The world is full of accounts of mysterious creatures, monsters, and half-glimpsed, unknown beasts. These cryptids can instill a wide range of emotions in us such as awe, curiosity, and wonder. Yet then there are the ones that revolt us and make the hairs on the backs of our necks stand up; the ones that inhabit not only the remote places of the world, but our nightmares as well. These are the mysterious creatures that slither, skitter, scamper, and ooze forth from their dark lairs to terrify us.
Japan also has its share of such creatures. Within the forests, in the sewers, and even the ground below our feet, some things are said to lurk that truly make us shiver. Lets us delve into these shadowy places and see what horrors await us there.
When one thinks of giant snakes, the first image that comes up is most likely the dark jungles of the Amazon or the swamps of Africa, yet Japan too is home to numerous reports of giant snakes roaming the wilderness.
Pioneers have long reported encountering large snakes lurking in the wilds of Japan. Early settlers of remote, mountainous regions brought back accounts of snakes large enough to devour dogs, deer, and wild boar, and there were even occasional tales of doomed travelers being attacked by giant snakes. Peasants of some thickly wooded areas also spoke of a kind of large boa, which they called the uwaba-mi, or yamakachi.
In areas afflicted by the giant boas, residents were known to carry some sort of weapon with them when venturing out alone, in order to ward off any giant snakes they might encounter. Allegedly, giant snakes were sometimes killed or even captured alive and displayed for money by enterprising villagers.
Samurai were known to investigate such stories, and on several occasions were said to find and kill these serpents. A few of these cases have become legends in their own right, but it makes one wonder whether these legends of samurai battling giant snakes have their roots in reality.
Accounts of mysterious, large snakes in Japan have existed right up to the modern day. Perhaps one of the best known modern cases of giant snakes in Japan comes from Mt. Tsurugi, located in Tokushima prefecture. This 6,413 ft peak lies within Tsurugi Quasi- National Park, and is the second highest mountain on the island of Shikoku.
Mt. Tsurugi is highly associated with paranormal phenomena and steeped in spooky stories. The area is known for its mysterious disappearances, magnetic anomalies, and spectres. It is also a UFO hotspot, with various strange lights seen in its skies. Among the many stories from the area, it is said there is also a man made pyramid somewhere beneath the mountain, with some going so far as to say it holds King Solomon’s treasure. Interestingly, this treasure is supposedly guarded by a colossal snake that will kill any who approach.
If eyewitness accounts are anything to go by, this snake is far from mere legend. It has been allegedly encountered from time to time by campers and hikers in the area, and is reported to be in excess of 12 meters or even more in length. The mountain’s numerous unexplained disappearances are often blamed on the giant snake as it is said to be highly aggressive when encountered, and to attack unprovoked.
Reports of the snake abound. On May 26, 1973, forestry workers on Mt. Tsurugi came across a snake that was described as being as thick as a telephone pole, with shiny black scales and a white underbelly. According to the startled workers, around 5 meters (around 16.5 feet) of the snake was protruding from thick underbrush, and they estimated that the full length of the animal would have been a whopping 10 meters (33 feet) or more. The snake was reported to emit a loud chirping noise and piping cry before slithering away into the foliage.
This report caused widespread panic among residents, and some even reported seeing other snakes in the area that were estimated as being sizes of 8 meters (26 feet) to 11 meters (36 feet) long.
The following month, in June 1973, local officials responded to escalating fears by mounting a large scale expedition to try and find the source of these giant snake reports. Volunteers scoured the mountainside in the vicinity of the sightings, looking for any evidence at all for what people had reported seeing. They found no snake, but they did discover what appeared to be a track left by the creature.
The long track was 40 cm (around 16 inches) across and led through fallen weeds and flattened brush. Those who examined the track said it was undoubtedly that of a large snake of some kind.
Not long after, an enormous shed skin of a snake was also found in the vicinity by volunteers searching for the beast. Those who examined the skin estimated that it would have come from a snake about 8 meters (26 feet) long. The skin was collected, but later lost.
Bizarrely, a local museum claims to be in the possession of a jawbone measuring 34 cm (13 inches) wide, which it claims to be from the very same snake. Critics have pointed out that it is merely the jaws of a shark cleverly arranged to resemble a snake’s jaw.
