Do you want to learn about the types of snakes in Japan?
If so, you’ve come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the snakes you can expect to see. Then, for each species, you will find out how to identify that snake correctly, along with pictures, interesting facts, and RANGE MAPS!
You’ll see that the snakes that live in Japan are very different from each other. They range from venomous species to snakes that use constriction to immobilize their prey. In addition, certain snakes are common to find living around people.
4 COMMON snakes that live in Japan:
#1. Red-banded Snake
- Lycodon rufozonatus
- Adults are 70-130 cm (28-51 in) long.
- The head is long, flat, and slightly wider than the neck.
- Their coloring is dark brown with horizontal crimson lines on the back. The belly is beige, with black spots on the tail.
The Red-banded Snake is a nocturnal, medium-sized snake whose venom is not harmful to humans. They can be found in various habitats near water, such as marshes and river plains.
Even though these terrestrial snakes are usually found on the ground, they tend to be good climbers and swimmers. Look for them in small streams and ponds as well as in grassy areas. If they aren’t swimming or hunting, they curl into a spherical mass with the head hidden for protection.
Despite being relatively harmless, Red-banded Snakes in Japan should be given space.
If approached, some individuals can be unpredictable, and while they usually flee, they are also known to bite. They also have a defensive measure of secreting a very strong musk from the anal glands.
#2. Tiger Keelback
- Rhabdophis tigrinus
- Adults are 60–100 cm (24–39 in) long.
- Their coloring is checkered olive green and black with orange, yellow, or red crossbars on the first third of the body.
- The underside is white to cream.
The Tiger Keelback uses its tongue as much as its vision to hunt for prey. This is because it has sensitive receptors that react to chemicals in its prey, leading it directly to its next meal. This ability is why you may have heard that some snakes in Japan can “smell” with their tongues!
This species is sensitive to colder temperatures and is less likely to run away when the weather is cold. So, be alert of your surroundings in cooler seasons to ensure you don’t run afoul of the Tiger Keelback. In warmer weather, it’s more likely to flee than to try and fight.
Tiger Keelbacks are highly venomous, but they don’t produce their own toxins. Instead, they ingest and reuse toxins from the toads they eat. Once they eat the toad, they store its toxins in the nuchal glands and use them as a defensive mechanism. That’s one way to ensure you use every part of your prey!
#3. Brahminy Blindsnake
- Indotyphlops braminus
- Adults are 5.1-10.2 cm (2-4 in) long.
- Their coloring varies; charcoal gray, light yellow-beige, silver-gray, purplish, and white are common.
- The body shape is worm-like, and they are easily mistaken for earthworms.
This tiny species is the smallest snake in Japan.
The Brahminy Blindsnake, as its name suggests, is almost completely blind. It has small, translucent eyes that can detect light but not form images. Although native to Japan, this species is naturalized worldwide. It’s transported in the soil of potted plants, so the species earned the nickname Flowerpot Snake.
They spend almost all their time underground in ant and termite nests and live under logs, moist leaves, and stones. Look for them in suburban and even urban gardens and moist forests.
When distressed or attacked, the Brahminy Blindsnake will try to escape underground. If touched, it might press its tail on the attacker and release a smelly musk. Despite its rather creepy appearance, this snake is completely harmless to humans.
#4. Halys Pit Viper
- Gloydius halys
Also known as Siberian Pit Viper, Halys Viper, Pallas’s Pit Viper, Asiatic Pit Viper, Asiatic Moccasin, and Mongolian Pit Viper.
- The Halys pit viper can grow to a maximum length of 59 cm (23 in).
- Their coloring is gray, red, pale brown, or yellow, with large dark spots, crossbars, and a white belly speckled with gray or brown.
The Halys Pit Viper is a venomous snake found across Japan.
Its habitat includes montane slopes and plains or rocky high mountain plateaus. It is a terrestrial snake, mostly found on the ground. Look for this species during the day, which is its preferred time to hunt. Its diet includes lizards, rodents, snakes, birds, and frogs.
Keep a respectful distance if you see the Halys Pit Viper in the wild! This is an incredibly dangerous snake. Its venom contains neurotoxins, which affect the brain and nerves, and necrotoxins, which cause bleeding and infection.
Bite symptoms range from mild to severe, depending on the amount of venom exposure. Victims have reported excruciating pain, severe swelling, bruising, blistering, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, respiratory distress, dizziness, collapse, or convulsions. The best way to avoid being bitten is to be cautious in this snake’s range and back away slowly if you discover one.
Do you want to learn about other animals in Japan?
If so, check out these guides!
Which of these snakes have you seen before in Japan?
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