November 29, 2012

The Namitaro

The Namitarou is a giant fish said to lurk in Takanami Pond in Niigata prefecture, Honshu, Japan. Eyewitnesses describe the fish as being from 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) in length and covered with large, prominent  scales. Although it rarely comes to the surface, this cryptid fish has become quite well known in the area, and has even been photographed on occasion.

Takanami Pond

Alleged photo of the Namitarou. The arrow on the left is pointing to a 50cm long carp (1.6 feet), while the arrow on the right points to an alleged 4 meter long fish (13 feet).

The Namitarou is said to be most likely a giant carp of some variety.

Several species of large carp were introduced in Japan as a food fish at the end of the 19th century. At the time, the Meiji government had taken over control of the country and in a bid to become an economic and military power, Japan made an effort to ramp up food production substantially. To meet their protein needs, many experts started looking for an easy way to farm fish, preferably very large ones. Domesticated carp are typically hardy, fast growing fish that are easy to care for and farm, so it was thought that this was the key to improving food production.

It was known at the time that China regularly farmed types of carp that far exceeded the sizes of those found in Japan. Consequently, specimens of several species were brought back to Japan to be farmed for food. These included the grass carp and silver carp, as well as black carp and bighead carp. The results pleased the Japanese, as some of these species had phenomenal, explosive growth rates and thrived in the Japanese climate.

It was only a matter of time before these fish spread out from their ponds and were released into rivers, where these species have become a tenacious pest in many areas today.

The two main candidates most often brought up for the Namitaro are the grass carp (Ctenopharyngdon idella), or the silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix). Among the exotic types of carp known in Japan, these species are the most successful and widespread. Grass carp can reach lengths of over 1.2 meters (3.9 ft) long and weights of up to 18kg (40lbs), while silver carp can get over 1 meter long (3.2 ft), and up to 27 kg (60 lbs). Perhaps a long lived specimen with its run of the pond has reached an even larger size?

Grass carp

Other possibilities include the black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus), which can get to around 2 meters in size (6 feet), and the bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis). Both are very large fish and have also been imported into Japan at one point or another.

Black carp do not seem to thrive as well in Japan and thus have a more limited range. Black carp are only known to be in the Tone river in Kanto, but bighead carp have become rather widespread and are an invasive species in some areas.

Black carp

There is also the possibility that another large species of exotic introduced fish could also be behind the sightings. The world’s largest species of carp is the Siamese carp (Catlocarpio siamensis). These fish can get truly huge and are also incidentally valued as a food fish in many areas of Asia. In Japan, where carp are also widely eaten and are also often kept for ornamental purposes, it is thought that this exotic species may also have been imported from elsewhere and released into the pond.

Giant Siamese carp

Takanami Pond lies 540 meters (1,772 feet) above sea level in a wilderness area. It is an unusual place to find a cryptid of any type since the pond is not particularly large, and is only 13 meters deep at its deepest point. The surrounding area is famous for its camping, and is actually fairly developed as a tourist spot, with hiking trails, campgrounds, playgrounds, restaurants, and shops.

The pond has become a popular destination for people looking to get a glimpse of its mysterious inhabitant, and the wave the fish is said to produce when breaking the surface has become affectionately known as the “Tarou Wave,” from which the name “Namitarou” comes from ( nami is Japanese for “wave”).

There are some fishermen who have claimed to have caught the creature only to have lost it or had their lines broken. If you are an avid fisherman and are ever inclined to go fishing in Japan, perhaps you might want to consider dropping a line in Takanami Pond. You may end up with quite an interesting fish story.

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Filed under Cryptotourism, Cryptozoology, Eyewitness Accounts, Lake Monsters, Mystery Man's Menagerie, Out of Place