Wednesday, April 2, 2014

More Japanese Cryptids

Hibagon --
The Hibagon (a.k.a. Hinagon) is a cryptic hominid, similar to Bigfoot, inhabiting the area around Mt. Hiba in northern Hiroshima prefecture. According to numerous eyewitness accounts from the early 1970s, the Hibagon stands about 1.5 to 1.7 meters (about 5 ft) tall, weighs an estimated 80 to 90 kilograms (about 180 lbs), is covered in a thick coat of black or brown fur (sometimes it is reported as having a spot of white fur on its chest or arms), and has an unusually large triangular head and intelligent human-like eyes. The Hibagon received its name from the local animal control board.
Hibagon -- The first known Hibagon sighting occurred on July 20, 1970 in the area around Mt. Hiba near the border with Tottori prefecture. Three days after the initial sighting, the furry ape-like creature was seen again walking through a rice paddy in the nearby rural town of Saijo. A total of 12 sightings were reported that year, and mysterious footprints were found in the snow that December.
Numerous Hibagon sightings were reported in areas surrounding Mt. Hiba in the summers between 1971 and 1973, as increased human activity during the hunting season forced the creature down from the mountain. On August 15, 1974, the Hibagon was photographed as it hid behind a persimmon tree. Unusual footprints measuring 20 centimeters (9 in) long were found nearby. After this photo was taken, the Hibagon went back into hiding, only to be seen two more times -- once in 1980 and again in 1982 -- before disappearing forever.
Hibagon --
The Hibagon may have disappeared long ago, but the residents of Saijo have not forgotten. The town has adopted the likeness of the creature as its mascot, and souvenir shops sellHibagon Eggs and other cryptid ape-themed sweets. [More]
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- Tsuchinoko
Tsuchinoko --
Tsuchinoko -- Reality? Myth? Or mistaken identity?
The Tsuchinoko is a snake-like cryptid found throughout Japan, except in Hokkaido and the Okinawan islands. Reports describe the Tsuchinoko as having a thick, stubby body measuring 30 to 80 centimeters (12 to 30 in) in length, often with a distinct neck, gray, brown or black scaly skin, and venomous fangs. Some accounts suggest the Tsuchinoko has a loud, high-pitched squeak and can jump as far as one meter.
Tsuchinoko --
The earliest known written record of the Tsuchinoko dates back to the 7th century, where it appears in the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), the oldest surviving book in Japan. In some legends, the Tsuchinoko can speak, has a tendency to tell lies, and enjoys the taste of alcohol

