• Life & Culture

40 Of The Coolest Animals In Japan

A red panda perching on a branch and eating leaves.

When you think of Japan, animals probably aren’t the first thing that come to mind.

 

Whilst things like culture and technology may be higher up the list of talking points, Japanese wildlife is just as amazing. With expansive mountain ranges, dense forests and unique geographical features, Japan is home to a thriving and diverse wildlife population.

 

In fact, there are over 90,000 animal species that have been confirmed in the land of the rising sun!

 

We’ve put together a list below of the 40 of the coolest animals in Japan. Meaning, if you’re considering visiting or working in Japan, you’ll have a bit of knowledge on the most interesting animals in Japan, as well as where to find them. That includes the cute ones, the dangerous ones and the weird ones!

 

Keep reading below to find out more.

 

an owl perches on a tree branch surrounded by leaves

 

40. Blakiston’s Fish Owl

 

Animal Classification: Bird

 

Average Size: 60cm

 

Blakiston’s fish owl, the largest owl species in the world, is a rare and magnificent bird found on the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan. These owls are known for their impressive size, deep hooting calls, and striking facial features. They reside along rivers and in forested areas, hunting for fish, which they catch with their sharp talons. 

 

a crab on a sandy beach

 

39. Japanese Mitten Crab

 

Animal Classification: Crustacean

 

Average Size: 10cm

 

The Japanese mitten crab is a unique crustacean recognized by the furry clumps on its claws, resembling mittens. These crabs are found in both freshwater and marine environments, as they migrate from rivers to the sea to breed. 

 

a grass lizard walking along a grassy area

 

38. Japanese Grass Lizards

 

Animal Classification: Reptile

 

Average Size: 20cm

 

Japanese grass lizards, found throughout Japan, are a common sight in grasslands, fields, and forest edges. These small, agile reptiles are known for their speed and distinctive greenish-brown colouration, which provides excellent camouflage in their natural environment. They are often active during the day, basking in the sun and hunting for insects.

 

Their presence can be heard by a rustling in the grass, as they swiftly move about. Japanese grass lizards play a vital role in controlling insect populations, making them an important component of their ecosystem. Their adaptability to different environments and their importance in the food chain makes them an important reptile on this list.

 

a kingfisher perched on the end of a branch tweeting

 

37. Crested Kingfishers

 

Animal Classification: Bird

 

Average Size: 41cm

 

Crested kingfishers, with their striking appearance and impressive size, are a majestic sight along Japan’s rivers and streams. These birds are easily recognisable by their large white crests, contrasting with their primarily dark feathers.

 

They are expert fishers, often seen perched on branches overhanging water before diving in to catch their prey. Their distinctive call and regal bearing make them a cherished sight among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

 

a rat surrounded eating some seeds

 

36. Ryukyu Long-haired Rats

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 25cm

 

The Ryukyu long-haired rat is an endemic species found in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. These rodents are unique due to their long, soft fur and larger size compared to common rats. They are nocturnal and elusive, often found in subtropical forests and mountainous areas. Their diet mainly consists of fruits, seeds, and insects, playing an important role in seed dispersal. 

 

Despite their common status as a rodent, the Ryukyu long-haired rat is a fascinating example of the unique animals that inhabit Japan’s southern islands, playing an important part in balancing the biodiversity of the region.

 

an orange newt crawling up the foot of a tree

 

35. Japanese Fire-Bellied Newt

 

Animal Classification: Amphibian

 

Average Size: 12cm

 

The Japanese fire-bellied newt is a small amphibian with a bright orange belly contrasted against a dark, textured back. These newts are found in wet, forested areas throughout Japan, particularly in slow-moving or still waters. They are known for being toxic, a defence mechanism against predators which is essential to their survival.

 

a wild cat crowling under a rock, surrounded by trees

 

34. Iriomote Cats

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 60cm

 

The Iriomote cat, an enigmatic and endangered species, is exclusive to the dense subtropical forests of Iriomote Island in Okinawa Prefecture. These small wild cats are remarkable for their adaptive skills, thriving in a variety of environments including mangrove swamps and mountainous regions. They are nocturnal and elusive, making sightings a rare and special treat for wildlife enthusiasts.

 

The Iriomote cat’s diet is diverse, consisting of small mammals, birds, and fish, indicative of their adaptability and role as a top predator in their environment. Conservation efforts for this species are important for their survival, as they are threatened by habitat loss and a limited gene pool. 

