hiraiwa 1981). From birth until 4 weeks, an infant is carried ventrally by the mother. After 4 weeks of age, dorsal carrying is observed in addition to ventral carrying. Carrying by the mother can persist up to and past one year of age (Hiraiwa 1981).

Japanese macaque mom with infant in hot spring water
Macaca fuscata

There is experimental evidence in captivity that Japanese macaque mothers can pick out the whistle and “coo” vocalizations of their own infant from those of other infants (Pereira 1986; Shizawa 2005). In captivity, during the first month of life, locomotor behaviors quickly evolve from crawling, toddling and backward hunching, to more adult locomotion such as quadrupedal walking, running, climbing and jumping (Negayama et al. 1983). Locomotor development in the infant Japanese macaque is completed by as early as 3 to 4 months of age (Minami 1974). As the adolescent macaque ages, the amount of time spent by the mother grooming it decreases and solicitation of grooming by the offspring increases. However, Japanese macaque mothers groom their adult female offspring far more than they will groom either sex of their adolescent offspring (Muroyama 1995).

Sex differences in infant behavior are evident in some populations. Male infants play in larger groups and play in groups more often than females (Glick et al. 1986). Males also display more mounting behavior than female infants. Female infants have more social contacts and groom more often than male infant macaques (Glick et al. 1986). From the second year of life, males preferentially associate with males of the same approximate age (Nakamichi 1989). Females preferentially associate with other females of all age and sex classes as well as with infants and adult males. Evidence points to the early development of sex-specific social roles during the second year of life (Nakamichi 1989).

At seven months of age, the mother starts actively discouraging suckling of the infant with a peak in active discouragement of suckling around 11 to 12 months of age (Hiraiwa 1981). While it is possible for weaning to be finished as early as six months of age, it often happens when the infant is older and can sometimes occur later than 18 months of age (Nigi 1982 cited in Ôta et al. 1991; Tanaka et al. 1993).

Among the troop, relationships between a mother and her infant and the rest of the troop are described as cool and somewhat avoidant and the mother only slowly resumes her typical social activities postpartum (Itani 1959; Bardi et al. 2001). There is some interaction allowed between the infant and others in the troop and allomothering is observed. Infant care by other females is most often seen among females who have not yet borne their own infants and is not likely to be received from a female who has had offspring (Hiraiwa 1981). Male care of infants is present in some troops, while in others it is absent (Itani 1959; Gouzoules 1984). When present, this relationship entails an older male protecting, grooming, and carrying of an infant typically in the same manner as would a female. In addition, such behavior is typically of a finite duration and in the long term, bestows social benefits on the young Japanese monkey (Itani 1959; Gouzoules 1984). In rare cases observed several times only in the wild or free-ranging contexts, males will commit infanticide, possibly as a method for the male to increase his chances of successfully mating with females (Yamada & Nakamichi 2006). Specific predatory threats on Japanese macaque infants include the raccoon dog as well as feral dogs (Iwamoto 1974).


The Japanese macaque utters a number of vocalizations which can be roughly divided into six groups: peaceful or soothing, defensive, aggressive, warning, female estrus, and infant vocalizations (Itani 1963). Over half of the vocalizations uttered by the Japanese macaque are peaceful or calm (Itani 1963). Often, during feeding or moving, Japanese macaques will utter a “coo” sound which likely functions in group cohesion by allowing females to reinforce their social ties (Mitani 1986). This “coo” sound is not typically heard in agonistic interactions, and when uttered, other Japanese macaques typically respond in kind (Sugiura 2001).

Japanese macaque
Macaca fuscata

The “coo” in conjunction with the “girney” is also uttered immediately before grooming contact between individuals. Research on the “girney” call in grooming contexts has shown that variants of a specific call have specific purposes and affect different outcomes (Masataka 1989). The function of the “girney” is also supposed to be as a form of appeasement between individuals and serves to curtail interpersonal aggression (Blount 1985). Alarm calls and estrous calls in the Japanese macaque are quite similar in sound yet serve two discrete purposes and have different motivations. Alarm calls serve to warn the troop of danger while the similar estrous call serves to advertise the reproductive state of a specific monkey (Yoshida 1988a cited in Yoshida 1988b). Threat calls are a type of aggressive Japanese macaque vocalization. This type of vocalization is uttered most often by supporters of those involved in agonistic interactions and is used to show support of others. In this context, a threat call serves to advertise that the individual being supported will support the caller in the future. In this way, a threat call helps fend off future attacks (Machida 1990)

The Japanese macaque also uses facial expressions to communicate between those of its species. In captivity, threatening facial expressions include “ear-flattening,” “brow-raising,” “ear-erecting” and “mouth-opening.” Subordinate behavior includes “grimacing.” Other captive physical communicatory clues include lipsmacking, presenting and hindquarters displays and “gaze-avoidance” (Masataka & Fujii 1980).

