During World War II, in 1942, in the forested mountains of Nagano, the Japanese army built military bases and erected a chemical laboratory for the needs of the army. It was then that tsuchinoko (ツチノコ), a strange creature was caught.
Laboratory scientists became interested in it and, with permission from their superiors, it him in a special compartment for observation, where the mysterious animal lived for a year.
It was found that tsuchinoko is active at night and sleeps in the morning and during the day. It feeds on insects, earthworms and frogs. It is poisonous, its venom is similar to that of a viper, and also causes hallucinations.
After some time, the military laboratory ceased to exist, many papers and photographs were destroyed. But the scientists who worked there were able to preserve some documents about the unusual creature, on the basis of which a book was published; which can still be found in the Fukuoka library.
What is tsuchinoko?
This unidentified animal is said to have been found in Japan for a long time, and back then people encountered a snake with a thick body similar to a “yokozuchi” (wooden hammer).
Now tsuchinoko often appears in games, anime and is familiar to every Japanese since childhood.
The animal was first described in a Japanese iconographic collection in 1886.
It said that it seemed to be a snake, but at the same time not quite. Compared to ordinary snakes, the central part of the tsuchinoko’s body is round and thick, and can swell if the animal is angry. Unlike regular snakes, tsuchinoko have eyelids.
The mysterious creature is incredibly jumpy – it can jump 16 feet forward and jump 7 feet in height. It moves very quickly, easily bends and stretches its body, and can roll like a log. It also makes a strange sound: “Chiii!” and sometimes “snores.”
This “fat snake” is said to like the smells of miso, surume (dry squid) and burning hair.
The mysterious creature has different names, there are about 40 of them throughout Japan, for example, in the Tohoku region it is called the “bee snake.”
Mentions of the cryptic snake are also found in Japanese chronicles of 1712 and 1779; it was also depicted on ceramics of the Jomon period (from 13,000 BC to 300 BC).
In the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Affairs) and Nihonsoki (Chronicles of Japan) during the Nara period it is written that this sacred creature is the lord of the fields.
They say that it can be seen in the mountains, in the forest near waterfalls, sometimes it attacks a person and tries to bite the legs.
In 1972, writer Seiko Tanabe wrote a novel in which the main character is obsessed with catching a tsuchinoko.
In 1973, Takao Yaguchi, an artist who is said to have encountered tsuchinoko himself, published a manga about a “ghostly strange snake.” This caused a boom in Japan and everyone rushed to find the cryptid.
It must be said that the creature was encountered in different places of the country. For example, the village of Higashishirakawa (Gifu Prefecture) is considered the place where the mysterious “beast” is most often seen. Every year on May 5, a festival is held there – Tsuchinoko Festa, and a prize is awarded for catching a “fat snake”.
The village even has a tsuchinoko museum and temple, built in the first year of the Heisei era (1989).
The city of Akaiwa is also famous for the mythical “children of the earth” that appear there from time to time.
An expedition was formed in the mountainous Noko region, in the city of Itoigawa (Niigata Prefecture), and since 2006, searches have been carried out every year.
In the city of Ojiya (Niigata Prefecture), the spine of a tsuchinoko is allegedly kept; in Hyogo Prefecture, a withered “child of the earth” was discovered.
In the same Hyogo Prefecture, more than 50 cases of encounters with the mysterious “plump snake” have been recorded. Often, enthusiasts from different cities of Japan form search parties and go to the mountains in search of tsuchinoko.
Both young and old dream of finding the mysterious “beast” and receiving a reward for its capture. The prizes are serious. For example, in Okayama Prefecture, where a special squad has been formed, the city authorities promise a prize of 200 million yen to the person who catches a live tsuchinoko.
In the city of Shimotomachi (Hiroshima Prefecture), the prize fund is 300 million yen, and the Mountain and Valley Society gives 10 million yen in prize money for high-quality environmental photography.
But so far, nobody has been able to catch a live tsuchinoko. In 2014, the remains of what is believed to be this mysterious snake were found under the floor of an old private house in the city of Omihachiman (Shiga Prefecture).
In the Kyushu region, there are many evidences of encounters with tsuchinoko, especially in the mountainous areas of Oita and Kumamoto. It is believed to be a new species of unidentified animal or an undisclosed new species of snake. And some are sure that it is not a snake at all, but a lizard.
According to the latest descriptions, tsuchinoko is dark in color (brown or gray), has a large head and a neck. The snake is found in forests from spring to autumn, moves quickly, rolling along mountain slopes.
It jumps up high, blinks his evil eyes and at the same time snores. In general, the spectacle is not for the faint of heart.
Although its an unidentified creature, its characteristics are well detailed. It creates a strange sense of reality, and it tickles the curiosity of many Japanese.
Some farmers set traps for the “child of the earth,” but they say that so far only snakes and small animals are caught there. Teams of enthusiasts comb forests and mountains from spring to autumn.
Could there be a resurgence of the tsuchinoko boom in Japan?