Feb 27, 2022 I Paul Seaburn

Secrets of a Japanese Mermaid Mummy to be Revealed

Few creatures of myth and legend – especially of the female variety – have captured the fancy of so many while straddling the fence between good and evil more so than the mermaid. Dating back to Greek mythology, it is the rare seafaring culture that doesn’t have tales of half-human-half-fish creatures whose claim to fame is luring sailors with their beauty before leading them to their demise. Their evil reputation continues in some parts of the world like Zimbabwe, but books and movies have made them forces of good … or at least beautiful and nicer. One last thing that makes mermaids unique are the hoaxes. Mummified creatures like the Fiji mermaid have long appeared in museums and sideshows and been debunked … eventually. That brings us to the latest one. Researchers at a Japanese university have been given permission to analyze a 300-year-old mummified mermaid for the first time to determine what it really is. Any money on mermaid?

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An illustration of a mermaid claimed to be caught in Japan (public domain)

Multiple Japanese media sites are covering the unveiling of this mermaid mummy. According to Wowkeren.com, the 30 centimeters (12 inches) long mummy was once a living creature caught in a fishing net on the coast of what is now Kochi Prefecture between 1736 and 1741. Records kept in its paulownia wood case show it was purchased early on by the Kojima family in Bingo-Fukuyama Province, then changed hands in the Meiji Era (1868-1912). It is now kept at the Enjuin temple in Asakuchi as a sacred object – how it got there is unknown. (Photos here.)

What is known is that a photo of the mummy was found in materials of historian Kiyoaki Sato (1905-1998), who wrote Japan’s first encyclopedia on supernatural creatures of Japanese folklore. Hiroshi Kinoshita, a board member of the Okayama Folklore Society, linked the photo to the temple, contacted Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts, and obtained permission from Kozen Kuida, chief priest at Enjuin temple to analyze the mermaid mummy – promising to treat it like the sacred relic Kuida believes it is.

“We have worshipped it, hoping that it would help alleviate the coronavirus pandemic even if only slightly.”

The mummy was given to Kinoshita on February 2nd and is now in the hands of Takafumi Kato, a professor of paleontology, who will conduct morphology analysis of the upper body and examine the antiseptic treatment of the well-preserved mummy. (Video here.) A lower body analysis will then be conducted by a professor in ichthyology (zoological study of fish) and a molecular biologist will perform a DNA analysis.

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Fiji (Feejee) mermaid (public domain)

What will they find? The Fiji (Feejee) mermaid was determined to be body and head of a young monkey sewn to the rear end of a fish. That seems to be a popular combination for other fakes, although a few were found to be all fish, no monkey.

Will the mummy be a mermaid? If so, will it be given another chance on the coronavirus? The results will be announced in the fall.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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