Mt. Tsurugi is not the only mountain in Japan said to be the lair of giant serpents. Another mountain, Mt. Tateiwa, in Gunma prefecture, is also said to be inhabited by such creatures.
In addition to occasional reports from Mt. Tateiwa of snakes up to 10 meters (32 feet) long, a group of hikers on the mountain allegedly came across a discarded skin from a shedding snake, similar to the skin reportedly found on Mt. Tsurugi. When this skin was investigated, it was believed to have come from a snake that would have been at least 7 meters (23 feet) long.
Other areas of Japan have had their own modern day giant snake encounters as well. On January 24, 1987, a 7 meter long snake was seen on a poultry farm in Kochi prefecture. The farmer, a Mr. Asakura Kayoko, reported hearing a commotion coming from one of his chicken coops. When he went to investigate, he found what he at first took to be a log inexplicably lying across the top of the coop. Closer inspection revealed it was in fact a huge snake in the process of eating one of his chickens, and apparently had already eaten several others. The farmer’s dogs ended up chasing the snake off of the property.
In Izu prefecture, a giant white snake reported as around 9 meters (29.5 feet) halted construction of a hotel when it appeared out of the surrounding wilderness. Construction workers continually spotted the beast lurking near the site, and were so frightened that they left and refused to return to work for several days. An inspection of the area turned up nothing, but this did little to allay the fears of the workers, who continued to stand by their story.
The jungles of the world are home to several species of truly enormous snakes, yet Japan has no native snakes even close to approaching these reported sizes. What is behind these reports? It remains a mystery.
Japan is already well known for it’s very large centipedes, known as mukade, which can grown up to 20cm (7.9 inches) or more in length and eat everything from cockroaches to mice. These venomous centipedes are already large and scary enough as it is, yet these are occasional accounts of even bigger ones.
The Edo Period (1603 to 1867) produced many stories of giant centipedes said to be up to a meter (3.2 feet) in length. These centipedes were reported to be highly poisonous, with venom that could kill a grown man in minutes. On occasion, specimens were said to be exhibited in the various misemono side shows that were popular at the time.
Such stories are not confined to history. From the rural areas of Japan come modern reports of giant centipedes far larger than any currently known to exist. One such report comes from a farmer in Saga Prefecture, who was working on a woodpile one day in 1986 only to be horrified by an enormous centipede the man claimed to be 60cm (around 2 feet) in length, that came skittering out from under some logs. The farmer claims to have killed it with a rake, but later threw out the body in revulsion.
For most people, this is probably already an uncomfortably large size for a centipede, yet even larger ones have been reported. A group of campers in Nagano prefecture claimed to have heard an odd rustling one evening coming from one of their tents. Upon closer inspection, the noise turned out to be from a monstrous centipede claimed to have been around 2 feet in length. The creature was apparently startled and made a quick escape past the terrified campers, out of the tent, and into the forest.
Such reports are rare, but chilling nonetheless. Is it possible that some unknown species of centipede even larger than the native ones resides in Japan? The largest currently known species of centipede in the world is the Peruvian giant yellow-leg centipede, also known as the Amazonian giant centipede (Scolopendra gigantea), which can reach up to a foot in length. Is there something even larger lurking in the wilderness of Japan?
When looking for the sort of cryptids that really make our skin crawl, sometimes it is necessary to look not above the ground, but below it. One of the things that causes many people unease is worms.
There have long been tales of enormous earthworms surfacing from time to time in various areas of Japan. One of the hotspots for such accounts is Hyogo prefecture, on Honshu Island, which has many historical accounts of worms in excess of 1.5 meters (5 feet) long. One such account dates from the year 1712, in what was then known as Tamba province (now part of Hyogo prefecture).
The account describes a huge landslide that occurred in a village, after which 2 giant earthworms were found in the debris. One of these worms measured 1.5 meters (5 feet) in length, while the other was larger still, at 3 meters (10 feet) long. Another landslide that occurred in the same general vicinity allegedly unearthed a 4.5 meter (15 feet) long worm.
A more modern report from Mikata-gun, which is located in the mountains of Hyogo prefecture, dates from 1996 when a farmer uncovered an earthworm 1 meter (3.3 feet) long and 2cm (0.8 inches) thick while planting a tree on his rural property. It was the first time the surprised farmer had ever encountered such a large worm in all his years in the area.
