Tarantulas live worldwide, and they can be found on almost every continent. They inspire folklore, horror stories, legends and myths across the regions they’re native to. Spiders and tarantulas in Japan have a fascinating long history.
There are no native tarantula species in Japan, but Japanese folklore includes a giant spider that acts like a tarantula. It’s just a massive coincidence that the fabled Tsuchigumo creature is almost identical to modern tarantulas. However, Japan does have some native large true spiders.
In this article, we will be covering a small part of the incredible culture, folklore and mythology from Japan. The story of the Tsuchigumo gives us a fascinating glimpse into how stories of mythological animals happen.
Why are there No Tarantulas in Japan?
Japan is an isolated island and has been for millions of years which also means the island has a unique ecology compared to the rest of the region. Japan can have freezing winters, which would kill a tarantula. Tarantulas most likely never made it to the area before it became an island, and even if they did, they would not survive.
Wild tarantulas don’t exist in Japan, and they wouldn’t survive for very long in most of Japan. Some escaped pets might live for most of the year, but depending on the area, they would undoubtedly die in the winter.
Despite there being no tarantulas in Japan, there are plenty of native spider species. This lack of tarantulas hasn’t affected the folklore and mythology of the region. There are many mythological spider-based creatures, including one almost identical to modern tarantulas.
Is the Tsuchigumo a Tarantula?
Tsuchigumo is not a real tarantula. It’s a mythological creature that looks and acts like a tarantula, but tarantulas from other countries most likely inspired it. This creature is also known as the Yatsukahagi or Ōgumo, which are the names for a spider-like race of Yōkai from Japanese folklore.
The Tsuchigumo was most likely inspired by the Chinese Bird Spider, the English name given to different old-world tarantulas from China and Vietnam. These tarantulas are often nicknamed the “earth tiger” in their native regions due to them being hairy, having a striped body and can seem very aggressive.
Descriptions of the Tsuchigumo describe it as a large creature with tiger stripes and, potentially, a tiger’s head. It burrows into the ground where it lives in burrows. However, the legs are often described to be thin like a true spider. Other descriptions of this creature write it as a tiger with the face of a demon or a combination of the two.
What other Mythological Spiders does Japan have?
Japan does have a range of mythological spider-based creatures, and spiders symbology can also be important in the region. The most well-known creature is the Jorōgumo, a spider creature that can transform into a beautiful woman to lure men to their death. There is also the less-known Kumo Yōkai creature.
Spiders have many positive and negative stories in Japanese folklore and history. An old Japanese superstition claims that spiders bring good luck in the morning but at night brings you bad luck. The saying “Let spiders in the morning, kill spiders at night” comes this superstition. There are also stories about spiders being guardians, and the Ainu, indigenous culture in Japan, also worshipped a Spider Goddess named Yushkep Kamuy, who assists in childbirth.
Are there any Native Large spiders in Japan?
There are no large burrowing spiders in Japan, but the country still has several native large spiders that call it home. These are typically different species of Huntsman Spiders (Heteropoda sp.) which can reach up to several inches in diameter, but there are no spiders larger than this in Japan.
However, Japan does have other large invertebrates, such as centipedes, which can be very visually impressive. Centipedes are also common pets in the invertebrates hobby alongside spiders and tarantulas. Japan is also home to the Japanese Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica), which has been nicknamed the “Murder Hornets” by the US media.
Are Tarantulas Allowed in Japan?
Pet tarantulas are legal in Japan. Importing them into the country is also permitted as long as they have the correct documentation, which is standard for all exotic pets. However, getting this can be more difficult for invertebrates which leads to smuggling is a real problem. Usually, the difficulty is in obtaining a medical certificate for the animal.
There is a robust illegal market for tarantulas and other invertebrates in Japan, which may be partly due to the issues with legal imports. Keepers can pay hundreds to obtain pets which would otherwise be illegal. There are very few vets who deal with exotic pets and even less willing to look at invertebrates, this can delay or prevent getting medical certificates needed for legal imports. This makes it tempting to buy illegal animals.
While the essential requirements might seem difficult to understand, getting the necessary documents isn’t too hard. The official customs website of Japan is regularly updated to ensure the listed requirements are correct. If you want to import some tarantulas or other exotic pets to Japan, we advise checking that website.
Are there Dangerous Spiders in Japan?
There are no native spiders in Japan that can seriously harm or kill humans. However, invasive species are a problem, and some invasive spiders can kill humans. The list of invasive species includes some dangerous spiders from Australia.
Australian Redback Spiders (Latrodectus hasseti) have been discovered in Japan in recent years and situated themselves as an invasive species of the country. Before the arrival of this species, no spider in Japan posed a serious threat to humans if bitten. These spiders are one of the few that can seriously harm humans due to their venom.
While they are not particularly dangerous, some native spiders in Japan still have a painful bite, such as the Joro Spider (Trichonephilia clavata). Bites from different native spiders are not considered life-threatening, but they might still be quite painful and unpleasant.
Japan might not have any native tarantula species, but it’s perfectly legal to keep them as pets. While many exotic pets are permitted in Japan, the illegal black market is still very strong within the country for multiple reasons, including the import requirements. There are no native dangerous spider species in the country, but the deadly Australian Redback Spider has become an established invasive species over the past 20 years. Japan is home to a unique range of animals and plants, but it doesn’t have any native tarantulas.