Display behavior is also an important aspect of Japanese macaque communication. Display behavior is seen in several postures in Japanese monkeys including shaking, kicking, and leaping. Such displays serve as a method by which a male advertises himself to potential mates. An increase in display postures is seen during the breeding season in males, but not in females. Compound displays with more than one individual participating were observed in an introduced troop in Oregon. Only a small proportion of female individuals perform displays and this small proportion is typically high-ranking within a troop. All adult males within a troop perform displays (Wolfe 1981).

Content last modified: April 26, 2007

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Sarah Turner.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2007 April 26. Primate Factsheets: Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata) Behavior . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/japanese_macaque/behav>. Accessed 2020 July 21.


For individual primate species conservation status, please search the IUCN Red List.
Also search the current scientific literature for primate conservation status (overall as well as for individual species), and visit CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Conservation information last updated in 2007 follows, for comparison:

Japanese macaque in snow
Macaca fuscata


Threat: Human Induced Habitat Loss and Degradation

The Japanese macaque has arrived at somewhat of a crossroads in relation to its conservation and the threats to its survival. Since the Second World War, traditional threats to the species such as slash-and-burn agriculture, use of forest woods for construction and fuel, and hunting decreased significantly, mainly due to social and economic changes in Japan (Sprague 2002). In this regard, the outlook for conservation of the Japanese macaque looks significantly brighter. On the other hand, with such a shift from traditional threats, new conflicts with the species have emerged. The two most serious of these new threats are the replacement of natural forests with lumber plantations and the rise in crop-raiding by the Japanese macaque (Sprague 2002). The lumber plantations cannot be used as habitat by the monkeys and the rise in crop-raiding has resulted in the species being considered a nuisance. Behind wild boar and deer, the Japanese macaque is the third worst crop-raider in Japan (Sprague 2002). As a result, they have less appropriate habitat in which to live coupled with yearly culling of the species as a pest in excess of 10,000 individuals per annum (Watanabe & Muroyama 2005).

Apparently, the range of the species is expanding but whether or not the total number of Japanese macaques is expanding or contracting is unclear. The range expansion is attributed to behavioral changes within the Japanese macaque population in which they have lost their fear of humans and do not actively avoid people (Watanabe & Muroyama 2005). This lack of fear has resulted in a Japanese macaque presence in not only rural and agricultural areas, but an increasing presence in urban areas. In one extreme case, a female was living in central Tokyo for several months (Fukuda 2004).

In 1993, part of Yakushima island, the habitat of M. f. yakui, was designated a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO which has proven to have had mixed results for conservation at that locale (Hill & Maruhashi 1996/1997). The designation, while raising awareness of a need for conservation, has brought additional tourists to the threatened habitat and has not as of yet proven adequate for protection of the Japanese macaques of Yakushima island (Hill & Maruhashi 1996/1997).





Content last modified: April 26, 2007

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Sarah Turner.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2007 April 26. Primate Factsheets: Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata) Conservation . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/japanese_macaque/cons>. Accessed 2020 July 22.

The following references were used in the writing of this factsheet. To find current references for Macaca fuscata, search PrimateLit.


Aetsuma N, Nakagawa N. 1998. Effects of habitat differences on feeding behaviors of Japanese monkeys: comparison between Yakushima and Kinkazan. Primates 39(3):275-89.

Bardi M, Shimizu K, Fujita S, Borgognini-Tarli S, Huffman MA. 2001. Social behavior and hormonal correlates during the perinatal period in Japanese macaques. Horm Behav 39(3):239-46.

Blount B. 1985. “Girney” vocalizations among Japanese macaque females: context and function. Primates 26(4):424-35.

Chatani K. 2003. Positional behavior of free-ranging Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata). Primates 44(1):13-23.

Eaton G. 1972. Snowball construction by a feral troop of Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) living under seminatural conditions. Primates 13(4):411-4.

