ken en no naka
This interesting little expression provides a window into another subtle difference in Japanese and American culture. Literally, "dog-monkey relationship" is used in the same way we would use "like cats and dogs." Not as in "It's raining cats and dogs,"" but as in (*Alma-mater shout out warning*) "The Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles get along like cats and dogs. Employable, attractive, cats who scored well on their SATs and dogs."
What, in Japanese history or culture has created this idea of a strong animosity between dogs and monkeys? I don't know. A search of Japanese websites offers a number of possibilities, but as some of them seem contradictory to me, I don't know what to think:
- Dogs and monkeys are not animals that traditionally meet, so the phrase involves the hostility of parties that are unfamiliar to each other. Because of this, the selection of "dogs" and "monkeys" is arbitrary. Any two unrelated animals would work fine.
- Dogs and monkeys are both pack animals, and both territorial, so clashes between them are easy to imagine.
- Man often domesticates dogs and uses them as hunting animals. Monkeys are not used to being smelled and tracked, so dogs strike them as a villian possessed of preternatural abilities.
In the same way, dogs are used to seeing things at dogs eye-level, and are not used to encountering creatures that can climb to high distances and defend themselves by throwing things. They are each others 苦手。
- Another expression that plays on the same idea of contention and animosity between dogs and monkeys: 嫁と姑、犬とサル (yome to shuutome, inu to saru), "Bride is to Mother-in-law, as dog is to monkey (or vice-versa)."
- A manga from the 1930s called Norakuro, drawn by one Suihou Tagawa, about a misfit dog who joins the fierce dog army, and like some sort of Showa-Scooby Doo, succeeds despite his absurd mistakes. The series is most notable because it became a political allegory, when the lovable, brave, honorable Japanese Dog Army defeats the cowardly Chinese pig army, and becomes the herders of the Manchurian sheep-people. Back before the comic become propaganda, though, guess what animal played the role of the Dog Army's nemesis?
- Lots of Chinese Zodiac advice (Japan uses the Chinese Zodiac as well), warning dogs to watch out for monkeys and monkeys to watch out for dogs. Their often conflicting personality traits(D: moralistic; judgmental; lazy; unpretentious; cold; strong sense of justice and fair play M: morally flexible; open-minded; problem-solver; egotistical; sociable; cunning improviser), make them incompatible. More over, if it's the monkey's year, the dog's gonna have a rough one. The opposite holds as well.
I don't really want to go to his birthday party by myself, but then, Nirav and my girlfriend can't STAND each other.