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Tsuchinoko --
Skeptics dismiss Tsuchinoko sightings as simple cases of mistaken identity, suggesting the creatures are nothing more than snakes in the process of digesting large meals, or perhaps even escaped exotic pets such as the blue-tongued lizard.
Tsuchinoko --
Regardless, local tourist boards in rural areas frequently organize Tsuchinoko hunts to attract visitors, promising large sums of money to any participant lucky enough to capture one. The town of Itoigawa in Niigata prefecture, for example, has a hunt scheduled for June 8, 2008 and is offering a 100 million yen (about $1 million) reward to whoever brings one back alive. [More]
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- Kusshii
Kusshii --
Kusshii is a giant lake monster believed to inhabit Hokkaido's Lake Kussharo, a large freshwater lake located in an environment and climate similar to that of the famed Loch Ness. According to eyewitness accounts, Kusshi is 10 to 20 meters (30 to 60 ft) long and has humps on its back, a long neck and a pair of horns on its head. Reports suggest it can swim as fast as a motorboat. Kusshii's most famous appearances include a 1973 sighting by 40-member team of biologists from Hokkaido University, as well as 15 separate reports by tourists in 1974.
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- Isshii
Isshii --
Isshii, another Japanese cryptid lake monster, is believed to inhabit Kagoshima prefecture's 20,000-year-old Lake Ikeda, the largest caldera lake in Kyushu. The creature is similar in appearance to Kusshii, but larger.
Isshii entered the public consciousness in September 1978, after more than 20 people reportedly witnessed a giant creature moving at a blistering speed through the water. Widespread news coverage of the sighting brought a flood of tourists to the lake, and in December of the same year, a photograph was taken showing what some believe is the back of the creature poking through the water surface. Since 1990, a number of home videos have emerged showing mysterious activity just under the water surface, but none of the videos are widely seen as irrefutable proof of Isshii's existence.
Some theories suggest Isshii could be an unidentified descendant of the Plesiosaur, while others believe it to be some sort of giant eel. Other theories suggest the sightings can be explained as rogue waves generated by winds unique to the lake.
Rogue waves cannot, however, explain what happened in 1961, when a large-scale search was conducted for a US military jet believed to have crashed in the lake. Sonar equipment used in the search reportedly revealed a large rock-shaped object moving through the water below, and records indicate that divers on the lake floor were nearly attacked by a large, unidentified creature.
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- Giant Snake of Mt. Tsurugi
Mt. Tsurugi, the second highest peak on the island of Shikoku, is steeped in mystery. According to one local legend, the mountain is actually a giant man-made pyramid, and another legend says that a hoard of King Solomon's secret treasure lies buried within. A giant snake believed to be guarding that treasure has been sighted on many occasions.
Giant snake of Mt. Tsurugi -- In May 1973, a group of 4 forestry workers reportedly encountered a 10 meter (33 ft) long snake as big around as a telephone pole. The creature was described as having shiny black scales, and it reportedly made a loud chirping sound. In the months that followed, local officials organized a large-scale hunt for the snake, enlisting the help of hundreds of volunteers. While the creature was not apprehended, the searchers did find what appeared to be giant snake tracks that measured 40 centimeters (16 in) wide and passed alongside fallen trees.
A local history museum has in its collection a large jawbone measuring 34 centimeters (13 in) across, which many believe belongs to the giant snake. Others speculate it belongs to a shark.
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- Takitaro
Takitarou --
The Takitaro is a type of giant fish measuring up to 3 meters (10 ft) long, which is found in Yamagata prefecture's Lake Otoriike. Located nearly 1,000 meters above sea level, the remote mountain lake was created ages ago when an earthquake triggered a massive landslide that dammed up a mountain stream.
The Takitaro appears in a number of stories throughout the 20th-century. In 1917, for example, a pair of men are said to have captured a 1.5 meter (5 ft) long fish that was large enough to feed 20 floodgate construction workers for 4 days. In 1982, a group of mountain climbers above the lake observed a fish over 2 meters (6.5 ft) long in the clear water below. This sighting grabbed headlines nationwide.
Three years later, in 1985, a team of scientists went to the lake in search of the Takitaro. Sonar equipment revealed the presence of giant fish, and the scientists identified some smaller specimens as relatives of ancient salmon that likely became trapped in the lake when it was formed long ago. The true identity of the giant Takitaro, however, remains a mystery, but some believe it is a mutant descendant of these ancient fish.

