Below you can find a complete list of Japanese animals. We currently track 233 animals in Japan and are adding more every day!
Japan is home to fascinating creatures, some of which inspired the mythology and legends of the land. Keep reading to learn more about Japan’s rare and unique animals.
Japan’s islands cover a wide variety of habitats and climate zones. In fact, Japan’s southernmost islands, including Okinawa, have a hot, humid, subtropical climate, while the northernmost island of Hokkaido has long, cold winters and cool summers.
This means that the country’s unique types of animals also varies greatly. There are large mammals such as bears, unique seagoing mammals like the dugong, and a few rare and amazing animals you may have never hear of – raccoon dogs, giant salamanders, cute snow monkeys, and island wildcats.
The Official National Animal of Japan
Uncommonly, Japan does not have a set national animal. However, the national bird is the Japanese pheasant or green pheasant (Phasianus versicolor). The national fish of the country is the koi fish, a multicoloured variety of the Amur carp.
Where To Find The Top Wild Animals
Snow monkeys are one of the most popular native animals of Japan to see during your visit. Their main habitat is at Jigokudani Yaen Kōen snow monkey park in Nagano Prefecture. The best time to see them is during the winter, December through March when snow is on the ground.
Scuba diving and snorkeling are popular activities in the warm southern waters. You may see tropical fish or even some of Japan’s aquatic mammals.
Out of the 723 bird species living in Japan, around 17 are endemic and 30 are introduced. The country has multiple spots that are highly prized for avian species found in the unique habitats. Migratory birds also make their way across the country’s diverse landscapes.
One of the most valued birds in Japan, the red-crowned crane, appears in various forms of art and advertising throughout the country. However, the populations of this crane dwindled to the point of almost extinction as a result of overhunting. Over the past couple of decades, after heavy conservation efforts, number are climbing again and the majority of these majestic birds remain in Hokkaido, along with around 300 other species of bird.
Once extinct in Japan, the Oriental stork was reintroduced to Toyooka and populations now reach only about 170 birds. Along with these mentioned endangered birds, countless other avian species endemic to Japan are also facing threats of extinction. There are three main Endemic Bird Areas designated to conserving these species.
- Izu Islands – Izu thrush, Iijima warblers, Japanese pygmy woodpeckers, Izu robins, Eurasian wrens, white thrush, Pacific swifts, white-throated needletails, Japanese white-eyes
- Ogasawara Islands – Bonin honeyeaters, brown boobies, wedge-tailed shearwaters, rare Bryan’s shearwaters, red-footed boobies, Arctic Skuas, Lysan albatrosses, Bonin petrels
- Nansei Islands – Cinnamon bittern, Amami woodcock, rare Pryer’s woodpecker
Additionally, many extraordinary avifauna can be seen flying over the mainland of Japan and in urban areas. Some common birds to see include:
- Warbling white-eye
- Mandarin duck
- Falcated duck
- Black kite
- Fairy pitta
For centuries, Japan has maintained a booming fishing industry. Seafood is a large part of the Japanese diet – seen in the nation’s favourite dish of sushi and in many other seafood recipes. As important as it is in cuisine, fishing in Japan is also a serious hobby and sport, with multitudes of sites to reel in incredible fish. Some restaurants in Japan even provide “urban fishing,” an immersive experience of catching the fish to be cooked without having to go out on the water. Patrons can catch the fish right in the restaurants! Along with the urban experience, the real deal is not hard to come by. Below are popular species to fish for and where to find them:
- Suzuki (sea bass) – Tokyo Bay during fall
- Tuna (yellowfin, skipjack, bluefin) – Tokyo Bay during fall, Hachijō-jima
- Mahi Mahi – Hachijō-jima
- Giant Trevally – Hachijō-jima
- Largemouth bass – Lake Kawaguchiko, Katsura, Sagami
- Rainbow trout – Lake Kawaguchiko, Katsura, Sagami
- Char – Katsura, Sagami
- Japanese trout – Katsura, Sagami
- King Salmon – Lake Kasumigaura
- Smelt – Hokkaido year-round
Along with classic-style angling known worldwide, Japan is known for some unique forms of fishing, such as the fly fishing technique of “tenkara.” Additionally, fishermen of Gifu Prefecture’s Nagara River actually utilise trained cormorant birds to retrieve fish for them. Whether visitors are looking for an afternoon on the water, ice fishing, or spectacular methods of fishing unknown to other parts of the world, Japan has it all.
