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Japanese Hominid Files 1- The Hibagon

Posted by: mystery_man on September 22nd, 2012

As sort of a refresher course on those who wish to gain knowledge on some of the hominids of Japan you may not know much about, as well as for the enjoyment of new readers who may not have been around at the time, I have decided to republish some of my prior postings here on Cryptomundo concerning mysterious hominids of Japan. I am kicking this series off with the Hibagon, perhaps the most well known of the bunch (although still not very famous outside of Japan).

The Hibagon- Japan’s Bigfoot

Mysterious hairy bipeds are reported from all over the world. North America has its Sasquatch and Skunk Apes, the Himalayas its Yeti, Southeast Asia its Orang Pendek. Could there be a similar such creature inhabiting the remote mountains of Japan?

The “Japanese Bigfoot” is commonly referred to as the Hibagon, said to lurk in the forests of Mt. Hiba in Northern Hiroshima, from which it gains its namesake, as well as its surrounding areas.

Various popular illustrations of the appearance of Hibagon:

The Hibagon is a reddish brown or black in color, sometimes reported as having a patch of white fur on its chest or arms.It is said to be a foul smelling and ugly creature, with a face covered in bristles, a snub nose, and glaring, intelligent eyes. The face is sometimes said to be long and somewhat protruding rather than flat like a human’s, and the head is often reported as proportionately large, and shaped somewhat like an inverted triangle.

The Hibagon is much smaller than its North American counterpart, being most commonly reported as around 5 feet in height and estimated as weighing about 180 pounds. In many respects, the Hibagon is reported as more ape-like and animalistic than the Sasquatch as well. The Hibagon is often described as looking more like a gorilla or giant monkey, and although it is most often seen moving bipedally, many reports tell of the creature moving about on all fours quite easily. Some eyewitnesses even claim the animal was hopping along “like a monkey.” Other notable features are the Hibagon’s apparent lack of fear of people and the absence of any sort of vocalizations in the reports.

The Hibagon is mostly known from a series of sightings lasting from 1970 to 1982. Probably the first Hibagon sighting account occurred in early 1970, when a group of elementary school students out picking wild mushrooms in the forests of Mt. Hiba were terrified to come across an ape-like creature crashing through brush nearby.

A gallery of the various pieces of evidence presented for Hibagon:

That same year, in July 1970, the creature was spotted again by a utilities truck driver. The driver reported seeing a gorilla-like creature on two legs stride across a field near a dam, run across the road, and disappear into the forest.

Several days later, on July 23rd 1970, the creature appeared again, this time out of brush and long grass in front of a surprised farmer, who described the Hibagon as being as tall as an average man, covered in black fur, and having a grotesque face with piercing, intelligent eyes. The Hibagon was also sighted walking through a rice paddy in the town of Saijo around the same time.

In December of that same year, strange tracks of the alleged creature measuring 21 centimeters in length were found in the snow of Mt. Hiba. More tracks would be uncovered in the following years, and one of the longest trackways stretched on for 300 meters.

By this time, the reports were becoming well-known and well publicized in the media, while at the same time the rural residents of the area were growing increasingly uneasy about the strange animal being seen in their forests. Sightings continued, and area residents became so uneasy that the county now known as Saijo Shobara actually set up a department to deal with the phenomena. In addition to documenting eyewitness accounts and trying to get to the bottom of what was going on, the department also launched patrols around the area in hopes of finding whatever was causing the reports. Kobe University conducted an investigation of the area in 1972 to try and find physical evidence of the Hibagon, and police managed to make plaster casts at a construction site of some tracks allegedly made by the creature. No evidence was turned up by the University, and the tracks were found to be inconclusive.

Sightings continued through 1972 and 73, almost always during summer months, and in 1974 there was a significant spike in the amounts of reports. One such sighting occurred on August 15, 1974 when a motorist spotted a large, blackish animal walking near the road on four legs. When the creature sensed the approaching vehicle, it is reported as standing up and walking along on two legs. The shocked driver then stopped the car and snapped a photo of the creature trying to hide itself behind a persimmon tree. The photo is of poor quality, a blobsquatch in every sense, yet it received wide publicity and became probably the most iconic and famous photo of a Hibagon (see directly below).

Other sightings in 1974 include a Hibagon that was spotted crossing a road on June 20, 1974. The driver described it as moving along in a series of hopping leaps. On July 15, 1974, a woman saw one near her house and described it as very ape-like, like a gorilla walking around on two legs, and about 1.6 meters tall. There was even video footage taken of one walking along a remote mountain road, however the footage is blurry and of poor quality.