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Kappa (river imps) have appeared in countless stories and folk legends for centuries, and they rank among Japan's most well-known cryptids. While most people nowadays regard the amphibious child-sized troublemakers as pure myth, stories of kappa encounters still crop up from time to time, such as the following two reports from Japan's southern island of Kyushu.
Kappa --  Kappa --  Kappa --
Report 1 -- Slimy Footprints at the River's Edge: At around 11 PM on August 1, 1984 in the town of Tsushima in Nagasaki prefecture, a squid fisherman named Ryu Shirozaki was walking home from the local pier after work. As he passed near the Kuta river, he came upon a small group of children playing at the water's edge. While it was not entirely uncommon to encounter people fishing in the river at night, it was rather surprising to see youngsters there.
As Shirozaki approached the children, he was struck by how bizarre they appeared in the moonlight. He could make out swarthy faces, unusually spindly arms and legs, and glistening skin. Suspicious, Shirozaki called out to them as he neared, but they seemed startled and quickly disappeared into the water.
The next morning when he returned to the same spot, Shirozaki discovered a set of moist, teardrop-shaped footprints on the nearby pavement. The prints, which appeared to consist of a slimy substance that had begun to coagulate under the hot morning sun, stretched for about 20 meters. Each footprint measured 22 centimeters (about 10 in) long and 12 centimeters (5 in) wide, and they were spaced about 50 to 60 centimeters (about 2 ft) apart.
Shirozaki and a few curious onlookers immediately suspected the footprints belonged to a kappa. People began to gather around as the news spread quickly through town, and all agreed the prints belonged to a kappa. In the minds of many residents, the footprints confirmed the existence of the river imps they knew through local legends.
When police forensic investigators arrived on the scene, they determined that the slimy footprints consisted of an unknown secretion. They took a sample to the lab for analysis, but the results unfortunately turned out to be inconclusive because the sample was too small. The police eventually dropped their investigation, and the mystery of the slimy footprints was never solved.
Report 2 -- The Unclean Guest: Another recent kappa encounter occurred on June 30, 1991 in the town of Saito in Miyazaki prefecture, when an office worker named Mitsugu Matsumoto and his wife Junko returned home for the evening. Upon opening the front door, the Matsumotos were confronted with a strange smell inside their home. Inside, they found dozens of small, wet footprints around the front door and in the hallway, bathroom, and two tatami rooms. At first they suspected a burglar, but they soon realized nothing had been stolen.
The police briefly surveyed the house, but found nothing except a floor soiled by 30 footprints, each measuring about 7 centimeters long and 6 centimeters wide, and having 4 or 5 toes. To Matsumoto, the footprints did not look human, nor did they appear to belong to any animal he could imagine.
Later that night, as Mrs. Matsumoto was putting laundry away, she discovered an unusual orange stain on some clothing. The next morning, as Matsumoto inspected the house more closely, he discovered a deposit of orange liquid on the portable stereo in the tatami room. He took a sample to the local public health center for analysis, and the results indicated the liquid had an extremely high iron content and a chemical composition resembling spring water.
Troubled by the incident, Matsumoto decided to visit a shaman. After listening to Matsumoto's story, the shaman encouraged him not to worry, explaining that the kappa indigenous to the nearby swamp enjoyed playing the occasional prank on local residents. The kappa were harmless, the shaman told him.
Harmless, perhaps, but Matsumoto found the kappa difficult to clean up after. He tried using detergent, paint thinner and gasoline to remove the footprints and orange stains, but nothing seemed to work.
[Note: This post includes information from Shin-ichiro Namiki's Nippon No Kaiki Hyaku, 2007 (published in Japanese)]

The Mysterious Cryptid Relics of Japan


Japan is home to thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines too numerous to list. These shrines and temples are renowned by tourists from all over the world, who come to enjoy their serene beauty and cultural heritage. They can be found everywhere, from deep in the remote mountains, to craggy coastlines, to wedged between skyscrapers and crowded shopping streets, bizarrely melding the modern with the ancient. Practically every municipality in Japan has at least one temple or shrine, with historical cities such as Kyoto boasting several thousand.

Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan

More than just places of tranquil beauty or places of worship, the shrines and temples of Japan are also often places tasked with the housing of sacred relics. These can be important historical artifacts, irreplaceable national treasure, or priceless items of cultural heritage, yet on occasion there can be far stranger things locked away from the bustling tourists. Some temples and shrines in Japan have become known for harboring the remains of bizarre creatures, monsters, and supposedly long extinct animals, all of which potentially hold great crypozoological significance.

What mysteries can we find past the rock gardens, ornate gates, and within the lacquered wood halls of these ancient temples? Here we will look at some of these cryptid relics that have found their way to Japan’s temples and shrines.

