Ueno Ape House

I’m still scanning and archiving lots of old 1980s travel sketchbooks and doodles.

Here are some of my very rare life-drawings, done on a cold Japanese winter’s day in 1987 at Tokyo’s UENO ZOO. The apes had gone inside to escape the cold, though they couldn’t escape prying eyes, as we human beings could observe them in their little shelter, from behind super-thick plexi-glass. The observation room was relatively warm and a good place to do some sketching. As other visitors came and went, I got to really study the gorilla as he sat in a very relaxed pose apparently not even noticing the crowd. Suddenly, he sprang into a classic SILVER-BACK pose and violently banged his fists on the glass so hard that the plexi-glass pane went BOOM!

This terrified everyone, and sent them running and yelling out into the cold, clearing the observation room, only to slowly fill up again with a new group of people who were unaware of how much jeopardy their underpants were about to be in, because over the course of about 40 minutes, I saw the gorilla pull this move about once every 7 minutes or so. After the first time, it was pretty funny to watch him affecting this “I’m not watching you guys” attitude but then, with a little tell-tale glance at the crowd (just to make sure that the observation room had filled up) he would again unload a KING KONG moment, which was guaranteed to scare the ramen-noodles out of everyone– me included.

I will be posting much more of My Japan travel Sketches

6 thoughts on “Ueno Ape House”

  1. I guess that gorilla made a monkey out of everyone! Great ape sketches! Primates are some of my favorite things to draw. You’ve definitely captured their personality and manner.

  2. UENO ZOO!!!
    I’ve been there quite a few times, there is a pretty museum(National Museum of Nature and Science,Tokyo)around the area too! Never met the silverback with “KING KONG” temper problem, though.
    Great skecthes! I see the guy on the bottom-right sketch was ready to unload his trick at any moment!

  3. Benton>> Yes, apes are fun to draw alright. I also like some of the bigger critters like Elephants and Rhinos. They know how to hold a pose.

    Patrick>> Ueno is a great area. I used to like to walk around there because it had an interesting “old-town” atmosphere compared to the super modern feeling of Shinjuku, where I lived. I liked the old cemetery… it was always full of creepy crows that checked me out as I walked by…


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