Japanese macaque in snow
Macaca fuscata

Fedigan LM, Griffin L. Determinants of reproductive seasonality in the Arashiyama west Japanese macaques. In: Fa JE, Lindburg DG, editors. Evolution and ecology of macaque societies. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge U Pr. p 369-88.

Fedigan LM, Pavelka MSM. 2001. Is there adaptive value to reproductive termination in Japanese macaques? A test of maternal investment hypotheses. Int J Primatol 22(2):109-25.

Fedigan LM. 1991. History of the Arashiyama west Japanese macaques in Texas. In: Fedigan LM & Asquith PJ, editors. The monkeys of Arashiyama: thirty-five years of research in Japan and the west. Albany (NY): SUNY Pr. p54-69.

Fedigan L. 1991. Life span and reproduction in Japanese macaque females. In: Fedigan LM & Asquith PJ, editors. The monkeys of Arashiyama: thirty-five years of research in Japan and the west. Albany (NY): SUNY Pr. p140-54.

Fedigan LM, Zohar S. 1997. Sex differences in mortality of Japanese macaques: twenty-one years of data from the Arashiyama west population. Am J Phys Anth 102(2):161-75.

Fooden J, Aimi M. 2003. Birth-season variation in Japanese macaques, Macaca fuscata. Primates 44(2):109-17.

Fooden J, Aimi M. 2005. Systematic review of Japanese macaques, Macaca fuscata (Gray, 1870). Fieldiana: Zoology 104:1-200.

Fujita S, Sugiura H, Mitsunaga F, Shimizu K. 2004. Hormone profiles and reproductive characteristics in wild female Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata). Am J Primatol 64(4):367-75.

Fukuda F. 2004. Dispersal and environmental disturbance in Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata). Prim Rep 68:53-69.

Fukuda F. 1982. Relationship between age and troop shifting in male Japanese monkeys. Jap J Ecol 32(4): 491-8.

Furuya Y. 1969. On the fission of troops of Japanese monkeys: II. General view of troop fission of Japanese monkeys. Primates 10:47-69.

Glick BB, Eaton GG, Johnson DF, Worlein J. Social behavior of infant and mother Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata): effects of kinship, partner sex, and infant sex. Intl J Primatol 7(2):139-55.

Gouzoules H, Goy RW. 1983. Physiological and social influences on mounting behavior of troop-living female monkeys (Macaca fuscata). Am J Primatol 5(1):39-49.

Gouzoules H. 1984. Social relations of males and infants in a troop of Japanese monkeys: a consideration of causal mechanisms. In: Taub DM, editor. Primate paternalism. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. p127-45.

Groves C. 2001. Primate taxonomy. Washington DC: Smithsonian Inst Pr. 350 p.

Hamada Y, Watanabe T, Iwamoto M. 1996. Morphological variations among local populations of Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata). In: Shotake T, Wada K, editors. Variations in the asian macaques. Tokyo: Tokai Univ Pr. p97-115.

Hanby JP, Brown CE. 1974. The development of sociosexual behaviours in Japanese macaques Macaca fuscata. Behaviour 49:152-96.

Hanby JP, Robertson LT, Phoenix CH. 1971. The sexual behavior of a confined troop of Japanese macaques. Folia Primatol 16:123-43.

Hanya G. 2004. Diet of a Japanese macaque troop in the coniferous forest of Yakushima. Intl J Primatol 25(1):55-69.

Hanya G, Kiyono M, Yamada A, Suzuki K, Furukawa M, Yoshida Y, Chijiiwa A. 2006. Not only annual food abundance but also fallback food quality determines the Japanese macaque density: evidence from seasonal variations in home range size. Primates 47(3):275-8.

Hashiba K. 1989. Population estimation of Japanese macaques for conservation. Reichorui Kenkyu (Primate Research) 5(1):22-35.

Hill DA, Maruhashi T. 1996/1997. Conservation of Japanese macaques in Yakushima: the effectiveness of UNESCO’s natural world heritage designation. Prim Conserv (17):160-3

Hiraiwa M. 1981. Maternal and alloparental care in a troop of free-ranging Japanese monkeys. Primates 22(3):309-29.

Hori T, Nakayama T, Tokura H, Hara F, Suzuki M. 1977. Thermoregulation of the Japanese macaque living in a snowy mountain area. Jap J Physiol 27:305-19.

