What pets are uniquely popular in Japan

Five extraordinary animals from Japan

Due to its isolated location, the Japanese fauna has produced very special forms of life that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. This includes, for example, the largest living cancer, but also the world's second largest amphibian. In this blog post I present extraordinary animals from Japan, which you can probably only meet in zoos outside of the archipelago.

Red-crowned crane

The red-crowned crane in Japanese "Tanchouzuru" or simply "Tsuru" is closely associated with Japanese culture. There are also many stories and myths that revolve around the bird from the "real cranes" family. In Japan, the Red-crowned crane is said to live to be 1000 years old. In reality it is only up to 75 years, but that still makes it one of the birds with the highest life expectancy. In keeping with this myth, up to 2004 you could also find 2 Red-crowned cranes on the back of the 1000-yen note. In Japan it is also said that Red-crowned cranes do a favor for an act of sacrifice. This myth comes from the Japanese fairy tale "Tsuru no Ongaeshi" in which a poor man saves a wounded crane and receives food and wealth in return.

Today the red-crowned crane is unfortunately one of the most endangered crane species in the world. At the beginning of the 20th century, red-crowned cranes were considered extinct in Japan because they were often eaten as a delicacy at New Year's. In 1924 about 15 birds were rediscovered in the Kushiro Marshland. Today the populations in eastern Hokkaido have recovered somewhat, but the species is still critically endangered. The total estimated population of the species is only 1,830 in the wild, with roughly 950 birds belonging to the Japanese population. We can be glad that the red-crowned crane was spared the complete extinction of humans for the time being. Especially with an animal that has so profoundly shaped Japanese art and culture.

Japanese giant salamander

Another unique animal that only lives in Japan is the Japanese giant salamander. In Japan, the nocturnal amphibian, which is up to 1.5 meters long, is called "Ōsanshōuo". This makes it the second largest amphibian in the world after the Chinese giant salamander. Its distribution area is limited to the fast flowing mountain streams, rivers and partly lakes of the Japanese islands Kyūshū, Honshu and Shikoku. The Japanese giant salamander is also considered to be endangered, as humans increasingly interfere with the natural courses of the river. Meanwhile, however, there are also opposing initiatives to make the rivers habitable again for the Japanese giant salamander.

The Japanese giant salamander also made it into Japanese mythology and it is believed that it may have served as the origin for the mythical creature "Kappa".

Japanese giant hornet

The Japanese giant hornet, in Japanese "Ōsuzumebachi" is the largest subspecies of the Asian giant hornet and is up to 6.4 cm tall. It is believed that 30-50 people die from giant hornet stings every year in Japan. But the numbers have been falling steadily for years. This is mainly due to increasing urbanization and the declining rural population, where contact with the animals is more likely. The Japanese giant hornet is widespread in the country and I've seen some myself.

The threat to humans is rather minor, but the Japanese giant hornet represents a serious threat to other colony-forming insects such as honey bees. A few Japanese giant hornets can wipe out an entire bee colony with up to 40,000 individuals in a short period of time. This is why the hornet represents a serious threat to the bee colonies imported from the west for honey production. Japanese honey bees have developed a defense mechanism in which hundreds of bees attack a giant hornet entering the hive at the same time and a temperature in the core of the bee ball is achieved through rapid movements of up to 50 ° C, which leads to overheating and death in the hornet. This ball is also called a heat ball. Western bees do not exhibit this behavior, but they do produce more honey. Therefore, the hornets are very unpopular with Japanese beekeepers.

Japanese giant crab

The Japanese giant crab "Takaashigani" in Japanese is the largest living cancer and at the same time the largest living arthropod in the world. Japanese giant crabs are found exclusively in the Pacific, especially around Japan. There they live at depths of between 300 and 400 meters. The crab measures up to 3.7 meters from the tip of one leg to the other. Japanese giant crabs are found mainly off the south coast of the Japanese island of Honshu, from Tokyo Bay to Kagoshima Prefecture. In some parts of Japan, the giant crab is considered a delicacy, as a result of which it is affected by overfishing. That is why there are now protection programs so that the stocks can recover.

Like other shellfish, the Japanese giant crab has to shed its skin because it has a tough exoskeleton. Due to its size, this process takes up to 6 hours and can also lead to the death of the crab.

Japanese macaque

The Japanese macaque or snow monkey in Japanese "Nihonzaru" is the most northerly living primate species except for humans. Except for Hokkaido, the snow monkeys occur on all other three main Japanese islands, i.e. Kyūshū, Shikoku and Honshū.

The diurnal monkeys have another remarkable quality, and that is their ability to learn. Probably the best known result of learning behavior is bathing in hot springs. Another example of learning and tradition building is snowball rolling, which is observed primarily as a game among young animals. In 1979 it was observed for the first time that a female macaque was playing with stones, much like children with building blocks. In 1983 this game with stones was already widespread over half the group. The exact manner in which they groom each other, supervise the young or certain eating habits are also passed on from adults to young animals in the sense of (non-human) cultural achievements.

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If you have any questions about extraordinary animals from Japan, I would be very happy to hear from you. Even if you have a suggestion for improvement or a comment, I would of course be happy to receive a comment.

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