Animals in Japan: A Guide to Species and Location



Below you can find a complete list of Japanese animals. We currently track 201 animals in Japan and are adding more every day!

For more than a millennium, Japan holds the title of “the land of the rising sun.” This Asian nation consists of large and small islands along the Pacific Rim.

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.

Japanese Wildlife Summary

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 in Japan

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.

Would you like to see bears in Japan? check out the Kuma Bokujo bear park in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido. They reside there year-round.

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.

Birds in Japan

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.

  1. Izu Islands – Izu thrush, Iijima warblers, Japanese pygmy woodpeckers, Izu robins, Eurasian wrens, white thrush, Pacific swifts, white-throated needletails, Japanese white-eyes
  2. Ogasawara Islands – Bonin honeyeaters, brown boobies, wedge-tailed shearwaters, rare Bryan’s shearwaters, red-footed boobies, Arctic Skuas, Lysan albatrosses, Bonin petrels
  3. 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

Fish in Japan

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:

Saltwater

  • 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

Freshwater

  • 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.

Snakes in Japan

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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Endangered Animals in Japan

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.

Japanese Animals

Ainu

An innate sense of direction!

Akita

Very clean, intelligent and loyal!

Ant

First evolved 100 million years ago!

Antelope

Renew their horns every year!

Armyworm

They are so named because they "march" in armies of worms from one crop to another in search of food

Asian Giant Hornet

The largest wasp in the world!

Asiatic Black Bear

Known to eat 160 different tree-borne fruits in Thailand!

Aurochs

Extinct ancestor of all domesticated cattle!

Banana Spider

People spin clothing and fishing nets out of these spiders’ silk.

Barb

There are over 2,000 known species!

Barn Owl

Found everywhere around the world!

Barn Swallow

Older offspring help care for new hatchlings.

Bat

Detects prey using echolocation!

Bear

There are 8 different species!

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs feed for 4-12 minutes.

Bee

Rock paintings of bees date back 15,000 years

Beetle

There are more than 350,000 different species

Bird

Not all birds are able to fly!

Biscuit Beetle

The biscuit beetle form a symbiotic relationship with yeast

Black Widow Spider

They typically prey on insects!

Bumblebee

The most common species of bee!

Butterfly

There are thought to be up 20,000 species!

Camel Cricket

The camel crickets that are found in the USA are light brown in color. They also have dark streaks all over their body.

Carpenter Ant

Carpenter ants can lift up to seven times their own weight with their teeth!

Cat

First domesticated by the Ancient Egyptians!

Caterpillar

The larvae of a moth or butterfly!

Catfish

There are nearly 3,000 different species!

Centipede

There are about 3,000 documented species!

Chicken

First domesticated more than 10,000 years ago!

Chinese Geese

They are excellent “guard geese”

Cockroach

Dated to be around 300 million years old!

Common Buzzard

The most common raptor in the UK!

Common Furniture Beetle

The common furniture beetle feeds exclusively on wood

Common House Spider

House spiders have the ability to eat most insects in a home.

Cow

There are nearly 1.5 million worldwide!

Crab

There are 93 different crab groups

Crab Spider

Crab Spiders can mimic ants or bird droppings

Crane

Many are critically endangered species!

Cricket

Male crickets can produce sounds by rubbing their wings together

Crocodile

Have changed little in 200 million years!

Crow

A group of these birds is called a Murder.

Deer

There are around 40 different species!

Dog

First domesticated in South-East Asia!

Donkey

First domesticated 5,000 years ago!

Dormouse

Found in Europe, Africa and Asia!

Dragonfly

It's larvae are carnivorous!

Duck

Rows of tiny plates line their teeth!

Dung Beetle

The dung beetle can push objects many times its own weight

Eagle

Has exceptional eyesight!

Earthworm

They are hermaphrodites, which means they have male and female organs

Earwig

There are nearly 2,000 different species!

Eel

Eels can be a mere few inches long to 13 feet!

Eurasian Nuthatch

Its song has been compared to a toy horn.

Falcon

The fastest creatures on the planet!

False Widow Spider

False spiders actually prey on black widow spiders and other hazardous spiders

Fiddler Crab

The fiddler crab gets its name from the motion the males make with their over-sized claw during the mating ritual.

Fire-Bellied Toad

Found across mainland Europe and Asia!