 

a butterfly spreading its wings whilst perched on a branch

 

33. Japanese Emperor Butterfly

 

Animal Classification: Insect

 

Average Size: 10cm wingspan

 

The Japanese emperor butterfly is a large, striking butterfly known for its vibrant colours and patterns. With a wingspan reaching up to 10cm, they are one of the largest butterflies found in Japan.  These butterflies prefer wooded areas and are often seen fluttering near the treetops. They are a favourite among butterfly enthusiasts and are known for their graceful flight and the beauty they add to the Japanese countryside.

 

a sea bream fish swimming in dark water

 

32. Japanese Sea Bream

 

Animal Classification: Fish

 

Average Size: 70cm

 

The Japanese sea bream, or Madai, is revered in Japan for its significance in cuisine and culture. These fish are commonly found in the coastal waters surrounding Japan and are recognized by their pinkish-silver bodies and red accents.

 

Madai are often associated with celebrations and special occasions, symbolising good fortune and joy. They are a staple in traditional Japanese dishes, known for their delicate texture and flavour. Beyond their cultural importance, Madai plays a role in marine ecosystems as both predators and prey, maintaining the balance of their aquatic environment.

 

a sparrowhawk bird standing next to a body of water

 

31. Japanese Sparrowhawks

 

Animal Classification: Bird

 

Average Size: 35cm

 

Japanese sparrowhawks are small but formidable birds of prey, gracing the skies of Japan with their agile and swift flight. These raptors are migratory, breeding in Japan during the summer and spending the winter in Southeast Asia.

 

They are primarily found in forested areas, where they hunt smaller birds and insects. Their slender bodies and long tails allow for exceptional manoeuvrability in flight, making them a thrilling sight for birdwatchers.

 

a frog perched on a lilypad in water

 

30. Japanese Pond Frogs

 

Animal Classification: Amphibian

 

Average Size: 6cm

 

Japanese pond frogs are a common and delightful presence in Japan’s wetlands, rice paddies, and ponds. These amphibians are known for their distinctive croaking, particularly during the breeding season, which adds a lively soundtrack to the Japanese countryside in spring and summer. They are both predators of insects and prey for larger animals.

 

Their presence is a key indicator of a healthy aquatic environment. Japanese pond frogs are often credited for contributing to the ecological balance and biodiversity of the country’s freshwater habitats.

 

a bright squid in deep blue water

 

29. Japanese Bobtail Squid

 

Animal Classification: Mollusk

 

Average Size: 3cm

 

The Japanese bobtail squid is a small, vibrant mollusc found in the waters around Japan. These fascinating creatures are known for their symbiotic relationship with luminescent bacteria, which inhabit a special organ in the squid’s mantle. The light produced by these bacteria helps the squid camouflage against moonlit waters, avoiding predators while attracting prey.

 

two deer with white spots on some grass

 

28. Yaku Deer

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 1.2m

 

The Yaku deer, a subspecies of the sika deer, is endemic to Yakushima Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Known for their gentle demeanour, Yaku deer can often be seen grazing in the island’s ancient cedar forests or along its misty mountain trails. Their presence adds to the mystical ambience of Yakushima, often referred to as the ‘island of the gods’.

 

The deer are a source of fascination for naturalists and photographers, contributing to the island’s status as a prime destination for eco-tourism. Their conservation is of great importance, not only for the island’s biodiversity but also for the cultural significance they hold in Japanese society.

 

a turtle entering a body of water surrounded by grass

 

27. Japanese Pond Turtles

 

Animal Classification: Reptile

 

Average Size: 20cm

 

Japanese pond turtles are a common and beloved part of Japan’s aquatic animals, ranging from tranquil ponds to flowing rivers. With their distinctive greenish-brown shells and yellow-striped heads, they are a familiar sight to many.

 

These turtles are omnivorous, feeding on a varied diet of aquatic vegetation, insects, and small fish. Their gentle nature and slow pace of life make them a symbol of tranquillity and perseverance in Japanese culture. The longevity of Japanese pond turtles, with some living for over 50 years, adds to their charm and fascination. 

