The 'Mermaid' Mummies of Japan: What Are They?

In a story that echoes the plot of an adventure movie, scientists in Japan stumbled upon an extremely strange mummy. It has a human-like appearance and a fishtail instead of legs. You heard right: the mummy is similar to the legendary mermaids, whose bodies are both fish and human. 

In the summer of 2022, Professor Hiroshi Kinoshita from Kurashiki University unveiled the strange mummy at a press conference.

Could this mummy confirm the existence of real-life mermaids that once roamed the ocean around  Japan? Let's explore.

The Mummy of the Alleged Japanese "Mermaid" Was Thoroughly Investigated
The Mummy Was Thoroughly Investigated

The Story Behind the 'Mermaid' Mummy

Kinoshita stumbled upon the mummy's existence while reading an old Edo period encyclopedia, which hinted at its whereabouts.

Following the clues to an ancient temple mentioned in the book, Professor Kinoshita discovered what he had been searching for: a body resembling a mermaid. A nearby letter indicated that a local fisherman had caught the creature in his nets in 1741 and then donated it still alive to the shrine. Since then, the 'Mermaid' has been housed in the temple for centuries, believed to bring good luck and offer protection against diseases.

Is this letter genuine evidence of the mummy once being a sea creature?

Unique Beliefs and Superstitions about Mermaids in Japan

The scientists at the University of Kurashiki, led by Hiroshi Kinoshita and Takafumi Katoo, were intrigued by the the mummy. Its resemblance to two mythical creatures from Japanese folklore was what fascinated them the most.

One of them, Amabie is a legendary creature known for appearing from the sea during times of poor harvests or epidemics to protect people. The other is Ningyo, which is more like mermaids in Western folklore. In contrast to Amabie, Ningyo was often linked with bad luck, but consuming its flesh could grant remarkable longevity.

Unexplained Mysteries of Japan: On the Trail of Mermaid Mummies
Japanese folklore knows two legendary creatures similar to mermaids

The image of 'mermaids' holds a significant place in Japanese tradition, often associated with bringing bad news. For instance, An ancient chronicle mentions a mermaid sighting off the coast of Wakasa Province in 1643. The mermaid lingered on the sea cliffs for several days, and just ten days later, a catastrophic tsunami devastated entire villages.

New Clues Revealed

Amid the investigation, the monks revealed that two other nearby temples also house similar mummies. As the number of mummies grew, the problem became pressing: Do these mummies genuinely belong to legendary mermaids?

Researchers of Kurashiki University sought to address this question by presenting findings from their ongoing research

Key Findings

The study confirms that the mummy's estimated age is around 300 years as mentioned in the letter. But, this is where the similarities end. The analysis of the materials shows that the mummy is made up of various animal parts and inorganic substances. Rags, paper, and cotton were used for the mummy's torso and glued together with sand and lime. 

From animal hairs to unknown skin and tooth fragments, it appears that the unknown creator attached multiple animal components to the body. Although the sources of the hands, teeth, and tail are unknown, some propose that they could be from a fish species resembling carp. We still don't have a complete list of all the creatures that make up a mummy, and more analysis is needed to understand them better.

The investigation also put forth a theory to explain the existence of the strange mummy. Scientists think that the mummy was skillfully crafted during the Edo period by a cunning merchant and sold at some point to wealthy individuals as a genuine relic. The people who bought it believed that it would bring protection and good health to their household. How it later ended up in the hands of a monk at the temple is unknown.

Here is a quick overview of the study

Another Fourteen Mermaid Mummies Are Awaiting Investigation

Despite it appeared the mystery had been solved, but in reality, that was not the case. After a thorough investigation, it was found that there are 14 similar mummies located in other temples across Japan.

It seems that Japanese scientists have many tasks ahead in the coming years. The future is full of endless possibilities; only time will reveal the answers. Perhaps even the undeniable evidence of a real mermaid...
The Japanese Bigfoot, also known as Hibagon, stands as another intriguing creature whose existence continues to fuel discussions. For additional information on Hibagon, you can find more details here


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