Monkey around at Okinawa bar
They may not serve beer like the ones at a tavern on mainland Japan. But common squirrel monkeys at Monkey Bar Okinawa entertain customers with what they do best: simply being squirrely.
Located on Kokusai Street in Naha, right by the entrance of Heiwa-Dori, Monkey Bar Okinawa attracts people who are looking for some out-of-the-ordinary fun.
When I visited on a recent Saturday evening, there were many service members having a good time. Some were playing with the little monkeys in a glass-walled space while others were watching as they enjoyed food and drinks.
Soon after ordering, I put on a yellow jacket provided by the staff, and joined a couple who were in the “monkey space.” As soon as I took one step in their territory, a couple of monkeys jumped at me. They were clearly after the monkey food I had in my hand.
Although my original plan was to give equal amounts of food to each of them, they moved much faster than I imagined. Next thing I knew, most of the food was gone.
But other monkeys kept charging at me. One monkey tried to pull down a zipper of my jacket, reaching out in an attempt to grab my business cards. Soon after that, another one used his little hands pry away the rest of the food from my hand. I was under attack!
But soon the food was gone, and the little pranksters set their eyes the other two human targets in the room. I could see a monkey trying to snatch a video camera away from a human hand. There was another monkey touching the other person’s face.
While this was going on, other monkeys were trying make an escape out of the space. It took a while for the staff to detain them. The mischievous monkeys never stopped moving, but the humans never stopped smiling.
“We have nine monkeys at this place,” said Naomasa Ikehara, who runs the bar. “These monkeys live as a group. So we can’t just keep one or two. It would put stress on them if they are kept as a small group.”
When asked what key was for humans to connect to the monkeys, Ikehara simple said one simple word: “Food.”
“If you have the food, they will come to you,” said Ikehara with smile.
At Monkey Bar, all the customers are welcome to play with the little creatures. Some customers order a beer and play with the naughty animals. While others enjoy the variety of tasty food the bar offers.
The menu includes American favorites such as Baby Back ribs, pizza and fried chicken, which had a crispy texture, savory taste and volume. Ikehara, who runs other bars and restaurants on the island, is proud of serving a lot of food at a reasonable price.
With music videos playing on the monitor and an overall relaxing and fun atmosphere, the bar gives off a nice American-style restaurant or bar vibe.
But when the food and the mood are coupled with monkey business, a night at this place becomes something unique.
“It was a good experience,” said Marco Catalanzuniga from Camp Kinser. “It’s a good time. I think it’s definitely a good trip for people to come out and try.
MONKEY BAR OKINAWA
Address: 5F, 3-1-6 Makishi, Naha city Okinawa 900-0013 (On Kokusai Street)
Hours: 5 p.m. – 3 a.m. every day
*Monkeys take a break every other hour.
*Minors can stay until 10 p.m. if with an adult.