Many of the alleged remains of strange creatures are of cryptids that have strong folkloric ties. One such creature is the legendary Kappa of Japan’s waterways. One of the most well known cryptids of Japan, the Kappa is a mysterious, bipedal water dwelling creature said to inhabit Japan’s rivers and streams. They are typically described as being the size of a child of 6 to 10 years of age and resembling a cross between a turtle, monkey, and lizard. Kappa are often depicted as having a shell on their backs, similar to a turtle’s, and having a beak like mouth. Some reports have made mention of patchy, scraggly hair covering the body.

Several temples in Japan are purported to have the remains of Kappa. Zuiryūji temple in Osaka, Japan, is one such place, thought to have a full Kappa mummy which it reportedly came into its possession in 1682. The mummy is around 70 centimeters long and looks vaguely humanoid. It has thin arms, a mouth full of needle like teeth, and a crown of scraggly hair atop its head. The alleged Kappa is not on public display, and it is not uncommon to have requests to view it denied.

Zuiryūji temple Kappa mummy

Another temple somewhat well-known for its Kappa remains is Sogen-ji, located in the Asakusa area of Tokyo, a popular and crowded area known for its various temples and historical attractions that attract droves of tourists from all over the world. The area around Sogen-ji is steeped in Kappa lore, and is said to have once been infested by the creatures. Kappa were known to be mischievous and even downright hostile on occasion, so the temple is said to have been built to appease them. Sogen-ji is so entwined with Kappa folklore that it is often referred to as “Kappa Dera,” or “Kappa Temple.”

Within Sosen-ji’s grounds one can find statues, murals, and elaborate drawings of Kappa, as well as piles of cucumber, said to be the Kappa’s favorite food, left as offerings by guests. Of course the main attraction is the supposed Kappa hand, encased in glass within one of the temple’s halls. The hand is mummified and cut off at the wrist, with bone exposed. The hand has long, bony fingers that end in claws. It is not clear what the exact origins of the hand are, and it is often dismissed as a mere mummified monkey hand, yet since no one is allowed to handle the relic it is hard to say for sure.

Sosenji Kappa hand

Another area with strong Kappa lore is the city of Tono, located in Iwate Prefecture in northeastern Japan. Like the Sosen-ji temple area, Tono has long been said to be inhabited by Kappa and it is thought they still can be found in the area to this day. The city boasts a few temples purported to be in the possession of various mummified Kappa remains, some that are reportedly hundreds of years old.

Other creatures well known from Japanese folklore are the Tengu and Raijū. The Tengu are legendary winged, avian humanoids that were seen as protectors of the mountains. The creatures were often sighted in feudal Japan, where they were seen as almost godlike entities with magical powers such as telepathy and shape shifting. Many people of the time considered the Tengu to be very real, and shogun were even said to have the creatures moved out of areas before important visits due to their often mischievous or aggressive behavior.

In addition to such stories, there are various relics concerning Tengu contained within temples. There is a scroll at a temple in Shizuoka prefecture which allegedly contains a written apology penned by a Tengu. It is told that the creature was captured in the 17th century by the high priest of the temple and forced to write the apology after harassing travelers in the area.

The Hachinohe Museum in Aomori prefecture houses the alleged mummified remains of a Tengu. The skull of these remains is humanoid, while the body is covered with feathers and the feet are like that of a bird. Another temple in Saitama prefecture keeps what is said to be the talon of a Tengu, while still another supposedly has the beaked skull of one.

Another creature of legend with such remains is the Raijū, or literally “Thunder Beast,” who were said to be the mighty servants of the Shinto god of thunder. These creatures were most often described as looking something like a badger, weasel, cat, or fox, although they were sometimes said to look like a wolf or monkey as well, often with wings or multiple tails. They are quite often depicted as being wreathed in crackling lightning, and their voices were the boom of thunder. During storms, these creatures would become very agitated, frantically dashing about and leaping from tree to tree, tearing up the bark in the process with their formidable claws. In Japanese folklore, it was said that trees scored by lighting had been the work of Raijū claws. They were also known to swoop down and slash at passerby.