Huffman MA. 1991a. History of the Arashiyama Japanese macaques in Kyoto, Japan. In: Fedigan LM, Asquith PJ, editors. The monkeys of Arashiyama: thirty-five years of research in Japan and the west. Albany (NY):SUNY Pr. p21-53.

Huffman MA. 1992. Influences of female partner preference on potential reproductive outcome in Japanese macaques. Folia Primatol 59(2):77-88.

Huffman MA. 1991b. Mate selection and partner preferences in female Japanese macaques. In: Fedigan LM, Asquith PJ, editors. The monkeys of Arashiyama: thirty-five years of research in Japan and the west. Albany (NY): SUNY Pr. p101-22.

Huffman MA, Quiatt D. 1986. Stone handling by Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata): implications for tool use of stone. Primates 27(4):413-23.

Iida T. 1999. Predation of Japanese macaque Macaca fuscata by mountain hawk eagle Spizaetus nipalensis. Jap J Ornithol 47(3):125-7.

Iguchi M, Izawa K. 1990. Digging and eating of underground plant-parts by wild Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata). Primates 31(4):621-4.

Itani J. 1959. Paternal care in the wild Japanese monkey, Macaca fuscata fuscata. Primates 2:61-93.

Itoigawa N, Tanaka T, Ukai N, Fujii H, Kurokawa T, Koyama T, Ando A, Watanabe Y, Imakawa S. 1992. Demography and reproductive parameters of a free-ranging group of Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata) at Katsuyama. Primates 33(1):49-68.

Iwamoto T. 1974. A bioeconomic study on a provisioned troop of Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata fuscata) at Koshima islet, Miyazaki. Primates 15(2-3):241-62.

Izawa K, Nishida T. 1963. Monkeys living in the northern limits of their distribution. Primates 4(2):67-88.

Izumiyama S, Mochizuki T, Shiraishi T. 2003. Troop size, home range area and seasonal range use of the Japanese macaque in the northern Japan alps. Ecol Res 18(5):465-74.

Kawai M, Azuma S, Yoshiba K. 1967. Ecological studies of reproduction in Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata): I. Problems of the birth season. Primates 8:35-74.

Kawai M. 1965. Newly-acquired pre-cultural behavior of the natural troop of Japanese monkeys on Koshima islet. Primates 6(1):1-30.

Kawanaka K. 1973. Intertroop relationships among Japanese monkeys. Primates 14(2-3):113-59.

Koganezawa M. 1974. Food habits of Japanese monkey (Macaca fuscata) in the Boso mountains. In: Kondo S, Kawai M, Ehara A, editors. Contemporary primatology, proceedings of the 5th International Congress of Primatology. Basel(CH):S. Karger. p380-3.

Koganezawa M. 1986. Winter movement and spatial distribution of Japanese monkeys in Nikko, Japan. Prim Rep (15):31-9.

Koyama N. 1991. Grooming relationships in the Arashiyama group of Japanese monkeys. In: Fedigan LM, Asquith PJ, editors. The monkeys of Arashiyama: thirty-five years of research in Japan and the west. Albany (NY): SUNY Pr. p211-26.

Koyama NF. 2003. Matrilineal cohesion and social networks in Macaca fuscata. Intl J Primatol 24(4):797-811.

Koyama N. 1967. On dominance rank and kinship of a wild Japanese monkey troop in Arashiyama. Primates 8:189-216.

Koyama N, Takahata Y, Huffman MA, Norikoshi K, Suzuki H. 1992. Reproductive parameters of female Japanese macaques: thirty years data from the Arashiyama troops, Japan. Primates 33(1):33-47.

Machida S. 1990. Threat calls in alliance formation by members of a captive group of Japanese monkeys. Primates 31(2):205-11.

Majolo B, Schino G, Troisi A. 2005. Towards thirty years of ethological research on the Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata) colony of the Rome zoo: a review. J Anth Sci 83:43-60.

Maruhashi T. 1981. Activity patterns of a troop of Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata yakui) on Yakushima island, Japan. Primates 22(1):1-14.

Maruhashi T. 1980. Feeding behavior and diet of the Japanese monkey (Macaca fuscata yakui) on Yakushima island, Japan. Primates 21(2):141-60.

Maruhashi T. 1992. Fission, takeover, and extinction of a troop of Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata yakui) on Yakushima island, Japan. In: Itoigawa N, Sugiyama Y, Sackett GP, Thompson RKR, editors. Topics in primatology, volume 2: behavior, ecology, and conservation. Tokyo: U Tokyo Pr. p47-65.

