Zoology. Japan is distinguished by the possession of some types elsewhere extinct—for example, the giant salamander and also as being the most northerly country inhabited by the monkey, which here ranges as high as the 41st degree of latitude, in places where the snow often drifts to a depth of fifteen or twenty feet. But in its main features the Japanese fauna resembles that of North China, Korea, and Manchuria,—one indication among many of the direction in which the ancient land connection of Japan with the Asiatic continent must be sought. The Japanese fauna, both terrestrial and marine, is unusually rich. Take a single instance:—there are already 137 species of butterflies known, as against some 60 in Great Britain, and over 4,000 species of moths, as against some 2,000 in Great Britain.
The chief mammals are the monkey (Inuus speciosus Tem.), ten species of bats, six species of insectivorous animals, three species of bears, the badger, the marten, the mink (itachi), the wolf, the fox, two species of squirrel, the rat, the hare, the wild-boar, the otter, a species of stag, and a species of antelope. Most of our domestic animals are also met with, but not the ass, the sheep, or the goat. Other missing animals are the wild cat and the hedgehog. No less than 359 species of birds have been enumerated. We can only here call attention to the uguisu (Cellia cantans T. and Schl.)—a nightingale having a different note from ours—to the handsome copper pheasant, to the long-tailed fowls (see Article so entitled), and to the cranes and herons so beloved by the artists of Japan.
Of reptiles and batrachians there are but 30 species. Of these, the already mentioned giant salamander is by far the most remarkable, some specimens attaining to a length of over 5 ft., and a weight of over 14 lbs. There are also some large, but harmless, snakes. The only poisonous snake is a small species of adder (Trigonocephalus Blomhoffi), known to the Japanese under the name of mamushi. The country folk look on its boiled flesh as a specific for most diseases. The peasants of certain thickly wooded districts also harbour an inveterate belief in the existence of a kind of boa, which they call uwabami and circumstantial accounts of the swallowing alive of some child or woman by one of these monsters appear from time to time in the vernacular press. Zoologists, however, have not yet given the Japanese boa official permission to exist. Another creature undoubtedly mythical is the bushy-tailed tortoise so often depicted in Japanese art. The idea of it was probably suggested by nothing more recondite than the straggling water-weeds that sometimes adhere to the hinder parts of a real tortoise's body.
With regard to fish, Dr. Rein remarks that the Chinese and Japanese waters appear to be richer than any other part of the ocean. The mackerel family (Scomberoidæ), more particularly, is represented in great force, the 40 species into which it is divided constituting an important element of the food of the people. But the fish which is esteemed the greatest delicacy is the tat, a kind of gold-bream. The gold-fish, the salmon, the eel, the shark, and many others would call for mention, had we space to devote to them. Altogether, the number of species of fish inhabiting or visiting Japan cannot fall far short of 400.
Insects are extremely numerous, but, excepting the beetles, moths, and butterflies, are not yet even fairly well-known, so that a rich harvest here awaits some future naturalist. There are two silk-producing moths, the Bombyx mori and the Antheræa yamamai. Of dragon-flies the species are numerous and beautiful. There are but few venomous insects. The gadfly torments the traveller only in Yezo and in the northern half of the Main Island; the house-fly is a much less common plague than in Europe, except in the silk districts, and the bed-bug is entirely absent. On the other hand, the mosquito is a nightly plague during half the year in all places lying at an altitude of less than 1,500 feet above the sea, and in many even exceeding that height; the buyu—diminutive kind of gnat—infests many mountainous districts during the summer months, and the flea is unpleasantly common in summer.
The chief Crustacea are fresh-water and salt-water crabs, together with crayfishes, which here replace the lobsters of Europe and are often erroneously termed lobsters by the foreign residents. One species of crab (the Macrocheirus Kæmpferi Sbd.) is so gigantic that human beings have been killed and devoured by it. Its legs are over a yard and a half in length. There is another species—a tiny, but ill-favoured one—which is the object of a singular superstition. The common folk call it Heike-gani, that is, the Heike crab. They believe these creatures to be the wraiths of the Heike or Taira partisans, whose fleet was annihilated at the battle of Dan-no-ura in A.D. 1185.
Of molluscs, nearly 1,200 species have been described by Dunker, the best authority on the subject; and his enumeration is stated by Dr. Rein to be far from exhaustive. Of sea-urchins 26 species are known, and of starfishes 12 species. The coral tribe is well represented, though not by the reef-forming species of warmer latitudes. There are also various kinds of sponges. Indeed, one of the most curious and beautiful of all the many curious and beautiful things in Japan is the Glass Rope Sponge (Hyalonema Sieboldi), whose silken coils adorn the shell-shops at Enoshima.
The rapid extinction of many living creatures in Japan is scarcely less matter for regret than the cutting down of the forests to furnish railway sleepers and materials for the manufacture of paper. The deer have been practically exterminated since the present writer came to live in the country, and so have the herons. As for the cranes, they seem to have been all either killed or frightened away during the late sixties, when they ceased to be preserved as a royal bird. The pheasants have sadly diminished in number, owing to wholesale slaughter with the object of exporting their feathers to grace ladies' bonnets in foreign lands; and various species of small birds are now sharing the same fate, as many as a hundred thousand at a time being, it is said, shipped off that the tiny feathers may be dyed various colours and set to various uses in female adornment or art manufacture. Such are some of the drawbacks of foreign intercourse and of cheap and rapid transport. Europeanisation is not all gain. The European tourist seeks distant lands with intent to admire nature and art. But nature is laid waste for his sake or for the sake of his friends at home, while art is degraded and ultimately destroyed by the mere fact of contact with alien influences.
Books recommended. The above Article is founded chiefly on Rein's Japan, p. 157 et seq. Rein's treatment of the fishes is specially full, but a good résumé of the other classes is given, together with references to the chief authorities on each.—See also Blakiston and Pryer's Catalogue of the Birds of Japan, printed in Vol. X. Part I. of the "Asiatic Transactions;" Pryer's Catalogue of the Lepidoptera of Japan, in Vol. XI. Part II. and Vol. XII. Part II. of the same, with Additions and Corrections in Vol. XIII. Part I.; also the same author's Rhopalocera Nihonica and J. H. Leech's Butterflies from Japan. Both these are beautifully illustrated.