Occasionally living specimens were captured and displayed. One such Raijū allegedly fell into a well in Izumo province, where it became hopelessly entangled in ropes and was captured alive. The creature was subsequently exhibited within a cage of brass in the court of the Tenjin temple.

The animal was said to resemble a badger, yet with a longer tail and oversized claws. When the weather was clear, the Raijū was quite docile, sleeping quietly in its cage most of the time. However, during storms it would become a ferocious, hissing beast, and its eyes were said to flicker and flash as if filled with lightning. The creature refused to eat or drink during its captivity and eventually died. Its body is said to have been preserved and kept on the premises for some time before they were reportedly destroyed in a fire.

Besides this account of a living specimen, there are some other temples said to have the mummified remains of Raijū. One such mummy is kept at Yuzanji temple in Iwate prefecture. The mummy looks very much like a cat, only misshapen and with longer legs. It was allegedly received in the 1960s as a donation from a parishioner, although the exact origin of the mummy is not known. Another similar looking Raijū mummy is kept at Saishoji temple in Niigata prefecture.

Yuzanji Temple Raiju mummy

Another bizarre relic is the teeth of a supposed sea serpent kept at a temple along the rugged coast of Western Japan. Legend has it that a priest was strolling along the beach contemplating matters of faith when he came across a large, terrifying sea creature, described as “a dragon,” washed up on the beach. The priest took this as a sign of sorts, and wanted to acquire the beast for the temple, yet it was much too large to take back with him so he removed some of the teeth instead. The priest then took his prize back to the temple where the “dragon teeth” supposedly remain to this day, although apparently not available for viewing by the public.

Still other temples and shrines in Japan hold the remains of other very famous Japanese cryptids. One temple in Okayama prefecture has what is said to be a preserved specimen of a tsuchinoko, which is a type of cryptid snake believed to inhabit the remote mountains of Japan. The tsuchinoko resembles a viper, but with a bulging body thicker than the head. It is reported to make a wide range of vocalizations and is known for its unusual methods of locomotion, such as jumping or even rolling along like a wheel. It is such a popular cryptid in Japan that some rural areas hold regular tsuchinoko hunts and offer sizeable rewards for a specimen.

Tsuchinoko mummy

Another cryptid in Japan is a creature that actually is known to have existed. The supposedly extinct Honshu wolf was the world’s smallest species of wolf, standing just a little over a foot at the shoulder. They were once common throughout their former range of Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku Islands, and were often worshipped as forest protectors. Sadly, their numbers declined due to rabies and hunting brought upon by changing attitudes towards the wolves. The last Honshu wolf is widely believed to have died in 1905, although they are still reportedly sighted in many isolated regions to this day.

Honshu wolf

However, in 1994, one shrine in Tottori prefecture was found to possess a specimen of the Honshu wolf that is thought to have possibly died as recently as the 1950s. If these remains are the real deal, then it would significantly push back the accepted extinction date and give more fuel to the idea that the wolves could still survive somewhere in the mountains of Japan. Unfortunately, the remains are considered sacred by the shrine, and as such requests to test them have been denied.

Even more remains can be found throughout the temples and shrines of Japan. Mermaids, demons, and two-headed monsters also count among some of the more fantastical and bizarre examples of these.

3 faced demon mummy at Zengyoji Temple

What all of these cases have in common is that they offer the tantalizing possibility of something all cryptozoologists strive for, which is concrete physical evidence. What would we find if we were to be allowed access to these remains with our modern DNA testing techniques? Would we find the proof we are looking for, or the creative taxidermy many claim these remains really are? Would we not learn something either way?

Unfortunately, these remains are considered sacred relics and not available for our attempts at answers. Many of them are locked away and not even available for viewing, let alone proper scientific analysis. As much as we would like to crack open these mysteries and pull away the curtains of uncertainty, it seems that some mysteries will forever be out of our grasp. In the case of these mysterious temples of Japan, it seems that we must resign ourselves to being satisfied with their architectural magnificence and historical value, while only allowing our curiosity to approach further as we wonder at and ponder what mysteries may lie beyond their doors.

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