I saw on the TV news the other day that a near-complete fossilised head of a sea turtle had been discovered in Hyogo. Hoping to find something about it in the English language press I did a web search, but to no avail. I did, however, come across an article from late last year which adds another layer of possibility to the origins of the wani in the tale of The White Hare of Inaba.
Exerpt from The Japan Times
MATSUE, SHIMANE PREF. – Shigenori Kawano, 32, found last summer what was later identified as East Asia’s oldest fossil of a giant alligator, dating from around 20 million years ago, on Oki Island in the Sea of Japan.
In mid-July, the researcher at Shimane Nature Museum of Mount Sanbe found a 30-cm rock on the Shimane Prefecture island’s shore while studying local animal and plant life.
Kawano said that when he saw part of a bone exposed on the surface of the rock, he instantly knew it must be that of a reptile.
“The size was nothing compared with that of a turtle or a soft-shelled turtle,” he said.
After carefully examining the rock, he learned that the bone, which measured 21 by 18 cm, was a fossilized portion of the backbone of an alligator estimated to be up to 7 meters long.