Many tracks were also discovered in the year of 1974, including a series of prints found on August 21 in a mountain valley. The footprints were 30 cm long, which is not large for a sasquatch but some of the biggest prints found for an alleged Hibagon.

After the surge of eyewitness accounts in 1974, sightings of the Hibagon dropped off almost completely until 1980, when one was seen fleeing across a river with a bounding gait near the town of Yamano, where it became known as the “Yamagon.” It was spotted in the same area again in 1981 on a road near a health center, but perhaps the most remarkable sighting of the time occurred in 1982 in Mitsugi, which is located about 30km west of Yamano. In this report, the Hibagon was described as being more along the lines of sasquatch in size, estimated at 2m tall, but the most bizarre feature of the account was that it was said to be holding what looked like some sort of stone tool like an axe. This is the only account of a Hibagon being that large or wielding any sort of tool or weapon.

After 1982, sightings abruptly stopped, and the Hibagon seemed to just fall off the face of the Earth. There are practically no reliable reports of the creature after this time.

Above, maps illustrating the location of Hibagon sighting reports.

So what was it that people were seeing?

Theories abound about what the Hibagon could be. Perhaps the most common such theory is that the culprit was an elderly or infirm Japanese macaque that had lost its group and gone solo. This would fit in with the reddish brown coloration of some of the reports, as well as the oft mentioned tendency for the Hibagon to walk along on all fours and its ape-like appearance. This might even explain a limping shuffle mentioned in a few accounts, which would fit in with an injured animal. One of the problems with this idea is that Japanese macaques do not get nearly as large as the Hibagon is reported as being, and macaques would not match the black coloration reported by some eyewitnesses. Japanese macaques are also fairly common in Japan, and would likely be recognized by the locals as such.

The usual unusual suspects:

Another idea is that the creature was an escaped Asiatic black bear. This species of bear has a swath of white fur on its chest, a feature noted in some Hibagon reports, and of course bears are able of stints of bipedal locomotion. The elongated face or muzzle described in some Hibagon reports would also fit in with a bear. The bears in Japan are a subspecies of Asiatic black bear, however they are thought to be extinct in the area where the sightings occured.

There is also speculation that an escaped great ape, such as an orangutan, could be the culprit. This would fit in many ways appearance-wise, and there is at least one old newspaper report that I know of concerning smuggled orangutans escaping into the wild. However, orangutans are very arboreal creatures, and there are no reports of Hibagon in trees. Orangutans would also probably not find it easy to survive in the wild here, since they are tropical animals and the  temperatures can be very cold in the more temperate areas in which Hibagon were sighted.

Yet another theory is that what was seen was not animals at all, but rather “Yajin”, feral humans or mountain men who have shunned society to live alone in the wilderness. These Yajin have long been reported from the wilds of Japan. Could a dirty, disheveled human perhaps under some circumstances be reported as something else?

Perhaps rather than any one explanation, the sightings were even caused by a mix of all of the above. Or was the Hibagon something else entirely? Is it possible that a new type of hairy bipedal creature once lived, or maybe even still lives, in the remote mountains of the area?

Some proponents have speculated that the rash of sightings that occurred during the 70s coincided with an increase of hunting in the area, which could have driven some of the creatures down from their natural, more remote habitat. The animals that were seen could also have been sick or wounded individuals that had wandered from where they usually live, perhaps in search of food. A few reports describe the animal as moving along with a shuffling gait or a limp, which has lead to speculation that at least one of the alleged creatures was injured, so this could possibly explain these reports. Some have even suggested that the Hibagon that were sighted could have represented the last of a very rare species and that they are now extinct. Could the Hibagon have been a new, undocumented creature?

Whatever the Hibagon was or is, it still lives on in the memory of the area’s residents. There are many regional, Hibagon related goods such as “Hibagon eggs” (which are actually Japanese sweet bean cakes), Hibagon donburi (a type of Japanese food), Hibagon company mascots, signs announcing the presence of Hibagon in the area, and even a giant Hibagon statue near one highway. The Hibagon’s image can be found everywhere and is a fixture of the local culture in some towns of the area.

“Hibagon eggs” that are actually a type of Japanese sweet bean dumpling.

A sign advertising “Hibagon-don,” a type of “donburi” which is a Japanese dish.

A truck for a company with a Hibagon as its mascot.

