Sasquatch Coffee

Tsuchinoko, Part Two

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 2nd, 2008

Brent Swancer has sent along another guest blog contribution that enhances and extends the information in his first Tsuchinoko posting.

Concerning some of the dates and places of the cases of common snakes previously noted, which were mistaken for the Tsuchinoko, these all took place in Mikata, Hyogo prefecture. This area is known to have the highest concentration of sightings in Japan and is the same place that holds the annual Tsuchinoko expedition also earlier noted, in which the prize is a plot of land.

One corpse was found by four loggers in the Spring of 2001. The body was actually turned over to the Japan Snake Center in Gunma prefecture, where an analysis was done on it that confirmed it as a common grass snake. The other body was found by a villager near Mikata around the same time in May that year, and it too was turned in to the same center for examination. It was determined to be a rat snake. Shed skins have also popped up from time to time in this area and all of the ones that have been examined have turned out to be from known species, most commonly from rat snakes.

A live Tsuchinoko was reportedly captured in the same region in June, 1969 by an M. Tokutake. He supposedly captured it with a forked stick and kept it for a couple of days before deciding to eat it (no idea why!). He reported that it had a double backbone, which is a very interesting detail.

Mikata has been known to have rashes of sightings that typically drum up a lot of interest in the annual expeditions. Some other notable recent sightings and information from the region that I have found in archives and newspaper articles are listed below.

- On May 8th, 2000, 90 year old farmer Sugie Tanaka was out looking for bamboo shoots (a common food here), when she happened across two metallic colored snakes with what she described as “tails like rats.”

- In June, 1994, 73 year old Kazuaki Noda was cutting grass with his wife when they came across a huge snake with a thick body like a beer bottle and a head described as being like that of a tortoise.

- Another live specimen was reportedly captured in Mikata on June 6th, 2000. Apparently it was put on display in a glass box in the city’s visitor center. I’m not sure what became of it, but it has been widely believed to have been a hoax to drum up publicity for the town and its annual hunts. These expeditions are big business as they draw in people from all over the country. According to Naoki Yamaguchi, who has interviewed over 200 eyewitnesses and is author of the book Catching the Illusory Tsuchinoko, these searches don’t do much good the way they are handled.

He writes, “The number of sightings from people on these searches is barely one percent of the total.”

Naoki Yamguchi blames this mostly on the search parties’ failure to delve very deep into the wilderness, and cites people who venture deep into the mountains, such as avid hikers, mountain stream fisherman, and loggers as among the types most likely to have a sighting.

Mikata is not the only hotbed of Tsuchinoko activity, nor the only area to have claimed the body of one. In Yoshii, Okayama prefecture (which I mentioned in the other post as having the 20 million yen Tsuchinoko hunt), the Tsuchinoko is a regular town attraction, and the town boasts its own Tsuchinoko rice cakes and wine.

Tsuchinoko fever really broke out in May of 2000, when a farmer saw a snake-like creature with a face like a famous Japanese cartoon cat make its way across his field. He apparently injured it with a farming implement but it escaped into a nearby stream. A few days later, a 72 year old woman found the snake’s body laying by the side of the stream and she buried it. Later, she realized how important the find might be and upon digging the body up sent it to the Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare for examination. I’m not sure exactly what became of the body after that, and details are sketchy from that point.

Other sightings cropped up in the area around the same time. One such sighting occurred in June, 2000. 82 year old Mitsuko Arima saw a Tsuchinoko swimming along a river. She described its eyes as being the most striking feature, saying “I can still see the eyes now. They were big and round and it looked like they were floating on the water.” She added “I’ve lived for over 80 years but I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.”

Yoshii is known as another major Tsuchinoko hunting spot due to a good many cases like these.

One more famous Tsuchinoko hunt that I forgot to mention before was held in Itoigawa, Niigata prefecture, in 2008. The reward was remarkable for its size. A jaw dropping 100 million yen was offered for a live Tsuchinoko. A lot of people criticized it as a publicity scam as well, saying that the city never really thought it would have to pay out.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


6 Responses to “Tsuchinoko, Part Two”

  1. wdsasquatch responds:

    Maybe the Tsuchinoko is a sea serpent. It is sighted in water alot and very little on land.

    Maybe the “snake” people are seeing is actually some baby form of a sea serpent making its way to the water. It might be struggling to get to the water, and people see this as a way of odd locomotion. They might live deep in the water, explaining their large eyes.

    Just a thought.

