Tag Archives: Japanese rat snake

Roadkill and Roadsigns

27 Jun

Hi blog.

The rainy season is well and truly upon us, with some frightful downpours scattered across the Kanto region.


Just recently, the Sayama zoo had its annual firefly event – the park breeds fireflies in a special enclosure and opens it to the public once a year.  Just ¥500 to get my family that and the night zoo option is pretty good value.

Unfortunately, the delicate nature of fireflies negates any possibility of photography – as do the rules – so you’ll have to take my word for it.

A rare photograph of the event, courtesy of the Sayama City Office Facebook page.


When it’s not raining I still try to commute to work by bike.  Firstly, I’m pretty tight.  Every day I ride, I save myself ¥400.  Secondly, I need the exercise, especially now that my budo activities have been put on hold.  Thirdly, encounters are better made on bike than on a train.


I had yet another encounter with a Japanese rat snake, and decided to get some simple video footage.  You’ll have to excuse the fact that it looks tiny through the phone lens – this particular individual would have been about 120 cm long.

Not all my encounters are in such good condition.  Earlier that same morning I spotted the carcass of an Asian palm civet – probably hit by a vehicle.  And the day before, I stumbled across a mole – an animal rarely seen – in much the same condition.

Warning: some readers my find the following photograph disturbing.

Probably the endemic small Japanese mole.


An idea that came to me during my last post was some of the road signs warning drivers to beware of animals on the road.  There are four main signs, with a few variations…plus a number of regional signs.

Sika deer

Japanese macaque / snow monkey. They’ll steal your car if you’re not careful!

A rather comical (drunk?) raccoon dog.

Hare. “What’s up, doc?”

…plus a number of regional signs.

The Okinawan rail. Okinwawa also has signs warning drivers to look out for the Iriomote cat, newts, turtles and toads. This and the four preceeding signs courtesy of Wikipedia.

These signs have been documented by numerous bloggers in Japaneses (here, here and here, for example) and are worth looking at even if you can’t read the language.

I’ve saved one of my more interesting finds for last.  A page from the Hiroshima City Office notes a sign on route 191 warning drivers to look out for otters – an animal not seen since the early 1970’s and declared extinct in 2012!

From the Hiroshima City Office page. I would be much happier if this sign was actually necessary!


To get to the other side

20 Jun

You don’t see this every day.


No, that’s not a rope suspended between the wall and the utility pole.


I stumbled upon this on June 13th near the border between Saitama and Tokyo.


The snake in question is almost certainly the Japanese rat snake (Elaphe climacophora), locally known as the aodaisho (青大将) “the green (or blue) general”.


This one is a juvenile and still has stripes.


The largest – growing between 100 and 200 cm – and most commonly seen snake in mainland Japan, the Japanese rat snake tends to follow human populations – or rather, follow the rats which follow human populations.  They also prey upon lizards, small birds and will raid nests.


They are excellent climbers, and had I arrived at that spot a minute later, the snake would probably have been at ground level.

Folklore once held that it was lucky to have a snake living in the roof of one’s house.  This was no doubt true in earlier times when the roof was also used as a food storehouse and rat infestation was a very real problem.


Anyway, as summer progresses – we are still in the rainy season and one day away from the solstice – I have no doubt that I’ll see more of these lovely creatures in my travels.  Although I probably won’t ever get a photo opportunity like this again.

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