Variations: Bachi-hebi, Gigi-hebi, Koro, Koro-hebi, Nozuchi, Tsuchi-korobi

Tsuchinoko final

The Tsuchinoko (“child of the earth” or “mallet child”) is a snake native to Japan. Its primary characteristics are its unusual stocky appearance and its secretiveness. Sightings of tsuchinoko go at least as far back as 1807, in the Edo Period.

A tsuchinoko is easily recognized by its fat, dorsoventrally flattened appearance, reminiscent of a beer bottle, mallet, or pestle (tsuchi). It is this feature that has earned it its name, as well as the alternate name of nozuchi (“field mallet”). It is known as bachi-hebi and gigi-hebi in Akita Prefecture, koro and koro-hebi in Fukui Prefecture, and tsuchi-korobi in Tottori Prefecture.

tsuchinoko bwWhile rare and hard to find, the tsuchinoko is believed to be venomous. It can get around by rolling, as observed by witnesses; when spotted, it laughs and vanishes in a flash of light, causing the onlookers to fall ill. When angered, a tsuchinoko will hiss, spit, and even jump at its pursuer before biting with its fangs.

Recent years have greatly added to the tsuchinoko’s reputation, as reports of sightings have led to its promotion into a full-blown cryptid. The 2000 discovery of an alleged tsuchinoko skeleton in Yoshii, Okayama Prefecture, firmly cemented the snake’s existence in popular culture.

The true identity of tsuchinoko sightings are possibly the venomous yamakagashi (Rhabdophis tigrinus) or the dangerously venomous mamushi (Gloydius blomhoffi). The latter has caused human fatalities, and therefore any potential tsuchinokos should be treated with respect and given a wide berth.


Foster, M. D. (2009) Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Foster, M. D. (2015) The Book of Yokai. University of California Press, Berkeley.

O’Shea, M. (2005) Venomous Snakes of the World. New Holland Publishers, London.