  2. mystery_man responds:

    wdsasquatch- That’s the kind of good, speculative thinking I like to see concerning these cryptids. It is an interesting concept, but as far as I know, no correlations to sea serpents have ever been made in reports stretching back for centuries. I’d be more willing to entertain the notion if there had been reports along those lines, such as Tsuchinokos being spotted in the oceans or deltas, or being birthed by larger versions, etc. Also, many sightings happen far from the sea in the middle of nowhere, and there are a good many land sightings as well. They are most definitely not ALWAYS seen in the water, and are known more for their jumping than their swimming, I’d say.

    However, that being said, your idea has some merits. There are several physical features and behaviors that could biologically explain what is often mentioned in reports. For instance, Tsuchinokos indeed are known to have a fondness for water, and many sightings do take place in water. The Tsuchinoko is often mentioned as escaping threats by going into the water as well. Also, the eyes you mentioned are a prominent feature in most reports, so they could be for the purpose of seeing underwater. The trademark fat middle could be stores of fat for use as energy to make the long journey down stream or to protect from Japan’s cold seas. All of these things would fit in with your idea.

    I just think that if it were a sea serpent, there would be some mention of it in the sightings and lore. Also, since they are seen on land and seem to get around just find there, I’m not sure if I could classify the Tsuchinoko as a completely aquatic animal. It seems more to me like a terrestrial snake that happens to love water, like a water moccasin.

    Anyhow, I really do enjoy hearing these ideas. Thanks wdsasquatch for sharing!

  3. Dj Plasmic Nebula responds:

    yes. i can see a metallic like snake. AWESOME> ;)
    i agree it can be a baby animal.

    but…. who knows. :) it may not be a snake at all or lizard. but a new kind.for all we know it could be a legless shell less turtle.

    Hmm.. could they be a baby of a gigantic animal?

    after all the babies don’t have to be big to have parents sizes of sharks….they probably can grow larger than a whale or the size of a whale. may be the sea animal in the legends.. who knows.. :)

  4. mystery_man responds:

    The report of a metallic looking snake is interesting for me as well. Of all of the reports of Tsuchinoko I’ve read, that is one detail I haven’t seen very often. It’s one of the reasons I included it in this article. Same goes for the one that describes it as having a head like a tortoise. Two very unique reports.

    I mentioned the reports with the eyes because that is one feature that is often cited in many reports. The witness will sometimes say the eyes were very large and prominent, sometimes even that the eyes were somehow mesmerizing. An interesting detail.

    The rat like tail is also commonly reported, as is a face that typically looks like it is grinning. Comparisons to the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland spring to mind. This is an interesting feature for me because the folklore often made the Tsuchinoko out to be a liar and a mischief maker, often lying to travelers to try and mislead them (presumably just for the heck of it). Now of course snakes don’t grin, that’s ridiculous. But if it is a real snake with a mouth set or colored to somehow look like a grin, then the “grin” could have been interpreted as a mischievous one and the folklore would reflect that. So you would get a folkloric element stemming from a real feature of the animal, as has happened with many known animals.

    The way of moving and the sounds it is reported to make could have originated from real occurrences as well, such as hearing an unrelated sound and attributing it to the snake, or seeing a snake tumble down a hill or lunging at prey and thinking that it was rolling along or jumping.

  5. chatwarrior66 responds:

    Wondering why no aussies have said this but. Look up deathadder (an australian snake) and run through a few of the pictures of them. Another species of a deathadder? Looks about the same, the water thou?, they hang out in heavy forests underneath leaves with the small tail hanging out acting like a worm to attract its prey.

  6. mystery_man responds:

    chatwarrior66- Yes, the death adder is keeping with the appearance of other candidate species and genera I tend to think the Tsuchinoko may represent.

    I think that the Tsuchinoko is likely a new species of viper or pit viper, or a type of snake that has evolved in a similar fashion. For example, while the death adder you mentioned is in Acanthophis genus of the Elapidae family of snakes (related to the cobra and mamba), and not a real viper, it resembles one due to convergent evolution so you could be on to something. The overall shape and some other characteristics on all of these types of snake look very much like some descriptions of the Tsuchinoko. Even if the Tsuchinoko it is not directly related to vipers, we could still be looking at convergent evolution (like what happened with the death adder), with the same type of viper-like features.

    Then there’s the thing with water. Water is a very common factor in sightings, so I think it is very likely that we are looking at a snake that has evolved to a semi-aquatic lifestyle. Because of this, I am particularly interested in the possibility of the Tsuchinoko being perhaps a semi-aquatic snake like the water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorous), a member of the Agkistrodon genus of Crotalids (pit vipers). It is always found near water and even in the sea, and it looks very Tsuchinoko-like. Perhaps the Tsuchinoko has evolved in a similar way and is a new, water loving species of Agkistrodon, a subspecies, some other water adapted type of viper, or maybe even its own genus or subfamily.



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