“The stable of the sacred horse at Nikko is decorated with monkeys. It is believed that on New Year’s eve these monkeys come to life and, dressed up in Shinto-priest’s garments, pay honour to their companion … Formerly monkeys were kept in the imperial stables to (it is wrongly said) keep the horses from sleeping. Artists originally inspired by the monkeys of Nikko have often depicted them in human dress, but the monkeys of the sarumawashi too are always dressed up monkeys.”
– The Animal in Far Eastern Art: And Especially in the Art of the Japanese Netsuke, by T. Volke, 1975
“Immediately under the roof are some cleverly executed groups of monkeys, severally represented as closing their ears and mouths and shading their eyes with their hands.
“They are called san goku no saru, ‘the monkeys of the three countries’, i.e., India, China and Japan; those with long hands are evidently Indian, but it is difficult to fix the nationality of the others.
“They are also punningly called kika-zaru, iwa-zaru, and mi-zaru (not hearing, not speaking, and not seeing monkeys).”
– A Handbook for Travellers in Japan, by Basil Hall Chamberlain & W.B. Mason, 1881