Home Podcasts Ichimon Japan What is a tsuchinoko? (All About Japan’s Most Famous Cryptid) | Ichimon Japan 26

What is a tsuchinoko? (All About Japan’s Most Famous Cryptid) | Ichimon Japan 26

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Today’s Question

On this episode of Ichimon Japan we ask: What is a tsuchinoko?

Topics Discussed

  • What a tsuchinoko is
  • How you say “cryptid” in Japanese
  • Tsuchinoko’s status as a U.M.A. (Unidentified Mysterious Animal)
  • What a tsuchinoko looks like
  • Some of the abilities tsuchinoko are said to have
  • The areas in Japan where tsuchinoko tend to live
  • The sounds tsuchinoko are said to make
  • The prevalence of tsuchinoko in the Kinki area
  • The typical colors tsuchinoko are reported to be
  • The many names used to refer to tsuchinokos
  • What tsuchinoko literally translates to and how it is written
  • The tsuchinoko’s resemblance to a hammer
  • The mythological creature kirin
  • The oldest records found in Japan that depict something resembling a tsuchinoko
  • The possible links between tsuchinoko and Japanese mythology
  • The goddess Kayanohime
  • Nodzuchi (野槌)
  • The tsuchinoko’s rise to promnence in the second half of the 20th century
  • Soseki Yamamoto, the man who is responsible for kicking off the “Tsuchinoko Boom” of the ’70s and ’80s
  • Soseki Yamamoto’s journey to document the tsuchinoko
  • Soseki Yamamoto’s disillusionment with witht he tsuchinoko craze
  • The town of Mikata in Hyogo Prefecuture’s claim that they possessed a tsuchinoko
  • Tsuchinoko bounties
  • The tsuchinoko’s connection to yokai
  • Some of the many video games in which tsuchinoko appear
  • The tsuchinoko shrine in Gifu Prefecture
  • Tsuchinoko as a revered creature of the gods
  • Tsuchinoko as a PR gimmick/cute mascot character
  • Real animals that people may have seen and assumed were tsuchinoko
  • The possibility that blue-tongued skinks are responsible for tsuchinoko sightings
  • The yamanamekuji’s resemblance to the typical tsuchinoko
  • The tiger keelback’s (yamakagashi) and its possible resemblance to tsuchinoko
  • The story of a World War II soldier that thought he had caught a tsuchinoko
  • And much more!

Note: Whether a tsuchinoko is classified as a yōkai or not depends on who you ask. While it certainly can be classified as such, it is also commonly referred to as as a cryptid (UMA, mikakunin dōbutsu). This peculiarity raises an interesting question: can a creature be both a cryptid and a yōkai? The answer to that question is probably: it depends who you ask.

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Sources, Links, Videos, Etc.

Here are some of the English-language articles that were used during the research for this episode.

These are some of the Japanese-language articles used as sorces for this episode.

Here is the Japanese documentary about the tsuchinoko that was mentioned several times during this episode. Again, it is an episode of a Japanese televisions show and so it is completely in Japanese.

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Japanese Vocabulary List

Most episodes feature at least one or two interesting Japanese words or phrases. Here’s some of the ones that came up on this episode. All information is from Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC.

  • Tsuchinoko
    • ツチノコ : 槌の子 【つちのこ; ツチノコ】 (n) mythical snake-like creature; tsuchinoko
  • Kirin
    • キリン : 麒麟(P); 騏驎 【きりん(P); キリン】 (n) (1) (uk) giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis); (n) (2) qilin (Chinese unicorn); (n) (3) (麒麟 only) Kirin (brand of beer); (n) (4) (騏驎 only) (arch) horse that can ride 1000 ri in a day

We Want Your Questions

Is there something about Japan that confuses you? Is there something about Japanese culture that you would like to learn more about? Is there something in Japanese history that you would like us to explain? We’re always looking for new questions about Japan to answer, so if you have one, please send it to ichimon@japankyo.com.

Special Thanks

Opening/Closing Theme: Produced by Apol (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Fiverr)

Ichimon Japan cover art: Produced by Erik R.

Original artwork in featured image: A tsuchinoko illustrated by Miko A.

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Full Show Notes


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