Maruhashi T. 1979. Natural life of the yakuzaru (Macaca fuscata yakui), group-movement and sub-grouping. Monkey 23(4):6-15.

Masataka N, Fujii H. 1980. An experimental study on facial expressions and interindividual distance in Japanese macaques. Primates 21(3):340-9.

Masataka N. 1989. Motivational referents of contact calls in Japanese monkeys. Ethology 80(1-4):265-73.

Matsubara M, Sprague DS. 2004. Mating tactics in response to costs incurred by mating with multible males in wild female Japanese macaques. Intl J Primatol 25(4):901-17.

Minami T. 1974. Early mother-infant relations in Japanese monkeys. In: Kondo S, Kawai M, Ehara A, editors. Contemporary primatology, proceedings of the 5th International Congress of Primatology. Basel(CH):S. Karger. p334-340.

Mitani M. 1986. Voiceprint identification and its application to sociological studies of wild Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata yakui). Primates 27(4):397-412.

Mito S. 1980. Bosuzaru heno Michi. Tokyo: Popura-sha. 166 p.

Miyamoto M. 1976. New wolves? Feral dogs in Omote Nikko. Anima 45:6-11.

Muroyama Y. 1995. Developmental changes in mother-offspring grooming in Japanese macaques. Am J Primatol 37(1):57-64.

Nakamichi M, Shizawa Y. 2003. Distribution of grooming among adult females in a large, free-ranging group of Japanese macaques. Intl J Primatol 24(3):607-25.

Nakamichi M, Kojima Y, Itoigawa N, Imakawa S, Machida S. 1995. Interactions among adult males and females before and after the death of the alpha male in a free-ranging troop of Japanese macaques. Primates 36(3):385-96.

Nakamichi M, Imakawa S, Kojima Y, Natsume A. 1992. Parturition in a free-ranging Japanese monkey (Macaca fuscata). Primates 33(3):413-8.

Nakamichi M. 1989. Sex differences in social development during the first 4 years in a free-ranging group of Japanese monkeys, Macaca fuscata. Anim Behav 38(5):737-48.

Negayama K, Kondo K, Itoigawa N. 1983. Development of locomotor behaviour in infant Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata). Annal Sci Nat, Zool, Paris. (Ser. 13)5(3):169-80.

Nigi H. 1982. The Japanese monkey-its physiology of sex. Tokyo:Dobutsu-sha. 309 p.

Nigi H. 1975. Menstrual cycle and some other related aspects of Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata). Primates 16(2):207-16.

O’Neill AC, Fedigan LM, Ziegler TE. 2004. Ovarian cycle phase and same-sex mating behavior in Japanese macaque females. Am J Primatol 63(1):25-31.

Ôta K, Makino Y, Kimura M, Suzuki J. 1991. Lactation in the Japanese monkey (Macaca fuscata): yield and composition of milk and nipple preference of young. Primates 32(1):35-48.

Pereira ME. 1986. Maternal recognition of juvenile offspring coo vocalizations in Japanese macaques. Animal Behaviour 34(3):935-7.

Perloe SI. 1992. Male mating competition, female choice and dominance in a free ranging group of Japanese macaques. Primates 33(3):289-304.

Rowe N. 1996. The pictorial guide to the living primates. East Hampton (NY): Pogonias Pr. p124-5.

Saito C, Sato S, Suzuki S, Sugiura H, Agetsuma N, Takahata Y, Sasaki C, Takahashi H, Tanaka T, Yamagiwa J. 1998. Aggressive intergroup encounters in two populations of Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata). Primates 39(3):303-12.

Japanese macaque
Macaca fuscata

Sakura O. 1989. Variability in contact calls between troops of Japanese macaques: a possible case of neutral evolution of animal culture. Anim Behav 38(5):900-2.

Shizawa Y, Nakamichi M, Hinobayashi T, Minami T. 2005. Playback experiment to test maternal responses of Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) to their own infantÕs call when the infants were four to six months old. Behav Process 68:41-6.

Soltis J. 1999. Measuring male-female relationships during the mating season in wild Japanese macaques. Primates 40(3):453-67.