Giant worms have been reported from other parts of Japan as well. In Okayama prefecture, one woman claimed to have seen a worm 3 meters (10 feet) long in a field that was being tilled. The worm had apparently been disturbed by the farming activity. Another farmer in the same prefecture brought up a still thrashing piece of a worm that had been hacked off during farm work. The piece is estimated to have come from a worm 3.5 to 4 meters (11.5 to 13 feet) long. The rest of the worm could not be located.
Slightly smaller worms measuring between 60cm (2 feet) to 1 meter (3.3 feet) have been reported from Okayama prefecture, Shikoku Island, the Izu peninsula, the Kii peninsula, and Nara prefecture as well.
Perhaps the strangest report comes from Fukuoka prefecture, on the island of Kyushu. In 1997, a Mr. Ou Sato and his friend spotted something odd near the side of a river that they at first took to be a hock of ham someone had discarded. Thinking this to be a bit unusual, the two approached to get a better look. On closer inspection, they found the mysterious object to be a tubular piece of flesh, 30 cm (1 foot) long and 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter, with thin, glistening wet skin. There were clear grooves encircling it like those of an earthworm’s segments, and the color was described as brown like “a bursting sausage.” There was no evidence of the object possessing bones of any kind.
Both ends of the curious piece were ragged and torn, leading the two men to estimate that it was obviously a piece from the carcass of a much larger animal. The witnesses’ impression was that it originated from a gigantic earthworm, which they estimated the full length as being perhaps 10 meters (33 feet) or more. Unfortunately, due to the slimy and slightly decomposing nature of the find, they left it where it lay.
Indeed, the world is home to many species of giant earthworm, the largest being the Australian Gippsland earthworm (Megascolides australis), which is native to small areas in Victoria, Australia, and can reach lengths of up to 3 meters (9.8 feet). Is one such monstrous worm inhabiting the depths of the Earth beneath our feet in Japan?
Subterranean Giant Rats
Tokyo is a mega city thrumming with the tireless activity of millions of souls. Yet under the bustling streets, throngs of people, and non-stop traffic, lies another world that most people never give much thought. Under the metropolis of Tokyo is a dark world of countless miles of vast warrens of tunnels, sewage pipes, and abandoned subway routes. These sprawling subterranean labyrinths are creepy enough as it is, yet somewhat more menacing when considering what may call them its home.
Like many large cities, Tokyo is infested with rats. They are everywhere. Above and beyond the usual vermin, there have been accounts throughout the years from under the neon lit streets of Tokyo that speak of rats far larger than normal. Sporadic accounts from sewer workers and others working underground have described rats that are the size of dogs lurking in this dark netherworld of tunnels under the city.
One such account was told by a tunnel worker who described seeing something rummaging through a pile of refuse. The worker took the creature to be a cat at first, and could not figure out why a cat should be down in such a deep part of the tunnel system. He went closer to investigate and that was when the thing turned to him and revealed itself to be a very large, cat sized rat. The worker described how it showed no fear as it sniffed the air and leisurely sauntered off into the darkness.
Another report describes a group of workers doing routine maintenance work when they shone a light on a rat they explained as being as big as a medium sized dog. The startled workers shouted out in surprise, whereupon the creature hurried away. One of the workers had the feeling the thing was injured, as it seemed to exhibit a limp.
Various other reports have similarly described rats the size of cats or dogs roaming sewer systems and unused subway tunnels. Such accounts have spawned theories of genetic mutations caused by chemicals or radiation. However, one rat expert has said that since their growth plates don’t fuse properly after puberty, even common black rats have the potential to grow to frighteningly large proportions if they live long enough and have access to enough resources. Could one get as large as the ones in these reports with enough time and food?
What is lurking in the tunnels under Tokyo’s streets? Is it a new species? Mutated monster rats? Figments of the imagination? Whatever they are, it may be wise to keep an eye to the dark corners of the streets when in Tokyo.
Snakes, worms, rats, bugs, these are the creatures that haunt the corners of our imagination. What sorts of creepy beasts scurry about there in the dim corners of the world? It seems that there may be some mysteries that some may not be sure they want to know the answers to.