This page features various tidbits of information about Monkey. If you have any additional information about Monkey which you think could be featured here, please go to the Monkey Feedback page and send it to me, and I'll add it here.
Locations used in filming Monkey
Here's some information received from a Japanese Monkey fan called Vega:
"I hear, as a matter of fact, it was filmed almost completely in Japan. Tripitaka and 3 funny guys walked at the skirts of Mt.Fuji, not at the Silk Road. Chinese scenery was composed.
In the 1st series, the cast went on location abroad in only one episode, "The Beginning of Wisdom". It was filmed at an open set in Hong Kong.
In other episodes the cast acted in a studio set, or went on location to a
chinese structure in Tokyo or wild land at the skirts of Mt.Fuji in Sizuoka.
But the staff went to China to film Chinese scenery of the opening
and the ending credits.
Even the crew's location, it was a topic in Japan in those days. Japan was in Silk Road boom at that time.
In the 2nd series, the cast went to China, the Great Wall of China, etc., to
film the opening scenes.
I heard these in MASAAKI SAKAI's interview, etc."
"I hear many location scenes were shot at Yushima-Seidou (Yushima temple of
Confucius) in Ochanomizu in the middle of Tokyo. Of course it still exists.
Masaaki Sakai said in a TV show he made a guest appearance that he and
Toshiyuki Nishida and Shiro Kishibe often went for lunch together to an eating
house near location place with those costumes.
They sometimes said hello to a car that passed by them; the driver was very
Trivia about Monkey from "the man at NTV Japan"
In September 2002, I emailed NTV to ask them a few questions that I (and I'm
sure lots of other fans too) have been wondering about for a long time - on 18 November 2002, I got some detailed responses - see below:
1) Why did the series end abruptly after 2 series, without the characters
reaching India? Was there ever a plan to make a 3rd series?
I spoke with a member of the then "Saiyuuki" staff and he told me that when the
show was first pitched no one thought it work. However, the reality was that
it was a huge success, garnering over 30% ratings. After the first 26 episodes
were aired, a continuation of the story was planned, but this time with high
expectations in light of the success of the first. However, that was not the
case. The second 26 episodes did not do as well as the first and no plans were
made for a third series. Also, by the time the first series and second series
had aired, the actors became very popular and their schedules filled up quickly.
Basically, they moved on with their careers.
As for why the group never reached India, perhaps it was because the production
group had planned to stretch it out for longer that they may have to gotten to
that point in the second series, but because the ratings were not as good for
the second series (less than 20%), it just never came to be.
But the answer I received was that rather than the goal, the process, the
adventure was most important -- fighting evil, helping the poor, etc.
2) Why did the BBC only dub 39 out of the original 52 episodes into English?
This remains a bit of a mystery. It seems the BBC came to NTV and asked what
new programs and activities NTV was involved with and "Monkey" was introduced.
The BBC producer that saw it liked those 39 episodes for some reason, but why
those 39 is unclear. Perhaps you can contact the BBC directly to see what their side of the story is. In fact, I would like to know.
3) Do any of the costumes / props (e.g. the characters' weapons, especially
Monkey's staff) still exist? Does NTV or Kokusai Hoei have these stored away
NTV does not have it nor does Kokusai Hoei, I am afraid.
Other Monkey trivia
At the start of Godiego's Monkey Magic, there's the old "Monnkkeeyyy!" scream that we all know and love....
The scream on the original recording was done by Steve Fox, on the live versions it's done by the drummer Tommy Snyder, so the timing is perfect with the beginning of the rhythm...
In Australia it was shown daily at 6.05 pm on the ABC four nights a week from 4 May 1981 to 16 June 1981, the second season starting 17 June and ending 8 July 1981. It has been repeated several times since, most recently in the early 90s.
Monkey was shown on TV in South Africa in the early 1980s, dubbed into the Xhosa or Zulu language! Here's an email I got from a South African Monkey fan:
"What wonderful memories! I used to watch this series as a child many years ago in South Africa (about 15 years ago actually). It was on one of the Xhosa/Zulu channels (TV2 or TV3), dubbed into that particular African language. Despite not understanding the language, however, my two younger brothers and I would sit around whenever it came on late Sunday mornings, then run about the house afterwards goofing on it after being glued to the screen for the entirity of the show. Just watching the onscreen antics was enough for us. I'm 25 now, but still have a fond spot for Monkey and those happy days. I had forgotten the series until one day it occured to me to search the Internet, and I couldn't remember anything except that one line from the song: the words "Monkey Magic.. Monkey Magic" had gotten stuck in my head. One day I fired up Yahoo and typed Monkey Magic - and there it was. I couldn't believe my joy at seeing those familiar characters again, after not having seen them for over ten years. My biggest wish would be to watch the series in its entirity and in English so I could finally understand what the blazes Monkey was on about all those years ago. I'm living in New York now, and hope that someday it'll be released on video over here, or broadcast in the US on cable. It doesn't seem like USA knows much about this character :( A great site - thanks for the wonderful reminder of my childhood. Best of luck for the future!"
According to the introduction of Arthur Waley's book 'Monkey' (1984:8.):
Tripikata stands an ordinary man,
Monkey is the restless instability of genius,
Pigsy is the physical body with all it lusts and desires,
Sandy is somewhat ambigious, thought by some to be an embodiment of "che'eng" the concept of sincerity or whole-heartedness. He is however everpresent in most works throughout Monkey's literary history.
Tsuan Tsung is Tripitaka's original name before he was given his holy mission. The name is in mandarin, so you have to sort of change your accent to say itits pretty much said phonetically with the 't's' being semi-silent if that's too hard, it's sort of like this "ch-oo-an s-aang".