Sprague DS, Suzuki S, Takahashi H, Sato S. 1998. Male life history in natural populations of Japanese macaques: migration, dominance rank, and troop participation of males in two habitats. Primates 39(3):351-63.

Sprague DS. 1991. Mating by nontroop males among the Japanese macaques of Yakushima island. Folia Primatol 57(3):156-8.

Sprague DS. 2002. Monkeys in the backyard: encroaching wildlife and rural communities in Japan. In: Fuentes A, Wolfe LD, editors. Primates face to face: conservation implications of human-nonhuman primate interconnections. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge U Pr. p254-72.

Sprague DS, Suzuki S, Tsukahara T. 1996. Variation in social mechanisms by which males attained the alpha rank among Japanese macaques. In: Fa JE, Lindburg DG, editors. Evolution and ecology of macaque societies. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge U Pr. p 444-58.

Sugiura H. 2001. Vocal exchange of coo calls in Japanese macaques. In:Matsuzawa T, editor. Primate origins of human cognition and behavior. Tokyo: Springer. p135-54.

Sugiyama Y. 1976. Life history of male Japanese monkeys. Adv Stud Behav 7:255-84.

Sugiyama Y, Ohsawa H. 1988. Population dynamics and management of baited Japanese monkeys at Takasakiyama. Reichorui Kenkyu (Primate Research) 4(1):33-43.

Suzuki A. 1965. An ecological study of wild Japanese monkeys in snowy areas-focused on their food habits. Primates 6(1):31-72.

Takahashi H. 2002. Changes of dominance rank, age, and tenure of wild Japanese macaque males in the Kinkazan A troop during seven years. Primates 43(2):133-8.

Takahashi H. 1997. Huddling relationships in night sleeping groups among wild Japanese macaques in Kinkazan island during winter. Primates 38(1):57-68.

Takahata Y. Diachronic changes in the dominance relations of adult female Japanese monkeys of the Arashiyama B group. In: Fedigan LM & Asquith PJ, editors. The monkeys of Arashiyama: Thirty-five years of research in Japan and the west. Albany(NY): SUNY Pr. p123-39.

Takahata Y, Suzuki S, Agetsuma N, Okayasu N, Sugiura H, Takahashi H, Yamagiwa J, Izawa K, Furuichi T, Hill DA, Maruhashi T, Saito C, Sato S, Sprague DS. 1998. Reproduction of wild Japanese macaque females of Yakushima and Kinkazan islands: a preliminary report. Primates 39(3):339-349.

Takahata Y, Huffman MA, Suzuki S, Koyama N, Yamagiwa J. 1999. Why dominants do not consistently attain high mating and reproductive success: a review of longitudinal Japanese macaque studies. Primates 40(1):143-58.

Tanaka I. 1995. Matrilineal distribution of louse egg-handling techniques during grooming in free-ranging Japanese macaques. Am J Phys Anth 98(2):197-201.

Tanaka I, Hayama S-I, Nigi H. 1993. Milk secretion in pregnancy among free-ranging Japanese macaques. Am J Primatol 30(2):169-74.

Thomsen R. 1997. Observation of periparturitional behaviour in wild Yakushima macaques (Macaca fuscata yakui). Folia Primatol 68(6):338-41.

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Tsukahara T. 1990. Initiation and solicitation in male-female grooming in a wild Japanese macaque troop on Yakushima island. Primates 31(2):147-56.

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Wolfe L. 1979. Sexual maturation among members of a transported troop of Japanese macaques. Primates 20(3):411-8.

Yamada K, Nakamichi M. 2006. A fatal attack on an unweaned infant by a non-resident male in a free-ranging group of Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) at Katsuyama. Primates 47(2):165-9.

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Yoshida A. 1988b. Alarm and estrous calls of a female Japanese monkey (Macaca fuscata): A case study. In: Anonymous, editor. Research reports of the Arashiyama west and east groups of Japanese monkeys. Suita, Japan: Lab Ethol Stud, Fac Hum Sci, Osaka Univ. p57-65.

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Content last modified: April 26, 2007



Macaca fuscata
Photo: Alisha Eisert
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Alisha Eisert
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Alisha Eisert
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Alisha Eisert
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Frans de Waal
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Frans de Waal
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Frans de Waal
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Frans de Waal
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Frans de Waal
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Frans de Waal
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Frans de Waal
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Frans de Waal
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Frans de Waal
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Frans de Waal
Macaca fuscata
Photo: Marilyn Cole

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