A road sign announcing the presence of Hibagon in the area.

What was the Hibagon? Where is it now? With no new sightings or information to go on, it remains, and perhaps forever will remain, an enigma.

Stay tuned for File 2 of this continuing series on the mysterious hominids of Japan!

About mystery_man


8 Responses to “Japanese Hominid Files 1- The Hibagon”

  1. Darren Bigelow via Facebook responds:

    Great story! Lived in Japan for years and had never heard of this.

  2. DWA responds:

    Cool to bring this back. Thanks.

    An open mind is always essential. Looking at the similarities in the faunal assemblages of temperate Asia and North America, there’s no reason to close the book on this yet. One temperate ape being confirmed would open the files on all of them.

  3. PhotoExpert responds:

    As always, a well written post by mystery_man! I definitely appreciate the detailed article.

  4. mystery_man responds:

    Thanks for the comments! It’s always good to hear your kind words.

    DWA- I also think that we should not close the file on this one just yet, but I do think that with no recent sightings or any sort of evidence, we may never know just what was going on here.

    Anyway, it’s an interesting case, and to me deserves a spot in the pantheon of unexplained hominids.

  5. DWA responds:

    mystery_man:

    Well, no, we never will know, unless something concrete happens to change that. And one can’t presume anything. We have seen virtually nothing that people won’t do, or say. Fakes, lies and misapprehensions happen. And unlike the apparent case with the sasquatch, it could actually be a significant factor in what is going on here.

    One can’t declare the extinction of something that hasn’t been confirmed. But one can do something. Bhutan has established a yeti reserve, Sakteng (although it’s worth reading about the others).

    http://bhutansiam.com/nationalpark.html

    That a small country, surrounded by some of the world’s most populous, has set this much aside as sanctuary – and that “gross national happiness” replaces “product” there – is incredible. But maybe not so much. Bhutan has had a lot of time to see what the rest of the world’s pursuits have done to the rest of the world.

    And, of course, declaring an “umbrella species” that may not exist protects everything in that sanctuary that does. So there’s most definitely a practical reason for doing it.

    Whether Japan would even want to try something like this appears doubtful, based on the record alone. But one can hope. And it’s not like the Japanese themselves couldn’t make the case for it.

    And maybe somewhere in there is a way to find out what we may never otherwise know.

  6. mystery_man responds:

    DWA- I always find it sad to think that there are without a doubt species that have gone extinct, in recent times, that were never officially described by science.

    I think what Bhutan has done is superb, but for many countries it is an unrealistic goal. It takes funding to set aside preserves like that, and there are many known endangered species that do not get the protection they require, often simply because there are not enough resources to go around. Sadly, we cannot realistically protect them all, and there is often long and hard reflection on which species will get conservation priority.

    There’s also public opinion. Ever notice that it’s the cute and cuddly animals, the pandas and whatnot, that get all of the attention? That awareness equals dollars. That’s why often an animal like that will get top billing over a critically endangered tree slug. Then in this area of Japan you have the hunters who make their livelihood off of hunting wild boar, and it gets trickier about what kind of preserve you are going to have and whether it will be accepted that you are doing this for an unknown species.

    If some known animals are falling by the wayside in conservation efforts, what chance does an unknown have? It makes the chances of protecting and funneling resources towards protecting an unknown species slim.

    The easiest way to do it would probably be to produce that umbrella effect you mention but the other way around. You set up a preserve to protect several endangered known species in a protected area and hope that that protection would be enjoyed by an unknown one.

    However then you have likely legality issues. Is it illegal to kill anything in the protected area or just the endangered species? If so, if you have a protected area and someone killed an unknown species, would it technically be illegal even though it was not ever actually described and specified as endangered? It could get complicated.

    I think it is interesting what Bhutan is doing, but Japan has a lot on its conservation plate, and sadly I think we would not see a Hibagon preserve anytime in the near future. I’m afraid there are known species that are going to get first dibs in this regard, and even some of those are going to get short shrift.

  7. DWA responds:

    mystery_man:

    You are, unfortunately, right.

    I just can’t help but think, though, that there are Reasons Why That Is that, if we didn’t do so much of what a wiser man than me once called sleepwalking through the process of changing the conditions of human existence, might not be, quite so much, Reasons Why That Is.

    But then, I come to a crypto site because, well, hope is one hell of a lot more fun.

  8. mystery_man responds:

    DWA- Cheers to that, my friend. Cheers to that.



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