 

an eagle surrounded by snow

 

26. Steller’s Sea Eagles

 

Animal Classification: Bird

 

Average Size: 2.5m wingspan

 

Steller’s sea eagles, with their majestic stature and powerful presence, are among the most impressive birds in the world. Boasting one of the largest wingspans of any eagle, these birds are a breathtaking sight, especially during their winter migration to the coastal ice floes of Hokkaido. Their striking appearance, characterised by stark white shoulders and tail contrasting against a dark brown body, along with their massive yellow beak, makes them a sight to behold.

 

These eagles primarily feed on fish, showcasing remarkable hunting skills that are a spectacle in themselves. Birdwatchers and photographers from around the world flock to Hokkaido in the colder months, hoping to capture the awe-inspiring beauty of these magnificent birds.

 

an otter surrounded by rocks

 

25. Japanese River Otters

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 1m

 

The Japanese river otter, now sadly extinct, was once a playful and cherished inhabitant of Japan’s rivers and coastal areas. They were known for their sleek, brown fur and sociable behaviour, often seen frolicking in the water or lounging on the riverbanks.

 

The loss of the Japanese river otter serves as a poignant reminder of the fragility of natural habitats and the importance of conservation efforts. While no longer present, the legacy of these otters lives on in the memories of those who were fortunate enough to witness their playful antics.

 

a rail bird in a muddy pool of water

 

24. Okinawa Rail

 

Animal Classification: Bird

 

Average Size: 30cm

 

Endemic to the dense forests of northern Okinawa Island, the Okinawa rail is a unique, flightless bird, making it an exceptional species among Japan’s rich avian life. Known for its striking appearance with a vibrant red bill and legs, contrasted against deep blue-black plumage, the Okinawa rail is a symbol of the island’s biodiversity.

 

Due to its limited range and declining habitat, it is considered critically endangered, making any sighting a rare and special event. Conservation efforts are ongoing to protect this bird, which plays a vital role in the cultural and natural heritage of Okinawa. Birdwatchers and nature lovers often venture into the Yanbaru forest, hoping for a glimpse of this elusive and captivating bird.

 

a weasel peering out from underneath some wooden decking

 

23. Japanese Weasels

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 35cm

 

The Japanese weasel, a small and agile mammal, is a common Japanese animal. Found throughout the country, from the snowy north to the subtropical south, these weasels adapt seamlessly to both rural and urban environments.

 

They are known for their playful nature and incredible agility, making them intriguing to observe as they hunt for their primary prey, such as rodents and small birds. Their slender bodies and quick movements are a delight to watch, especially in the lush countryside where they are more commonly spotted. The Japanese weasel’s role in controlling rodent populations highlights its importance in maintaining ecological balance.

 

a black rabbit sat on a grassy field

 

22. Amami Black Rabbits

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 50cm

 

The Amami black rabbit, a rare and primitive species of rabbit, is native to the Amami Islands of Japan. These nocturnal creatures are distinguished by their glossy black fur and large eyes, adapted to their nighttime activities. As one of the oldest rabbit species, they offer valuable insights into the evolution of lagomorphs. Due to their limited habitat and rarity, they are considered a national treasure and are protected under Japanese law.

 

The Amami black rabbit is an elusive species, primarily active during the night, making sightings a rare and special occurrence for wildlife enthusiasts. Their unique appearance and secretive nature add an air of mystery to the dense forests of the Amami Islands, making them one of the most intriguing animals in Japan.

 

a horned beetle climbing a tree branch

 

21. Japanese Horned Beetle

 

Animal Classification: Insect

 

Average Size: 8cm

 

The Japanese horned beetle, known locally as Kabutomushi, is a beloved insect in Japan, especially popular among children for its impressive appearance and gentle nature. These beetles are easily recognised by their large, horn-like structures on the males’ heads, used in battles for territory and mates. They are primarily found in wooded areas, feeding on tree sap and fruit. The Kabutomushi has become a cultural icon, often featured in toys, games, and stories as a symbol of strength and endurance.

 

A wild pika on a snowy Japanese mountain.

 

20. Pikas

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 15cm

 

Part of the rabbit family, pikas are tiny wild animals in Japan with round ears and no tail. They make a high pitched whistling sound and are sometimes referred to as whistling hares.

 

Pikas live in cold climates across the world, so the Japanese mountains are perfect for them. You will usually find them in rocky areas on mountains, where they live in cracks in the rocks. These cute herbivores mainly live on plant leaves and stems, as well as sometimes eating things like moss and mushrooms.

 

Many people speculate that the pika is the inspiration behind the character Pikachu because of the similar name. Although, the producer says this is not true.