Firefly

The firefly produces some of the most efficient light in the world

Flea

Adult fleas can jump up to 7 inches in the air

Fly

There are more than 240,000 different species!

Flying Squirrel

Can glide up to 90 meters!

Fox

There are 12 different species in the world!

Frog

There are around 7,000 different species!

Fruit Fly

Fruit flies are among the most common research animals in the world

Gazelle

Named for the Arabic word for love poems

Gecko

There are thought to be over 2,000 species!

Gerbil

Originally known as the Desert Rat!

Giant Salamander

Cryptobranchus giant salamanders breathe mostly through their skin.

Glass Lizard

Can grow up to 4ft long!

Glow Worm

Found inhabiting dense woodland and caves!

Gnat

Males form large mating swarms at dusk

Goat

Most closely related to the Sheep!

Golden Oriole

Migrates between Europe and Asia!

Goose

There are 29 different species!

Grasshopper

There are 11,000 known species!

Green Bee-Eater

Mainly eats honeybees!

Hamster

Able to run as quickly backwards as forwards!

Hare

Can reach speeds of over 40 mph!

Hedgehog

Thought to be one of the oldest mammals on Earth!

Heron

Inhabits wetlands around the world!

Hokkaido

Known for its bravery and ability to withstand the cold.

Honey Bee

There are only 8 recognized species!

Hoopoe

Stunning bird with a stinky way to deter predators!

Horse

Has evolved over 50 million years!

Horsefly

Horseflies have been seen performing Immelmann turns, much like fighter jets.

Housefly

The fly has no teeth

Human

Thought to have orignated 200,000 years ago!

Huntsman Spider

Some huntsman spiders have an interesting way of moving around. Some cartwheel while others do handsprings or backflips.

Ibis

Found in swamps, marshes and wetlands!

Insects

There are an estimated 30 million species!

Jackdaw

The jackdaw tends to mate for life with a single partner

Japanese Beetle

Can clear an entire fruit tree in 15 minutes in a swarm

Japanese Chin

Alert, intelligent and independent!

Japanese Macaque

Has cheek pouches for storing food!

Japanese Spitz

The Japanese Spitz is sometimes referred to as a cloud dog.

Japanese Squirrel

The Japanese squirrel hoards its food for the winter

Japanese Terrier

Japanese Terriers are also called Nippon Terriers

Joro Spider

Named after a Japanese spider demon

Jumping Spider

Some can jump 50 times the length of their bodies

Kai Ken

Kai Ken are a very rare breed of dog from Japan, though pure breeds are even harder to come by.

Kingfisher

Inhabits wetlands and woodlands worldwide!

Kishu

Once raised to hunt dangerous game like boar, today's kishu ken are more likely to be used as guard dogs.

Koi Fish

In Japanese, the word koi sounds like the word for love. So the fish is a symbol of love among other good things.

Ladybug

There are more than 5,000 species worldwide!

Leech

Has 10 pairs of eyes!

Liger

The offspring of a lion and tiger parents!

Lizard

There are around 5,000 different species!

Locust

Each locust can eat its weight in plants each day.

Long-Eared Owl

Ear tufts make it look bigger!

Long-Tailed Tit

Often hangs upside down while feeding!

Magpie

They are found across Europe, Asia and Africa!

Mallard

With an appropriate tail wind, the mallard can travel hundreds of miles a day

Masked Palm Civet

Found throughout Asia, India and China!

Mayfly

There are 2,500 known species worldwide!

Mealybug

They have a symbiotic relationship with ants.

Millipede

Some species have a poisonous bite!

Mole

Primarily hunts and feeds on Earthworms!

Mole Cricket

Adult Mole crickets may fly as far as 5 miles during mating season and are active most of the year.

Mongoose

Range in size from just 1 to 3 foot!

Mongrel

Has characteristics of two or more breeds!

Monitor Lizard

Some species are thought to carry a weak venom!

Monkey

There are around 260 known species!

Moorhen

Feeds on aquatic insects and water-spiders!

Mosquito

Only the female mosquito actually sucks blood

Moth

There are 250,000 different species!

Mouse

Found on every continent on Earth!

Mule

The offspring of a horse and donkey parents!

Neanderthal

Roamed Asia and Europe for around 100,000 years!

Newt

Able to regrow lost or damaged limbs!

Nightingale

Named more than 1,000 years ago!

No See Ums

There are more than 5,000 species.

