Animal of Japan

Brief Overview of Animals in Japan

Japanese cranes

Japan's Distinct Natural Environment Fosters Unique Biodiversity
Japanese archipelago is consist of four main islands (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyusyu) and more than 6,000 small islands. Japan is located at the intersection of three of the Earth's tectonic plates, and the slippage of these plates generates forces that result in numerous volcanoes, hot springs, mountains and earthquakes.

Japan stretches from the humid subtropics in the south to a temperate zone in the north. This latitudinal range, and the country's mountainous terrain (about 73 percent of Japan is mountainous) contribute to Japan's widely varying climate. While the central mountain area of Honshu is one of the snowiest regions on Earth, the Pacific side of Japan is remarkably dry. Yaku-shima, just south of the southern tip of Kyushu, is one of the wettest places on Earth, with annual rainfall of over 5,000 millimeters in some places.

Japan's vegetation ranges from boreal mixed forests of Abies (fir), Picea (spruce) and Pinus (pines) on Hokkaido (and at high elevations in Honshu and Shikoku) to subtropical broadleaf evergreen forests and mangrove swamps in the south. High elevations on Honshu and Shikoku support alpine vegetation, while subalpine vegetation and natural beech forests are distributed throughout the region. The subtropical island chains in the south of Japan support a flora and fauna different from that of the main islands and hold many endemic species.

Biodiversity of 279 Endemic Species out of 50,000 Animals in Japan
Japan’s wide range of climatic zones and distinctive volcanic islands results in a high diversity of unique wildlife of Japan. In the north of the country, there are many subarctic species which have colonized Japan from the north. In the south there are south-east Asian species, typical of tropical regions. Between these areas lies the temperate zone which shares many species with Asian continent. This unique biodiversity environment produced Japan’s some of the most diversified biogeocenosis in the world. Out of 50,000 animal species in Japan, 279 are the endemic species. This is very large number compare to such as the U.K., same island nation, which has 0 endemic species.

Snow monkeys in a hot spring
Snow monkeys in a hot spring
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Documentary of Wildlife in Japan (45:01)

Representative Japanese Animals


Japan is home to only around 90 species of mammals, but about half of these are endemic, which means that you can find them only in Japan. Sado Island, an island less than 1,000 km2 off western Honshu, has two endemic mammals, the Sado shrew (Sorex sadonis) and the Sado mole (Mogera tokudae). There are also six endemic genera of mammals, including three that are monotypic: the Amami rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi), found in the Amami-shoto in the Nansei-shoto, the Japanese dormouse (Glirulus japonicus, EN), found on Honshu and Shikoku, and the Ryukyu long-tailed giant rat (Kiplothrix legatus), restricted to the Ryukyu Islands and the Yanbaru Forest on Okinawa. The Amami rabbit suffered a dramatic decline in the early twentieth century, subsequent to which it was declared a national monument and given complete legal protection, although sadly this protection did not extend to protection of its habitat. Habitat fragmentation and introduced mongooses threaten the rabbit’s survival, and only about 2,500 individuals remain.

One of the best-known mammals in Japan is the Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata), the most northerly-living monkey in the world, found on Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and a few other small islands. These are the famous “snow monkeys” that can be seen playing in the winter snow and warming up in volcanic springs. Another endemic macaque species, the Yaku-shima macaque (M. yakui) is found only on the island of Yaku-shima. The Iriomote cat (Prionailurus iriomotensis), restricted to Iriomote-jima, was first described in 1967. There are no more than perhaps 100 individuals left on Iriomote-jima.

* is a sign of endemic species of Japan

Japanese Macaque (Snow Monkey) *

Snow Monkey

Yakushima Macaque *

Yakushima Macaque

Japanese Hare *

Japanese Hare

Japanese Snow Hare

Japanese Snow Hare

Amami Rabbit *

Amami Rabbit

Japanese Squirrel *

Japanese Squirrel

Hokkaido Flying Squirrel *

Japanese Flying Squirrel

Japanese Dwarf Flying Squirrel *

Japanese Dwarf Flying Squirrel

Japanese Giant Flying Squirrel *

Japanese Giant Flying Squirrel

Japanese Dormouse *

Japanese dormouse

Ryukyu Long-tailed Giant Rat *

Ryukyu Long-tailed Giant Rat

Small Japanese Field Mouse *

small Japanese field mouse

Brown Bear

Black Grizzly

Moon Bear

Moon Bear

Japanese Racoon Dog

Japanese Racoon Dog

Japanese Red Fox

Japanese Red Fox

Hokkaido Red Fox

Hokkaido Red Fox

Japanese Marten *

Japanese Marten

Hokkaido Marten *

Hokkaido Marten

Japanese Weasel

Japanese Weasel

Japanese Stoat

Japanese Stoat

Japanese Badger

Japanese badger

Japanese Sea Otter

Sea Otter

Iriomote Cat *

Iriomote Cat

Tsushima Cat *

Japanese badger

Misaki Horse

Misaki Horse

Japanese Boar

Japanese boar

Hokkaido Deer *

Hokkaido Deer

Japanese Deer *

Japanese Deer

Japanese Mountain Mole *

Japanese Mountain Mole

Japanese Serow *

Japanese Serow

Ryukyu-Fruit Bat *

Ryukyu Fruit Bat

Bonin-Fruit Bat *

Bonin Fruit Bat

Steller Sea Lion

Steller Sea Lion

Fur Seal

Fur seal





Killer Whale

Killer Whale





Finless Porpoise

Finless Porpoise


Nearly 370 bird species are known to occur regularly in Japan, and 13 are endemic species. The Okinawa woodpecker (Sapheopipo noguchii) is the only representative of an endemic genus as is the Bonin white-eye (Apalopteron familiare). Found in the Yanbaru Forest in the northern quarter of Okinawa Island, the Okinawa woodpecker was close to extinction in the 1930s, but has recovered to a population of about 146 to 584 birds. Another well-known endemic birds is the Okinawa rail (Gallirallus okinawae), which is also confined to Yanbaru. It is thought that only about 900 pairs of this bird survive in the wild. It is still threatened due to logging and alien invasive species. Three Endemic Bird Areas, as defined by BirdLife International, are found within Japan.