 

A red crowned crane taking a drink from a lake.

 

19. Red Crowned Cranes

 

Animal Classification: Bird

 

Average Size: 1.6m

 

Standing around 5 feet tall, with a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres, the red crowned crane is an aquatic bird with a red patch on top of its head, hence the name.

 

This omnivorous bird can usually be found around bodies of water and pasturelands. Their diet includes fish, amphibians, small rodents, crabs, snails, plants and more. Delicious.

 

The red crowned crane is a Japanese wildlife icon. And, after facing extinction from overhunting, strong conservation efforts were made, and the population is recovering. Half of the whole world’s population of red-crowned cranes lives in Eastern Hokkaido.

 

A leopard cat perching on a rock in a Japanese zoo.

 

18. Leopard Cats

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 70 – 80cm

 

The leopard cat is a small, beautiful wild cat. As the name suggests, the leopard cat looks like a small leopard. It has a more slender frame than a regular cat, with long legs and black spots on its body.

 

Leopard cats mainly inhabit Tsushima island in western Japan. They are usually found in rainforests type climates near rivers, valleys and ravines. They are among the more endangered species of Japanese wildlife though, so you’ll be lucky to spot one!

 

This carnivorous Japanese animal feeds on a range of small prey including, mammals, lizards, amphibians, birds and insects. Unlike many other small cats, they don’t play with their food. They catch it, kill it and eat it.

 

A wild sable climbing on a snowmobile.

 

17. Sables

 

Animal classification: Mammal

 

Size: 35 – 56cm

 

Sables are small wild animals in Japan that were once found throughout Hokkaido. Now, they only live in forest areas in the north and east of the island. They tend to live in burrows near river banks and the thickest parts of the woods. They can be quite hard to find.

 

Unfortunately, sables are hunted for their valuable fur. Since the middle ages, they have been valuable in the fur trade because it is smooth when stroked against the grain, whereas the fur of most animals is rough when stroked against the grain.

 

A wild sika deer lying on the ground next to a tree.

 

16. Sika Deers

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 1.2m

 

Native to Japan, the sika deer is a cornerstone of Japanese wildlife and one of their most elegant wild animals. The name Sika is actually derived from the Japanese work Shika, which means deer. They are known as Nihonjika in Japan, which means “Japanese Deer”.

 

Sika deer can be found all over the main islands of Japan. Meaning, you won’t have to look hard to find one. There is an overabundance of sika deer in the country. This is largely due to their only natural predator, the wolf, going extinct in Japan around a hundred years ago.

 

Sika deer are herbivores, living on naturally growing vegetation. You’re likely to hear their whistling sound before you hear them, they’re very fast, and they can jump up to 1.7m high!

 

A wild Japanese fox stood on a rock staring into the distance.

 

15. Red Foxes

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 45 – 90cm

 

Red foxes are beautiful wild animals in Japan, inhabiting mountainous areas and the outskirts of villages. The crafty omnivores are very adaptable and eat a range of different foods. Namely, rabbits, rodents and birds.

 

A controversial attraction in Japan is fox village on Honshu island, where you can pay to play with the foxes. Although, many people think the way the foxes are treated at fox village is bad for their mental and physical health. In Japanese folklore, foxes are thought to have great wisdom and powerful magic. Serious guys!

 

Two Japanese flying fox bats sleeping whilst hanging from a tree branch.

 

14. Ryukyu Flying Fox

 

Animal classification: Mammal

 

Size: 1.2 – 1.4m

 

The flying fox is a species of megabat characterised by long and woolly fur. These large bats can be found in forests and swamps. They have a wingspan of around 1.2 – 1.4m! They are solitary and nocturnal Japanese animals, usually only coming out at night to find food to eat.

 

If you want to try and find them, you’ll probably need a Japanese wildlife guide. You’ll be able to locate them on the Daitō Islands, Tokara Islands, Ōsumi Islands, Miyako Islands, Yaeyama Islands and Okinawa Islands.

 

Fireflies lighting up a dark summer night in Japan.

 

13. Japanese Fireflies

 

Animal Classification: Insect

 

Average Size: 5 – 25mm

 

Luciola, also known as Japanese fireflies, are beautiful glowing insects that light up all over Japan in the summertime. Especially in June and July.

 

Although the magical glow of these interesting Japanese animals can be seen all over the land of the rising sun, fireflies prefer places with clean water and nature. Meaning you’re more likely to see them in rural areas.

 

Some hotspots for firefly viewing include the Kingayama Firefly Festival (Tokyo), Tsukiyono Firefly Village (Gunma), Motosu Hotaru Park (Gifu), Kushiro Shitsugen National Park (Hokkaido) and Uchio Shrine (Hyogo).

 

Fireflies are beloved in Japan. Their beautiful lights are a popular attraction on warm summer nights. In fact, many people believe the lights are an altered form of the souls of people who have recently passed away.

 

A red panda perching on a branch and eating leaves.

 

12. Red Pandas

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 60cm

 

The red panda is an adorable mammal about the size of a domestic cat. It mainly feeds on bamboo but also eats eggs, birds and insects.

 

A solitary animal, you will seldom find a pack of red pandas in the wild. They’re also very endangered, so you’ll only be able to see them in a zoo in Japan. Specifically, Sabae City’s Nishiyama Zoo. The red panda is the official animal of this city.

 

A wild Dugong eating seagrass from the seafloor.

 

11. Dugongs

 

Animal Classification: Marine Mammal

 

Average Size: 2.6m

 

Also known as sea cows, dugongs are some of the most incredible animals in Japan. These gentle giants can weigh as much as 450kg.

 

Similar to manatees in appearance, they spend their days mostly eating seagrass from the seafloor. In fact, they’re the only completely marine mammal that’s diet consists purely of seagrass. Just like a tree, you can estimate their age by the number of rings they have on their tusks!

 

Japanese dugongs can be found in the waters surrounding the island of Okinawa. They are a rare and critically endangered species; they’re protected by Japanese law as cultural monuments.

 

A wild serow sitting in a snowy Japanese woodland area.

 

10. Japanese Serows

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 80cm

 

Mainly found in dense Japanese woodland in northern and central Honshu, the serow is a national symbol of Japan. The Japanese native animal is a goat-antelope with bushy fur and curved horns. They eat leaves, shoots and acorns.

 

In the 20th century, they were hunted to near extinction. A law passed in 1955 now protects them as national monuments.

 

Because of their sure-footedness, they are associated with good luck in passing exams. Japanese students often buy charms with a serow hoof print to give them extra luck for exams.

 

A giant spider crab walking around an aquarium.

 

9. Giant Spider Crabs

 

Animal Classification: Invertebrate

 

Size: 3.7m

 

One of the strangest of all the animals that live in Japan is the giant spider crab. As its name suggests, this freak of Japanese wildlife is huge! When fully grown, it can reach a leg span of up to 12 feet!

 

Even though it’s terrifying in appearance, it’s actually quite a calm animal, spending most of its time scouring the seabed for food.

 

A black bear shaking water off its fur.

 

8. Bears

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 12-2m long

 

Bears are the largest land animals in Japanese wildlife. Both brown bears and Asian black bears roam the land of the rising sun. Black bears are common wild animals in Japan. They live in the mountains all over the country. They can even be found around the fringes of Tokyo. Brown bears, however, are only found on the northern island of Hokkaido.

 

Japanese bears are most active in the early mornings and the evening. They hibernate from around December to April, so you won’t be able to find them easily around these times. The omnivorous creatures feed on plants, animals and fish, so be very careful if you stumble across one. Although humans aren’t part of their regular diet, they might attack if you scare or provoke them. They’re faster at running than humans, great climbers and very strong. If you are attacked by a Japanese bear, try to hide behind a tree or a rock and curl up in a ball rather than running away.

 

A goblin shark in a museum.

 

7. Goblin Sharks

 

Animal Classification: Fish

 

Average Size: 3.7m

 

Goblin sharks are possibly the scariest animals in Japan. These deep-sea demons look like they came straight out of a horror film. Just like most other sharks, they are solitary animals. These huge deep-sea monsters can grow to about 12 feet long and weigh around 200kg.

 

They are spotted mostly off the coast of Japan, but they live at the bottom of the ocean. Meaning, you’re unlikely to see one of these rare Japanese animals. The goblin shark is quite a slow mover for a shark. To give itself an extra edge on catching prey, it can thrust its jaw three inches forward like a slingshot, which is as gross as it is terrifying.

 

A Japanese dwarf flying squirrel perching on a tree branch.

 

6. Dwarf Flying Squirrels

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 20cm

 

The dwarf flying squirrel is arguably one of the cutest wild animals in Japan. With huge round eyes, they almost look like cartoon characters. A membrane called a patagium connecting from their wrists to their ankles enables them to elegantly glide between trees. Known as Nihon Momonga, they can be found hiding in trees in the subalpine regions of the Honshu and Kyushu islands.

 

Although very common, they’re nocturnal animals, so they can be hard to find. In the day, they hide in holes in trees, often in groups. At night, they come out to feed on buds, leaves, bark and seeds.

 

An Asian Giant Hornet against a white background.

 

5. Asian Giant Hornets

 

Animal Classification: Insect

 

Average Size: 3.5 – 5cm

 

The Asian giant hornet is one of the world’s largest hornets and one of the nastiest wild animals in Japan. Growing up to 5cm long with a demonic stinger that’s loaded with potent venom, they’re also known as murder hornets. Whilst very painful, a single sting is not usually lethal. Multiple stings can kill someone, though, even if they aren’t allergic. They have even been known to spray venom into their victims’ eyes in some instances. Nasty!

 

They are usually found in low mountains and forests, but they tend to make nests near agricultural areas and can pose a threat to farmers. They often make their nests in holes in the ground that have been dug by other animals. In some Japanese mountain villages, people even fry and eat the hornets eggs as a delicacy! And, in the Chubu region, they are eaten as snacks or used as ingredients in drinks. Would you try it?

 

Two giant salamanders swimming around in an aquarium.

 

4. Japanese Giant Salamanders

 

Animal Classification: Amphibian

 

Average Size: 1.5m

 

Known in Japan as Ōsanshōuo, which means “giant pepper fish”, the giant salamander is a nocturnal animal that lives mostly at the bottom of streams and rivers with cool, clear water. It’s called a pepper fish because when it’s threatened, it excretes a strong milk-like substance that smells similar to Japanese pepper. Gross!

 

They mainly eat insects, frogs and fish, but they have very slow metabolisms, so they can go for weeks without eating sometimes. They’re pretty much blind too, so they detect their prey by sensing vibrations in the water. Giant Salamanders usually live in rivers in rural Japan and can be very hard to find, so you’ll probably need a guide if you want to find them.

 

A wild Japanese racoon dog sitting patiently in a field.

 

3. Tanuki (Raccoon Dogs)

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 45-70cm

 

Tanuki are mischievous wild animals that live in Japan. They are a type of Raccoon dog and are viewed very fondly by locals. They’re common throughout the country, even in densely populated areas. They look very similar to northern American raccoons, but they’re only distantly related. As nocturnal animals, they’re mainly active at night, but they are sometimes active during daylight. These omnivores will eat almost anything, including birds, insects, lizards, snakes, frogs, crabs, fish and plants. They’ll adapt to their environment and have even been known to rummage through bins.

 

In Japanese folklore, it is said that Tanuki can shapeshift and appear in human form or as everyday objects. These adorable animals form strong social bonds. They live in monogamous pairs and even cuddle up together when they hibernate in the winter.

 

A wild Japanese marten perching on a snowy rock.

 

2. Martens

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 50cm

 

Japanese martens are small wild animals that can be found in forests in Japanese mainlands. They usually live in underground dens and hollowed out trees. They are omnivorous, and they like meat from frogs, fish and small birds. Although they will eat insects, fruit and seeds when their favourite foods aren’t available.

 

Their offspring are born completely useless; they are blind and deaf! But, within 3 – 4 months, they are mature enough to leave their mothers protection and hunt. In Japanese folklore, it is bad luck if a marten crosses in front of someone.

 

A parent and a baby snow monkey perching on the side of a Japanese natural hot spring.

 

1. Macaque Monkeys (snow monkeys)

 

Animal Classification: Mammal

 

Average Size: 60cm

 

Macaque monkeys are the national animals of Japan. Also known as snow monkeys because they often live in snowy mountain ranges, they have long, thick hair and red faces. These wild animals are very sociable. They live in large groups of 20-30 and are usually led by a dominant male.‎

 

‎Snow monkeys are very common in Japan. They can be found across the Japanese islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, from tropical lowlands to the very cold mountainous regions up to an altitude of 1,500 metres. The only reason they can survive in the snowy mountains is because of the naturally occurring hot springs. They use them to heat up when they get cold. If you want to see them in the wild, there are locations near Tokyo you can find them, but the most famous location is Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano Prefecture.

 

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