Japan’s Adorable Amphibian – Giant Salamander

The Japanese giant salamander is the world’s largest amphibian, a species endemic to Japan. This Japanese giant salamander is also designated as a special natural treasure in this country. Its habitat is mainly the central areas of rivers, partially in Honshu to the west of Gifu Prefecture, Shikoku, and Kyushu, it can be seen not only in mountain streams, but also in brooks and canals.
Despite being an amphibian, after metamorphosis it does not come up on the land, and spends virtually its whole life in the water, feeding on frogs, freshwater crab, and fish. It has a very long lifespan compared to other creatures, and there are Japanese giant salamander that are said to live more than 100 years.

You can encounter this rare Japanese giant salamander, which is sometimes called a living fossil, around the Daisen area. In the mid to upper regions of the Nawakawa river, Nawa, Daisencho, regardless of whether it is close to the mountain village areas or not, you can find the Japanese giant salamander, and this is proof that the environment around Daisen still maintains a healthy paddy field ecosystem to this day. The Japanese giant salamander often inhabits the mountain streams between the mountains, but in the Nawa area of Daisencho, it is said to inhabit from the upstream section of the river to the mouth of the river, a truly rare environment. This environment is rare when considered on a nationwide basis as well.

“Daisen has a cultural background in that it is valued by people as being the mountains where the gods are, and, today, as we celebrate 1300 years since the opening of the large mountain, one of the reasons for this is the fact that it is inhabited by the Japanese giant salamander”, says Nakayama, the head of the Daisen Park Management Office, Ministry of the Environment.
Nowadays, this is a mountain that anyone can enjoy, but at that time, Daisen was an ascetic mountain and was somewhere people could just enter freely. In 2018, on the 1300th anniversary of the mountain being opened, as the natural environment has been conserved for a long time, we feel that it is probably a good environment for the Japanese giant salamander today as well.
Additionally, “the region the Japanese giant salamander inhabits around the Daisen area is not simply a place where there is nothing but nature and mountain rivers, and they are living closer to the mountain village areas where people inhabit than you would imagine. We talk of the Japanese giant salamander as a special natural treasure, but it coexists closer to our lives than you would imagine”.

Nakayama, who is from the Tokyo area, speaks of the attraction of Tottori. “I am living in Yonago, and compared to the city, the water is really delicious. I can even make tasty coffee for one just by brewing tap water. It would be unthinkable in the city. This delicious underground water, water quality, river environment etc. All of these make for a blessed environment for the Japanese giant salamander. Around the Daisen area, it is still a really healthy paddy field ecosystem. This environment would not be conserved without a balance between the elements.”

The Japanese giant salamander is casually living in the vicinity of humans. In this rich environment, we would like many people to learn of the Japanese giant salamander, that shares our lives. Conserving this rich natural environment of Daisen is an important role that we play.