Monkeys on a Stick!

I’ve been wanting to write about this for awhile, and now I’m finally getting around to it. This is what I love about Japan.

Monkeys on a stick.

Before I went into the hospital to get my gall bladder out – um, ages ago (last spring?) –  a good friend gave me this little thing as a protective charm of sorts. Adorable, isn’t it?

Nine monkeys on a stick.


It’s called Kunan wo tori saru, 苦難を取り去る。

It’s a play on words and meanings and what Japan does so well. Kunan (苦難) are two Chinese/Japanese characters that basically both mean distress, suffering, hardship. So it’s hardship doubled, right?


Wo tori saru (を取り去る)  means to take away.

So, basically to take away suffering or distress or hardship from a person. It’s given when someone doesn’t want you to suffer or feel hardship they present you with this stick and voila!

But why monkeys on a stick, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

If you write kunan by different characters you get ku(hiki) (9匹)=nine (animals) and  nan(ten)(南天) = the name of a sacred bamboo stick called nandina in English. The saru part of “wo tori saru” becomes monkey(s)!

I’m not sure how sideways you have to look at it, but I’m guessing those nine little monkeys were there to take away my suffering and distress. They did quite the good job, too, because I don’t remember really being in too much pain after the surgery, I healed up so well they let me go home early, and despite having no more gall bladder, I can basically eat and drink anything I want without any discomfort.

Okay, with that last part I am firmly knocking on wood, or a sacred bamboo stick, maybe!



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