Japan also supports some important waterbird populations, including populations of the red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis), resident on Hokkaido. About 85 percent of the world’s hooded cranes (G. monacha) and 40 percent of white-naped cranes (G. vipio) winter at Izumi on Kyushu.

Tragically, Japan has already suffered a crisis of bird extinctions, with a number of species from its southern islands having been lost over the last two centuries. These include the Ryukyu pigeon (Columba jouyi) and Bonin wood-pigeon (C. versicolor), the Bonin thrush (Zoothera terrestris), and the Bonin grosbeak (Chaunoproctus ferreorostris), a monotypic genus. All four of these extinctions were driven primarily by the introduction of exotic species, in particular of rats and cats.

* is a sign of endemic species of Japan

Japanese Green Woodpecker *

Japanese Green Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker *


Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker *

Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker

Japanese Long-tailed Chicken *

Japanese Long-tailed Chicken

Japanese Accentor *


Japanese Wood Pigeon *

japanese wood pigeon

Copper Pheasant *

copper pheasant

Japanese Golden Eagle

Japanese Golden Eagle

Japanese Pheasant *

Japanese Pheasant

Amami Jay *

Amami jay

Japanese Black Kite

Japanese Black Kite

Japanese Bush Warbler

Japanese bush warbler

Japanese White Eye

Japanese White Eye

Japanese Tit *

Japanese tit

Japanese Robin *

Japanese Robin

Black Woodpecker

Black woodpecker

Japanese Kingfisher

Japanese Kingfisher

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

Okinawa Rail *

Okinawa Rail

Japanese Crane

Japanese Crane

Japanese Crested Ibis

Japanese crested ibis

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit

Steller's Sea Eagle

Steller's sea eagle

Siberian Blue Robin

Siberian Blue Robin


Japan has over 65 reptile species, almost 30 of which are endemic. The reptile fauna includes a number of important threatened species: the Okinawa black-breasted leaf-turtle (Geoemyda japonica, EN), the Kikuzato’s brook snake (Opisthotropis kikuzatoi, CR), found only on the Kume-jima in the Okinawashoto in the Ryukyus, the Amami takachiho snake (Achalinus werneri, VU), confined to Amami, and the Tokashiki ground gecko (Goniurosaurus kuroiwae, VU), from the Ryukyus.

* is a sign of endemic species of Japan

Green Sea Turtle

Green Sea Turtle

Red Sea Turtle

Red Sea Turtle

Japanese Pond Turtle *

Japanese pond turtle

Japanese Ground Gecko *

Japanese Ground Gecko

Tawa Gecko *

Tawa Gecko

Ryukyu Tree Lizard *

Ryukyu Tree Lizard

Scincella Boettgeri *


Plestiodon Stimpsonii *


Plestiodon Marginatus *

Plestiodon marginatus

Kishinoue's Giant Skink *

Kishinoue's Giant Skink

Japanese Five-lined Skink *

Japanese Black Kite

Ryukyu Short-legged Skink *

Ryukyu short-legged skink

Takydromus Smaragdinus *

Takydromus smaragdinus

Japanese Grass Lizard *

Japanese Grass Lizard

Ryukyu Green Snake *

Ryukyu Green

Japanese Forest Ratsnake *

Japanese Forest Ratsnake

Japanese Ratsnake *

Japanese Ratsnake

Japanese Striped Snake *

Japanese Striped Snake

Amami Coral Snake *

Amami Coral Snake

Okinawa Habu *

Okinawa Habu

Japanese Copperhead *

Japanese Copperhead


Endemism is particularly high among amphibians, with 44 of 50 species found only in Japan. The amphibian genus Hynobius is very well represented, with about 15 of the 25 known species worldwide being endemic to the hotspot, one of which, the Oki salamander (H. okiensis, CR), is confined entirely to Dogo, of the Okino-shima in Shimane Prefecture. The Japanese giant salamander (Andrias japonicus), found in western Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, can grow to more than one meter in length and is one of the world’s largest amphibians. Once threatened by human consumption, the salamander is now considered a natural monument and protected by law.

* is a sign of endemic species of Japan

Japanese Giant Salamander *

Japanese Giant Salamander

Abe's Salamander *

Abe's Salamander

Ishizuchi Salamander *

Ishizuchi Salamander

Ezo Salamander *

Ezo Salamander

Odaigahara Salamander *

Odaigahara Salamander

Hida Salamander *

Hida Salamander

Hakone Salamander *

Hakone Salamander

Japanese Warty Newt *

Japanese warty newt

Japanese Fire Belly Newt *

Japanese fire belly newt

Japanese Stream Toad *

Japanese stream toad

Japanese Toad *

Japanese Toad

Japanese Tree Frog *

Japanese Tree Frog

Hallowell's Tree Frog *

Hallowell's Tree Frog

Nikko Frog *

Nikko Frog

Daruma Pond Frog *

Daruma Pond Frog

Namie's Frog *

Namie's Frog

Ishikawa's Frog *

Ishikawa's Frog

Otton Frog *

Otton Frog
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See Also
Encyclopedia of Japan