On December 3rd, 1948, only three years after the Second World War, Kinji Imanishi (1902-1992) went to Koshima island to study the wild Japanese monkeys. Imanishi was flanked by two young students, Jun'ichiro Itani (1926-2002) and Shunzo Kawamura (1924-2003). This year, 2008, is thus the 60th anniversary of the founding of primatology in Japan. Why did they start a new discipline? What should we learn from them? The article tries to understand Japanese primatology in the historical context.