Built on irrigated rice paddies, Japanese civilization relies heavily on water and depends on strong water sources for farming and maintaining livelihoods. These water sources are thought to be protected bu Suijin, water deities, that are represented mainly as snakes. Many types of snakes exists in Japanese waterways, forests, and other landscapes. The most commonly found snakes are rat snakes which are namely large and nonvenomous. About 6 of these species are native to Japan. Farmers have historically relied on these snakes to control vermin populations throughout farms and households, preventing destruction of crops. Out of the many species of snakes found in the country, only 3 are venomous: the Japanese keelpack, the “Habu,” and the “Mamushi.” Below are facts regarding each of these species:
- Keelpack – The keelpack is known for its two venoms: one used to subdue its victim, the second used to deter predators.
- Habu – The Habu, while a venomous pit viper, is not known for being fatal. Most injuries caused by bites result in swelling and irritated limbs.
- Mamushi – The Mamushi pit viper is the most dangerous snake in Japan. Venom from this snake causes tissue to actually liquify. However, these snakes are shy and generally tend to avoid human contact.
When bitten by a snake, it is always important to seek medical attention, whether the snake is venomous or not, as unknown allergies or irritations may arise.
The Most Dangerous Animals in Japan Today
You should always give wildlife plenty of space. Japan is home to some threatening animals, such as Asian black bears and brown bears. The wild boar will also bite and pursue threats. If you see these animals in the wild, keep a safe distance.
A number of venomous snakes live in this country. These include the Japanese pit viper or Mamushi and the Okinawan habu. Bites from giant centipedes and redback spiders, as well as giant hornet stings, can be dangerous and may require medical attention.
Zoos in Japan
Along with its incredible biodiversity and variety of landscapes unique to the country, Japan also accommodates animals from around the world in its 89 zoos. Out of these zoos, there are several favourites, recognised for their immersive experiences and distinctive exhibits. Listed below are a few examples of the top zoos in Japan.
- Wakayama Adventure World (Wakayama) – A “mega-park” including a safari park, amusement park, and even an aquarium, this zoo is a must-visit. Species range from giraffes to bottlenose dolphins to giant pandas. The safari allows visitors a realistic view into natural habitats and behavior while kids can also enjoy a ride on a rollercoaster or a horse!
- Asahiyama (Hokkaido) – Known for its orangutan trapeze, penguin aquarium, and free-fly bird enclosure, this zoo is the second-most visited in Japan as well as the northernmost. Wildlife native to the area also roam exhibits in the zoo, such as deer, eagles, and cranes.
- African Safari (Oita) – Accessible by tourbus or personal vehicle, visitors are able to see animals roaming in exhibits resembling their natural habitats. Visitors may also be able to feed certain animals, following strict guidelines and rules. Lions, giraffes, cheetahs, and elephants reside in this African-esque establishment.
- Tama Zoological Park (Tokyo) – In 1958 this zoo was originally established to represent animals in a more natural habitat as part of the Ueno Zoo. The zoo is divided into three gardens – Asia, Australia, and Africa – all displaying animals native to these areas. An insectarium also draws visitors into its exquisite butterfly house.
- Tobe Zoological Park (Ehime) – Best know for “Peace,” the polar bear born and raised at the zoo, this park is home to about 765 animals of 150 various species. Hippos, tigers, and monkeys are also popular attractions, along with the restaurant overlooking elephants in their habitat.
Japan is home to a number of rare species endangered or becoming extinct. These include native animals of Japan, like the Japanese short-tailed bat, Southeast Asian long-fingered bat, Bonin flying fox, Amami rabbit, Tokunoshima and Ryuku spiny rats, Ryukus Islands tree rat, Etigo mole, Orii’s shrew, Izu tit, Okinawa rail, Yanbaru long-armed scarab beetle, sword-tailed newt, Anderson’s crocodile newt, Ryuku leaf turtle, Sakishima grass lizard, banded ground gecko, Hakuba and Oita salamanders, Holst’s frog, greater and Okinawa tip-nosed frogs, and the Amami Oshima frog.
