Photo:Ashley Van Haeften on Flickr

Spooky Japan: A Guide to the Cryptids

With Halloween quickly approaching Japan many places are beginning to take on a more spooky atmosphere. There are already centuries of stories and folklore shrouding mythical creatures residing in Japan and the rise of the Halloween spirit has peaked my interest. Here is a list of a few that I would not want to bump into during my walk home at night:


The Hibagon (a.k.a. Hinagon) is a cryptid hominid (Bigfoot-like creature) residing in the areas around Mt. Hiba in northern Hiroshima prefecture. The first known sighting of the 1.5 meter tall and 80 kilogram cryptid was in 1970 and 12 more sightings were reported within the following year.


Model of a Tsuchinoko
Photo credit: Stray Sloth via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Think you can handle the Hibagon? What about a serpent? This creature dates back to the 7th century where it is found in the oldest surviving book in Japan. The Tsuchinoko is a snake-like creature that is found all throughout mainland Japan. Reports have this 10-30 inch creature equipped with large venomous fangs and the ability to jump almost 3 feet. In the year 2000 a town in Okayama offered a 2 million yen reward for anyone to bring one in alive.


Photo credit: 663highland via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Want to escape the Hibagon and the Tsuchinoko? Maybe paddling out a boat in the lake would be a safe option? Think again! Kusshī is a Loch Ness Monster-like creature said to inhabit Lake Kussharo in Hokkaido. Witnesses say Kusshi (also spelled Kussie) is about 10 to 20 meters long and has humps on its back, horns on its head, and a long neck. A Kusshī sighting was famously reported by a 40 member team of biologists from Hokkaido University in 1973 with more than 15 separate reports in the following year.


Statue of Kappa holding a fish
Photo by uetchy on Flickr

Think all these creatures are fables, made, up, or hoaxes? The Kappa, or river imp, is perhaps Japan’s most well-known cryptid with folklore going back centuries. These mischievous, child-sized, half-human/half-turtle creatures are said to live in rivers and lakes and occasionally lure humans into the water to drown them. One case in 1991 reports a family in the Miyazaki prefecture of Kyushu coming home to a strange smell in their house accompanied by more than 30 wet, orange footprints measuring 5 by 6 centimeters and having four or five toes. Samples were taken by local police of the footprints and the chemical composition was high in iron. The chemical make-up resembled that of river water. The mystery of who or what left the footprints was never solved.

There are actually several temples scattered across Japan claiming to have remains from deceased Kappa. For example Zuiryuji temple in Osaka has had an entire Kappa mummy in their possession since 1682. Reportedly the body remarkably resembles a human and is a little over two feet in length. Complete with skeletally thin arms, and a mouthful of savage looking teeth this Kappa unfortunately is not on public display.

Cucumber offering at Kappa-dera (Sogen-ji Temple)
Cucumbers left as an offering at Sogenji. Photo credit: Jeanjung212 via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Sogenji Temple in the Asakusa area of Tokyo was even built as a sort of shrine to appease the amount of large angry Kappa in the area from the increasing population of Tokyo. It hosts shrines, paintings, murals, and a large pile of cucumbers (the Kappa’s favorite food) left by guests as well as the main attraction; a Kappa's mummified hand. Although some say this is actually a mummified monkey hand we will never know for sure as transport of the relic is strictly off limits.

I hope you enjoyed this list. Do you know of any other creatures that could be lurking around Japan? Have a safe and Hibagon free Halloween!

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