When you think about Japan, you probably imagine the bustling streets of Tokyo, sushi, and modern technology. However, Japan also has a storied history that spans thousands of years. Much of this history took place in the mountains, valleys, and dense forests of the Japanese countryside. This is where the story of the Tsuchinoko Yokai began.
The History of the Tsuchinoko Yokai
The fact is that Japan is a country where ninety percent of the population occupies ten percent of the land area. As a result, many scientists believe that the uninhabited forests and mountainous regions of Japan may contain undiscovered species. According to legend, one such species is the Tsuchinoko. While some treat it as a myth, others treat it as a real animal that moves about in Japan’s most untouched regions.
In the Kojiki, a 1,200-year-old book that chronicles the ancient myths and legends of Japan, we can find some glimpses of the Tsuchinoko. As told by the Kojiki, Tsuchinoko — sometimes known as the Tsuchinoko Yokai or “Snake Yōkai” — inhabits the deep, isolated mountains and forests of the Shikoku, Honshu, and Kyushu islands, as well as some parts of the Korean peninsula.
What Does the Tsuchinoko Yokai Look Like?
According to the myths, the Tuschinoko Yokai is a serpent-like creature. It is often depicted with a large mid-section and oversized, mushroom-cap head. The midsection is generally much bigger than its mouth and tail. This gives the Tuschinoko the appearance of a creature that recently ate a very large meal. “Yokai” is a Japanese term for ghost, phantom, or demon, so those who believe in the existence of the Tuschinoko Yokai treat it as a mortal threat.
Why Are They Feared?
Despite its funny appearance, the Tuschinoko Yokai has some scary characteristics. Supposedly, it is approximately three feet long and can jump up to three feet in the air. Additionally, the Tsuchinoko is said to have two long fangs that release venom. According to legend, the venom is similar to that of a viper. It is poisonous enough to kill large animals and even humans if the bite is left untreated.
The worst thing about this creature is its ability to use camouflage to sneak up on unsuspecting prey. Its skin has a brown, black, and grey pattern, which blends in with a lot of Japan’s natural foliage.
Perhaps the most bizarre characteristic of the Tsuchinoko Yokai is its love for alcohol. Additionally, this odd reptile is believed to make all sorts of weird sounds. It squeals, shrieks, and chirps throughout the night. Surprisingly, it is able to imitate the native language of its locality. Moreover, it is believed to be a liar and skilled in deceit.
The Tuschioko Yokai in Modern Culture
In recent times, the Tsuchinoko has gained a lot of popularity on social media. It has also appeared in a lot of fantasy games, movies, and literature. It is especially common in Japanese video games. Here are just a few popular games in which the Tsuchinoko plays a role:
- Metal Gear
- Monster Hunter World
- Solid 3
- Metal Gear Solid V
- Monster Strike
- Breath of Fire III
- Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Is the Tsuchinoko a Real-Life Creature?
Though it appears in many stories and fictional games, the Tsuchinoko remains a mythical creature. Some people claim to have seen it, which has helped fuel the myth through the years. However, none of these claims have ever been substantiated.
The discovery of a supposed Tsuchinoko snake skeleton in Yoshii in 2000 helped cement the Tsuchinoko legend in Japanese pop culture. At the time, the Okayama Prefecture offered a twenty million-yen (about $205,000 USD) reward to anyone who could hunt the creature down. With no concrete sightings, the reward was raised to a hundred million yen. To date, no one has been able to track down the infamous Tsuchinoko.