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Japanese Animals List
- Alaskan Pollock
- Asian Cockroach
- Asian Giant Hornet
- Asiatic Black Bear
- Banana Spider
- Barn Owl
- Barn Swallow
- Beauty rat snake
- Bed Bugs
- Biscuit Beetle
- Black Widow Spider
- Brown Dog Tick
- Camel Cricket
- Carpenter Ant
- Chinese Geese
- Codling Moth
- Common Buzzard
- Common Furniture Beetle
- Common House Spider
- Coral Snake
- Crab Spider
- Crucian Carp
- Dog Tick
- Dung Beetle
- Eurasian Jay
- Eurasian Lynx
- Eurasian Nuthatch
- False Widow Spider
- Fiddler Crab
- Fire-Bellied Toad
- Flying Squirrel
- Freshwater Eel
- Fruit Fly
- German Cockroach
- Giant Salamander
- Glass Lizard
- Glow Worm
- Golden Oriole
- Green Bee-Eater
- Habu Snake
- Hawk Moth Caterpillar
- Honey Bee
- Honey Buzzard
- Huntsman Spider
- Japanese Beetle
- Japanese Chin
- Japanese Macaque
- Japanese rat snake
- Japanese Spitz
- Japanese Squirrel
- Japanese Terrier
- Joro Spider
- Jumping Spider
- Kai Ken
- King Rat Snake
- Koi Fish
- Long-Eared Owl
- Long-Tailed Tit
- Mamushi Snake
- Masked Palm Civet
- Mole Cricket
- Monitor Lizard
- Neptune Grouper
- Night Heron
- No See Ums
- Orb Weaver
- Peacock Butterfly
- Peregrine Falcon
- Pond Skater
- Raccoon Dog
- Rat Snakes
- Red-Eared Slider
- Redback Spider
- Ribbon Eel
- River Turtle
- Sable Ferret
- Sand Crab
- Sea Eagle
- Shiba Inu
- Skink Lizard
- Slow Worm
- Smokybrown Cockroach
- Spider Wasp
- Spotted Lanternfly
- Stick Insect
- Tarantula Hawk
- Tiger Beetle
- Tree Frog
- Ural owl
- Water Buffalo
- Water Dragon
- White Ferret / Albino Ferrets
- White-Tailed Eagle
- White Tiger
- Wild Boar
- Wolf Spider
- Wood Turtle
- Woodlouse Spider
Japan FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What Is Japan's Most Famous Animal?
It could be argued that Japan’s most famous animals are those of mythology. The Japanese dragon has a serpentine shape, likely based on sea snakes. Other myths speak of fox spirits that can transform into humans.
Many of these animal spirits are reflected in anime and other media. For example, the cute characters of the Pokémon franchise, such as Pikachu, could be said to be Japan’s most famous animals. Some of these creatures, like Ninetails, are based on animals of myth, which are in turn based on real animals. Others were derived directly from childhood experiences catching bugs in Japan. All embody the cute ideals of kawaii art.
What Kinds of Animals Live in Japan?
Japan is home to about 130 mammal species. The largest are the Ussuri brown bear (Ursus arctos) and the Asian black bear (U. thibetanus).
The Japanese macaque lives farther north than any other monkey in the world. It is often referred to as a snow monkey, famous for bathing in natural hot springs to stay warm during winter snows.
Japan is also home to a few very unique small to medium-sized mammals. One is the raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides). It is a canine, related to the fox, but its markings resemble those of the North American raccoon. There are also two wildcats, the leopard cat and the Iriomote cat. Each of these housecat-sized wildcats lives only on a single island.
Other familiar mammals include the red fox, the Japanese marten, sika and Japanese serow deer, and wild boar. Unique ocean-dwelling mammals include the Steller’s sea lion, dugong, and finless porpoise.
Over 600 species of bird have been seen in Japan. These include red-crowned cranes, Japanese woodpeckers, copper pheasants, green pheasants, the Okinawa rail, the Izu thrush, and the Bonin white-eye. Like the wildcats, some of these birds are endemic to only a single island or a few small islands.
There are about 73 species of reptiles and 40 amphibians in Japan. The Japanese giant salamander is one of the largest amphibians in the world. Sea turtles and sea snakes may be seen in coastal waters. The tropical islands are home to several species of viper, and non-venomous snakes, lizards, and freshwater turtles are found throughout Japan. The Chinese alligator has been spotted in Japan, and fossil evidence has been found of an extinct crocodilian called Toyotamaphimeia machikanensis.
More than 3,000 types of freshwater and saltwater fish have been observed in Japan.
What is Japan's Animal Symbol?
The snow monkey or Japanese macaque is Japan’s national animal.
But many people also see the animals of the zodiac as symbols of Japan. The zodiac includes twelve animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar.