Japan’s always had a soft spot for the dashing, regal couple of the U.K.’s Prince William and wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. The warmhearted admiration got kicked up a notch when the prince (who’s also a duke, just for good measure) made his first trip to Japan this spring, and the infatuation went into overdrive this week with the news of the birth of the couple’s second child.
That exuberance has manifested itself in many ways, including visitors to an animal park in Oita Prefecture deciding that the facility’s newborn baby should share the infant princess’ name, Charlotte.
Not everyone agrees that’s such an honor, though.
Oita City’s Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Gardens is known for the colony of wild macaque monkeys that come for feedings within its grounds. With their breeding season running from May to August, the species’ babies are born in the spring.
Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Gardens expects about a hundred macaque births this season, but it has a special tradition of asking the public to name the first one born each year. While voters are free to offer any name they wish, the park suggests choosing something that reflects the events of the year since the last batch of babies were born. Starting on March 27, visitors could fill out ballots and drop them in collection boxes within the park, and Internet voting was also allowed.
So when a newborn female was spotted on the morning of May 6, it was time to check the tally. Out of 853 submissions, the top name was Charlotte, chosen by 59 people.
▼ A baby macaque (not Charlotte)
An employee of the park speculates that Charlotte may have already been having a strong showing thanks to Charlotte Kate Fox, an American actress who became a darling of the Japanese media for her role in NHK TV drama Massan, which just finished airing in March.
What pushed Charlotte to the top of the list, however, was no doubt the arrival of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, daughter of William and Catherine. The birth, and the royal baby’s name, made the news in Japan on the night of May 4, right in the middle of the Golden Week holiday period in which Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Gardens sees a surge in attendance. With the newest member of the British royal family on everyone’s mind, it’s no surprise that many cast their vote for Charlotte.
Elegantly feminine as it may be, though, not everyone in Japan agrees that this is the right time to be giving the name to an animal, even one as adorable as the newborn macaque is said to be. Since announcing the arrival of its own little Charlotte, Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Gardens has received a number of complaints. “Naming it after the princess is disrespectful to the U.K.,” criticized one disapproving Japanese citizen. “How would you feel if a monkey was born in a zoo in London, and they gave it a name from the Japanese Imperial Family?” asked another.
While some are calling the choice inappropriate, it’s doubtful that any offense was intended, or indeed taken. One of the more popular male names suggested was Kei, after Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori, who’s currently just about the biggest hero in the Japanese sports sphere after his strong showings in international competition over the past 12 months.
▼ And his ability to play tennis using a samurai sword
Nevertheless, Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Gardens issued a statement saying that it is considering renaming the baby monkey, in light of the controversy that’s been caused. Broadcaster TBS’ News 23 has subsequently reported that following a conference to discuss the matter on May 7, the final decision regarding the newborn’s name will be made by Oita City Mayor Kiichiro Sato.
Meanwhile, no one seems to have asked the baby monkey’s parents how they feel about the matter, perhaps coming to the foregone conclusion that they’d just respond with a loud screech of “Kiiiiii!” and flung feces.
Sources: BBC News , The Japan Times , TV Asahi , Sports Hochi , Jin
Top image: Visit Oita
Insert images: One Big Photo , YouTube