Japanese Snake: What Snakes Live in Japan?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: March 24, 2022
Image Credit Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com
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Think You Know Snakes?

Japan is a beautiful and diverse place filled with some of the most amazing animals! As an island chain separated from continental Asia, Japan’s wildlife has had plenty of time to develop some truly unique traits. When most people think of Japan, however, they don’t really consider the possibility that snakes could live among the islands. Today, we are going to take a look at Japan and learn if there are snakes slithering around the Empire of the Rising Sun. Let’s get started!

Do Snakes Live In Japan?

Yes, snakes live in almost every ecological habitat in Japan. Whether it’s a city park or a rural field, you can be sure that there are slithering serpents somewhere nearby. Overall, there are 47 different snake species, and four of them are seriously dangerous.

There are eight regions of Japan, including Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kinki, Chugoku, Shikoku, and Kyushu. There are an incredible variety of snakes within these regions, all with their ecological niche. For example, there is an entirely albino population of rat snakes that live in the Chugoku region in the Yamaguchi prefecture.

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Let’s learn about some of the most common snakes across the country, plus see a list of the rest.

The Most Common Snakes In Japan

Japanese Rat Snake

Japanese rat snake
Japanese rat snakes are one of the most common snakes in Japan.

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Japanese rat snakes are one of the most common snakes in Japan and can be found through most of the Japanese archipelago. They are 3-7 feet long and are generally regarded as the largest snake species outside of Okinawa. Japanese rat snakes can be yellow-green or blue-green and have a brown-stripe pattern that mimics the venomous mamushi snake.

These snakes are nonvenomous and totally harmless to humans.

Japanese Striped Snake

Japanese striped snake
The Japanese striped snake has four lines that run down its back from head to tail.

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Japanese striped snakes (often called four-lined snakes) are another common species of snake native to Japan. They can be found all over Japan except for the Ryukyu Islands. These snakes are generally yellow or light brown and have four stripes running from their head to their tail. A rarer all-black morph exists, and these are referred to as “crow” snakes.

These snakes are nonvenomous and harmless to humans.

Jimguri

The name “jumguri” translates to “the burrower.”

Jimguri snakes (sometimes called burrowing rat snakes) are a common species of snake native to all four main islands of Japan, plus a few smaller islands on the fringes. They are natural burrowers but can be found on the surface during dusk and dawn. Their primary habitat is in the forest, and they are often referred to as Japanese forest snakes. They are reddish-brown and have small black splotches across their bodies ringed in yellow or white.

These snakes are nonvenomous and harmless to humans.

Yamakagashi

yamakagashi
The yamakagashi is one of the most venomous snakes in Japan.

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The yamakagashi goes by many names, including the tiger keelback and the kkotbaem. These snakes can be found across much of mainland Japan and the Ryukyu Islands. They are dark brown or olive snakes with orange spots along the first third of their body. Their bellies are usually white or cream.

Yamakagashi are venomous snakes that get their venom from their diets of poisonous frogs. After eating poisonous toads, these snakes store the toxins in special glands near the back of their mouth and use them for defense against predators.

Japanese Keelback

Japanese Keelback
Japanese keelbacks are small snakes found near waterfronts and flat mountainous forests.

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Japanese keelbacks are small snakes that can be found near waterfronts and mountain forests. They are usually light brown or brown and often have yellow patches along the tips of their nose, lips, and neck. Since they are so small (40cm to 65cm), their diets mainly consist of small frogs and earthworms.

The Japanese keelback is nonvenomous and harmless to humans.

Mamushi

mamushi
Mamushi are the most dangerous snakes in the entire country.

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The mamushi goes by many names, including the Japanese moccasin, Japanese pit viper, Quichun snake, Salmusa, and Japanese mamushi. These snakes can be found all across Japan, although there is some debate as to whether they are currently found on the Ryukyu Islands. They are pale gray, reddish-brown, or yellow-brown with irregular splotches and evenly spaced banding down their backs. Their heads are generally dark brown with darker eyes and distinct pits, marking them as pit vipers.

Mamushi are the most dangerous snakes in Japan and bite 2,000-4,000 people a year. The recovery time is usually a week of intensive hospital care, but only ten people die a year with proper treatment.

A Complete List Of The Snakes In Japan

  • Calamaria pavimentata – Colallared reed snake
  • Calamaria pfefferi – Pfeiffer’s reed snake
  • Elaphe taeniura – Beauty rat snake
  • Elaphe quadrivirgata – Japanese four-lined rat snake
  • Elaphe climacophora – Japanese rat snake
  • Elaphe carinata – King rat snake
  • Euprepiophis conspicillata – Japanese woodsnake
  • Lycodon semicarinatus – Ryukyu odd-tooth snake
  • Lycodon orientalis – Oriental odd-tooth snake
  • Lycodon rufozonatus – Red-banded snake
  • Lycodon ruhstrati – Ruhstrat’s wolf snake
  • Lycodon multifasciatus
  • Ptyas semicarinatus – Ryukyu green snake
  • Ptyas herminae – Sakishima green snake
  • Rhabdophis tigrinus – Tiger keelback
  • Emydocephalus ijimae – Ijima’s sea snake
  • Hydrophis cyanocinctusAnnulated sea snake
  • Hydrophis melanocephalusBlack-headed sea snake
  • Hydrophis ornatusOrnate reef sea snake
  • Hydrophis curtusShort sea snake
  • Hydrophis stokesiiStokes’s sea snake
  • Hydrophis viperinusViperine sea snake
  • Hydrophis platurusYellow-bellied sea snake
  • Laticauda laticaudataBlue-banded sea krait
  • Laticauda semifasciataBlack-banded sea krait
  • Laticauda colubrinaColubrine sea krait
  • Sinomicrurus japonicus – Japanese coral snake
  • Sinomicrurus macclellandiMacClelland’s coral snake
  • Hebius vibakariHebius vibakari
  • Hebius pryeri – Pryer’s keelback
  • Hebius ishigakiense – Yaeyama keelback
  • Hebius concelarumMiyako keelback
  • Opisthotropis kikuzatoiKikuzato’s brook snake
  • Pareas iwasakiiIwasaki’s snail-eater
  • Indotyphlops braminus – Brahminy blind snake
  • Gloydius blomhoffiiMamushi
  • Gloydius tsushimaensisTsushima Island pitviper
  • Ovophis okinavensisRyukyu island pitviper
  • Protobothrops elegansSakishima habu
  • Protobothrops flavoviridisHabu
  • Protobothrops mucrosquamatusPointed-scaled pitviper
  • Protobothrops tokarensisTokara habu
  • Achalinus werneriAmami odd-scaled snake
  • Achalinus formosanusFormosan odd-scaled snake
  • Achalinus spinalisJapanese odd-scaled snake

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About the Author

Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he isn't distracted by his backyard birdfeeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him about what he's recently learned. There's a whole world to learn about and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much as he can about it!

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