This morning I was tempted to write about Auckland’s imminent promised release from home detention into the broad, sunlit uplands of “lockdown light”. This brave new world of level 2 restrictions means (inter alia) that bars and gyms can open to gatherings of up to 100, but churches are restricted to 10. But then I remembered that there is nothing to see here, that questioning the government is wrongthink, that it is probably tantamount to wanting to kill granny, and that it is also, in all likelihood, anti-Catholic.
(Just for an example of how the fear is continually stoked by those in favour of continued, indefinite lockdowns — see this statement by one of New Zealand’s go-to “experts” that COVID-19 would see 15,000 people die in a year in this country (compared to only 500 from the flu). Where on Earth did he pull that figure from? That would equate to a death rate of 3,000 people per million from COVID, a number that dwarfs even Governor Cuomo’s disastrous New York regime where elderly people with COVID were deliberately sent to nursing homes to free up hospital bed space. This death rate would apparently happen in a country with very low population density, a mild climate and generally good public health resources. Of course, our media doesn’t question this at all because the fear must be stoked and no one can question the seriousness of COVID.)
But I will say no more, because it is a beautiful late-winter’s day here (sun, 20 degrees and blowflies even!) Besides, there is momentous news to be shared from the land of the rising sun. This news from Japan would be front page fodder everywhere in the world if it were not for COVID and the continued (“mostly peaceful”) violence in many American cities. No, of course I am not talking about the resignation of Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister: the story I am talking about is much more important.
Yes, that’s right, I am going to talk about the monkey-busting Grannies from the village of Miyami in Fukui, Honshu.
For the last five years or so the area has been dealing with wild macaques which have been stealing crops and other agricultural products. In order to combat this monkey business, the local officials began running courses to teach villagers how to get rid of these pests. Three grandmothers (aged 74, 68 and 67) were among the first to take the course in March and have banded together to defend local farmers’ produce.
They are easy to spot since they are dressed in colourful aprons, and also because they are all packing fairly impressive looking airguns. (Much more impressive than my break barrel slug gun I owned as a child — it was ineffective against all rabbits, magpies or possums… yes, ineffective. Nothing to do with my marksmanship…)
These three women call themselves the “Monkey Busters” and have fearlessly patrolled their neighbourhood, keeping the simian hordes at bay. Their efforts were for a time successful, but in July a gang of a score of monkeys started causing trouble — property damage and disturbing those at the local temple and historic ruins. So the battle has been joined again in earnest.
Usually monkey sightings are reported during the day, when the women are farming or in the middle of housework. After grabbing their air rifles the Monkey Busters rush to the scene of the disturbance. There is no time to take off their aprons and so the local monkey gangs have learned to fear the appearance of a blue-striped or red-plaid elderly women about to deal some silent punishment in the form of a plastic pellet.
But why does Miyama rely on its grandmothers to protect it from macaques? Where are all the young people? Where indeed? Miyama is deep in “Japan B”: the area of Japan away from the bright lights of the megacities and slowly dying as the young leave and the elderly are left. Perhaps though, the Japanese Defence Force has found an answer to its demographic problem…