Carrying out what is believed to be a perfectly planned and orchestrated move, 25,000 macaques across Japan ritually disembowelled themselves at lunch time yesterday, to protest the ongoing destruction of their habitat.
Using modified weapons such as sharpened tree branches and bones from left over chicken drumsticks, half the snow monkey population in the Far East country effectively gutted themselves as the clock struck 12 noon. The incident has sent shock waves around the country, leaving researchers and zoologists running helter skelter to prevent a re-occurrence.
Akayo une, whose 10 year-old son is still receiving treatment for shock and severe distress after witnessing 15 Nihon zaru commit hara-kiri at the same time, said: "I took my son to the zoo because it was his birthday, everything was fine till we got to the monkeys, then I realised something was wrong. All of them were squatting in a sort of samurai position. The next thing I knew, all at the same time they plunged what looked like sharpened wood into their stomachs, cutting from left to right and then back to left."
Drawings recovered from the enclosure seemed to depict chainsaws and trees.
Koniri Takasumi, a zoo keeper in Fukuoka, who also witnessed primate self-evisceration first hand, said he was still in a state of disbelief as what he saw would leave most samurai jealous. The incident has left many anthropologists baffled. Takeshi Tokuori, a primatologist at Hiroshima university, said: " This just shows that there is still so much we need to learn about these very clever animals, we always suspected they are more advanced than they seem but there was no evidence to prove it."
Choosing the way of the Bushido has been interpreted by some as the monkeys' last stand against increased human destruction of their home.
Buddhist monks in the past often told stories of how some monkeys watched from trees as shamed samurai warriors committed seppuku in public gatherings.
Yokushi Oinida was walking through Jigokudani Monkey Park on the day snow and monkeys fell side by side. He claimed at first he thought a macaque had slipped and fallen from a tree, but when they started falling to the ground with heavy thuds and various sharp objects protruding from their abdomens he knew something was wrong.
"This is definitely a rude shock that must not repeat itself, no one could have anticipated monkey ritual suicide on such a scale. We have taken strict preventive measures like tracking down the rest of them and housing them in five star hotels to keep them happy. And for the ones that could not be reached, we've dispatched our most famous Pop stars to keep them entertained," said Ichiro Kamoshita, Japan's Minister of the Environment.
Yasuo Ashido, general manager of Osaka's Hilton hotel confirmed that all his presidential, governor and one bed suites had been fully occupied or booked by the furry animals, mostly the yakui specie which is common in that part of the country. The hotel is expected to run at full capacity till the animals can be safely returned to the wild.
Some famous Japanese stars like Ken Hirai, Koda Kumi, Masafumi Akikawa and Namie Amuro could be heard for miles as they belted out their top selling songs to appease the Honshu mountain dwellers. Large screen HD televisions have also been set up in strategic places to ensure no primate feels left out.
A life size effigy of David Beckham is said to be on its way to the Shiretoko peninsula, where the mountains meet the forests. "This is to ensure that as the monkeys skip and hop over rocks and between trees, they at least get the feeling that Golden Balls is swinging happily alongside them," said Hiro Mushigato, a naturalist from The University of Tokyo.
The football star is very well known in Japan and in the past, some macaques at research institutes have been known to show signs of acknowledging his ball curving prowess. Most macaques especially ones five years old and over would normally lift up their right leg and look towards the west at the mention of his name.
Not all seppuku attempts were immediately successful however, as one adult monkey was rushed to Tokyo medical University Hospital just after noon. Dr Yumi Okido, a colorectal surgeon, said: "After three hours of surgery, we have done our best but I don't think it will be good enough. This particular one seemed to have studied every detail of the Bushido code, cutting itself six times, both vertically and horizontally." In so doing, it ruptured two main blood vessels, sliced its large intestine at least twice and cut its liver into equal pieces of four.
Condolence messages and flowers have been left at different locations where evidence of widespread hara-kiri is still palpable. One card read: "Only yesterday I watched you bathe in the warm spring, today your spleen is being recovered from the bottom of the spring, miss you."
Monkey watchers around the world are said to be on high alert.