Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Discovering the Wildlife in Japan


If you are relocating to Japan, you probably are thinking of the human-influenced parts of the tightly packed, highly populated, technologically advanced society. However, you’re probably not thinking of some of the wildlife you might be encountering when you head outside of the cities.

There are two bear in Japan; the brown bear is found in Hokkaido; the Asiatic black bear, Ursus thibetanus, exists in the mountains of Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku. There are also a couple of wild cats. There is the leopard cat, a small wild cat, on Tsushima Island and the Iriomote cat, which is about the size of a domestic cat, on Iriomote island. There are grazing animals like sika deer, which resemble little elk, as well as wild boar. The most famous of the Japanese mammals is the Japanese Macaque, the world’s most northerly monkey. This is a terrestrial old world monkey that is native to Japan. It is mostly found in the forests.

mcIn the water, you will find mammals like the Dugong, which is similar to a manatee, and is the only strictly-marine herbivorous mammal. There is also the Finless Porpoise, which lives in the coastal waters of Asia. Because it has evolved passed fins, it is in optimum physical condition.

In the air, there are over 600 recorded species of Japanese birds. Birds that are endemic include the Japanese woodpecker, the copper pheasant and the green pheasant, which is Japan’s national bird. Green pheasant males display a beautiful color scheme with green feathers on the breast and mantle, as well as some purple on the neck and red on the face. The Okinawa Rail, a medium sized brown bird that is nearly flightless, is endemic to Okinawa Island in subtropical moist forests. Migrant birds are around in the spring and fall in Japan, such as swans, geese and cranes.

Japan has 73 recorded species of reptiles, half being endemic. There is one poisonous snake in the main islands, the mamushi. There are several sea turtles and sea snakes around southern Japan, due to the warmer waters. Japan has about 40 amphibian species, one of which is the Japanese giant salamander, which is almost 5 feet in size! This salamander is nocturnal and aquatic. Click here for an informational video on this crazy creature.

In the water, Japan has many freshwater and saltwater fish breeds. In the freshwater, there are many types of carp. In saltwater, you’ll find many red sea bream and Mudskippers.

In terms of insects, Japan has about 300 different types of butterflies, such as milkweed butterflies. There are 190 dragonflies, as well as species of cicadas, crickets and fireflies. Many people visit Japan to watch the fireflies at night.


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