Orb Weaver

Females are about four times the size of males

Otter

There are 13 different species worldwide

Parakeet

Monk parakeets are the only parakeets that actually build nests. They’re also the only parakeets to nest in great colonies.

Parrot

Can live for up to 100 years!

Peacock Butterfly

The eyespots on this butterfly’s wings deter predators from attacking.

Peregrine Falcon

Fastest animal on Earth

Pheasant

Females lay between 8 and 12 eggs per clutch!

Pig

Thought to have been domesticated in 9,000 BC!

Pigeon

They can find their way back to their nests from up to 1300 miles away.

Pika

Found in mountainous regions and rocky areas

Pond Skater

There are 500 different species!

Porcupine

There are 30 different species worldwide!

Quail

Inhabits woodland and forest areas worldwide!

Rabbit

There are more than 50 different species!

Raccoon Dog

The only hibernating canine!

Rat

Omnivores that eat anything!

Redback Spider

The redback spiders found in New Caledonia differ from other populations in that they don’t practice sexual cannibalism and don’t bite people as much.

Rhinoceros

It's horns are made from keratin!

River Turtle

Inhabits freshwater habitats around the world!

Robin

There are more than 45 species in Australia alone!

Rodents

The capybara, the world’s largest rodent, likes to be in and around bodies of water. Because of this, the Catholic Church in South America decided that it was a fish, and people were allowed to eat it during Lent and First Fridays.

Rooster

Will mate with the entire flock!

Salamander

There are more than 700 different species!

Sand Crab

The sand crab burrows beneath the sand with its tail

Scorpion

There are around 2,000 known species!

Sea Eagle

The sea eagle tends to mate for life with a single partner

Seahorse

Males give birth to up to 1,000 offspring!

Sheep

Around 35 million in the English countryside!

Shiba Inu

Shiba Inus are one of six native dog breeds from Japan.

Shrew

The spinal column of the shrew Scutisorex somereni is so strong and reinforced that it can support the weight of an adult human.

Shrimp

There are 2,000 different species worldwide!

Skink Lizard

Some skinks lay eggs in some habitats while giving birth to skinklets in other habitats.

Slow Worm

Found widely throughout British gardens!

Slug

They glide around on one foot, which is aided by the slime they produce

Snail

There are nearly 1,000 different species!

Snake

There are around 3,000 known species worldwide

Sparrow

There are 140 different species!

Spider Wasp

They prey on spiders to feed their larvae or they parasitize other spider wasps.

Spotted Lanternfly

The spotted lanternfly is often confused for a moth, but it’s actually a type of planthopper

Squirrel

Small rodents found in woodlands worldwide!

Stick Insect

There are more than 3,000 different species!

Stoat

Average adults weigh about 200 grams!

Swan

Populations have been affected by pollution!

Tarantula Hawk

Tarantula hawks are excellent pollinators, especially for milkweed.

Termite

Their mounds can be up to 9 meters tall!

Thrush

The American robin is called the robin because its red breast reminded European settlers of the robin back in the old country.

Tick

They inject hosts with a chemical that stops them from feeling the pain of the bite

Tiger Beetle

The adult tiger beetle is one of the fastest land insects in the world

Tortoise

Can live until they are more than 150 years old!

Tree Frog

Found in warmer jungles and forests!

Turtles

Some species of aquatic turtles can get up to 70 percent of their oxygen through their butt.

Uguisu

Their guano is used in face creams!

Vinegaroon

Vinegaroons can spray 19 times before the glands are depleted

Vulture

There are 30 different species worldwide!

Wasp

There are around 75,000 recognised species!

Water Buffalo

Has been domesticated for thousands of years!

Water Dragon

Spends most of it's time in the trees!

Weasel

The smallest carnivorous mammal in the world!

White-Tailed Eagle

It is one of the biggest birds of prey.

White Tiger

None have been seen in the wild for 50 years!

Wild Boar

Males have a top tusk to sharpen the bottom one!

Wolf

Thought to date back more than 300,000 years!

Wolf Spider

Carnivorous arachnid that hunts its prey.

Wood Turtle

Temperature determines the sex of turtle eggs

Woodlouse

This animal can roll up into a ball

Woodlouse Spider

Unlike most spiders, woodlouse spiders don’t build a web.

Woodpecker

There are 200 different species!

Worm

Doesn’t have eyes.

Zebu

There are around 75 different species!

Japanese Animals List

Animals in Japan: A Guide to Species and Location 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.