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.