In the Japanese version, the characters are known by the following names:
Monkey - Songoku (everyone called him Goku for short)
Tripitaka - Sanzouhoushi (She/he was always called Osho-san by Monkey)
Pigsy - Chohakkai (Monkey always called him Hakkai)
Sandy - Sagojo (Monkey always called him Gojo)
At the end of the story all the pilgrims get a reward. Pigsy becomes the Cleanser of The Altars, Sandy becomes the Golden Bodied Arhat, and both Tripitaka and Monkey become Buddhas too, but I don't know their 'Buddha names'. If you can help, let me know using the Monkey Feedback page, and I'll put the information here.
Apparently, when Monkey was made, there was some talk about the band members of Godiego appearing in an episode of Monkey, but it never happened.
Monkey was shown in its original Japanese on one of the Japanese channels in Califonia in the 70's.
Wu Chengen, the author of Journey to the West, had also written a novel about the Cauldrons of Yu. Unfortunately, the book was lost long ago.
I asked my Japanese friend if Masaaki Sakai had received any martial arts training before he starred in Monkey. Here's his response:
He is not a martial arts speacialist. He somehow learned it for the drama. Japanese TV has samurai drama tradition, so actors can take it into their performances. Masaaki Sakai is now known as a very versatile actor."
I asked my contact at Fabulous Films if Monkey was made in stereo. He said he thinks it's in mono, especially since it was made over 20 years ago.
The first series was made to commemorate Nihon Television's (NTV) 25th anniversary and had a budget of Y100 million and was pitted against the prestigious NHK Taiga Drama (think BBC historical) at 8pm Sundays.
When it finished its run on 1st April 1979, a two hour special was made up of highlights and shown on 8 April to satisfy public demand.
Each episode of the 1st season was 54 minutes long and shown once a week.
Due to pressure of public demand a second series was made running from 11 Nov. 1979 to 4 May 1980.
Both series had footage shot on location in
northwest China and inner Mongolia.
In Japan, the 1st series of Saiyuki (26 episodes) debuted on October 1, 1978
At 7pm on Sundays in 1980, Saiyuki was shown in its original Japanese
form on one of the "Bay Area"'s local Japanese TV channels.
Saiyuki was dubbed into English and released as "Monkey" by British people. The English version was released to Britain, Australia, and maybe even Canada, but has never been released to the US because of copyright problems. It's unfortunate, as the Chinese remake "Journey to the West" (with English subtitles) has been shown in the US.
Monkey's dubbed English voice sounds almost identical to the Japanese voice of Masaaki Sakai in the original version.
The theme song "Monkey Magic" is sung entirely in English, even in the Japanese version - i.e. there is no Japanese version of it.
The ending song "Gandhara" differs between versions; in the Japanese version it is sung mostly in Japanese, while in the English version it is sung mostly in English.
In Japan, the 2nd series of Saiyuki (Saiyuki 2) first aired on November 11, 1979.
Jon Fukuda, who directed some Monkey episodes, has worked with Toho and helped to create many of the classic Godzilla movies.
Toshiyuki Nishida (who played Pigsy) co-starred with Hiroshi Fujioka and Naoya Sei in the Toei TV series "Special Crime Investigation Front".
Masaaki Sakai (who played Monkey) portrayed some sort of wrestling robot in some TV show a few years ago.
Monkey was made by the Japanese production company NTV in the late 1970s, and was dubbed into English by World Wide Sound in London. It has only ever been shown in Australia, New Zealand, throughout Asia and in the UK.
Monkey is the most popular TV show that NTV ever made, so to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the channel, they made a new 1990s series of Monkey, a remake of the original series. It featured the newest special effects and computer graphics, and included a completely new cast. It only ran for 1 season, and was unpopular (I guess it couldn't beat the original series!).
It was shown by the Australian terrestrial TV channel ABC 2 or 3 times during the 1980s, and in the early 1990s. Since then, it has only been shown on cable / satellite tv channels.
It was shown by the UK terrestrial TV channel BBC twice in the early 1980s, and has since only been shown on cable / satellite tv channels.
Monkey is enjoyed by many different age groups at different levels. Children enjoy it for the corny acting and fighting etc, but many adults appreciate the underlying philosophy taken from the ancient Chinese stories. It is more than just a fun action fantasy TV show.
In Japan, the story on which Monkey is based ("SONGOKUU") is known by everyone. There are many TV shows and books and movies about SONGOKUU."
In Japanese, Monkey is known as "Saiyuuki". There were 2 seasons of Monkey, both containing 26 episodes. In the first season, all 26 episodes were dubbed into English, while in the second season just 13 episodes were dubbed into English. For more information about the 13 undubbed episodes, see the Monkey Undubbed Episodes page.
In the 2nd series, Pigsy was no longer played by Toshiyuki Nishida; he was replaced by Tonpei Hidari.
In the 2nd series, the horse became human (Yu-Lung)
In the 2nd series, the opening titles were different (not as good as the 1st series some would say...)
Why did the 2nd season of Monkey end so abruptly, without the pilgrims ever reaching India? It was not due to Masako's ill health. She was in good health at that time. She was in poor health in 1985, 5 years after Monkey had finished. Monkey was filmed in China, which was very expensive. It's most likely that lack of money was the reason for it ending.
The beautiful balled "Thank You, Baby" (on the Magic Monkey CD) is very popular in Japan.
The correct way of saying Monkey in Japanese is "SA-I-YU-U-KI" or "SA-I-YOO-KI".
Although Masako Natsume (Tripitaka) died way back in 1985, her "picture-books" are on sale in Japan, and are very popular.
Yukihide Takekawa (the vocalist from the now split-up Japanese band Godiego who did the music in Monkey) still does concerts in Japan, and he always sings "Monkey Magic", "Gandhara", and "Holy and Bright", as these songs are still very popular.
Back to the Monkey Facts page