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A Fascinating Glimpse Into the Life of a Popular Chimpanzee in Pre-War Japan

Categories: East Asia, Japan, Arts & Culture, Citizen Media, History, Photography
Rita and Lloyd Chimpanzees in Osaka [1]

“Rita and Lloyd”, two chimpanzees from pre-war Tennoji Zoo in Osaka. Photo from image posted on Twitter user Mulboyne. [1]

Prolific Twitter user Mulboyne has posted a series of images that provide a fascinating glimpse of pre-war Osaka as Japan embraced militarism and total war.

Mulboyne, a long-time resident of the country, makes frequent posts about Japan on Twitter, covering everything from what is likely the least popular rolled sushi [2] to be sold in Japanese supermarkets to the top image search result for “gaijin” [3] (“foreigner”, in Japanese) and trends in corporate rebranding [4].

In this case, Mulboyne has posted a series of photographs of pre-war Osaka, when the city briefly became the largest city in Japan [5] after the Great Kanto Earthquake devastated Tokyo in 1923 [6].

The Twitter thread, which starts by exploring pre-war Osaka, shifts towards exploring the life of one of the most famous residents of Tennoji Zoo in Osaka at the time, Rita the chimpanzee, as documented in the 2010 book by Mayumi Itoh [11], “Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy: the Silent Victims of World War II [12].”

Inevitably, the images depict Japan's increasing militarism as war looms.

However, before Japan's war with the United States and other Western countries began, Rita gained a consort, only to die in childbirth.

While Japan's military government forced Lloyd the chimpanzee to adopt a Japanese name until Japan's defeat. Rita died as Rita, but Lloyd was eventually made to adopt a Japanese name by Japan’s wartime military government. A statue of the two remains today at Tennoji Zoo in Osaka.

Mulboyne can be followed on Twitter here [25].