Japan is inhabited by the differing animal wildlife of the contrasting climate zones:
Sub-arctic and boreal zone animals:
The fen, reed and sedge marshland habitat of Kushiro Marsh provides one of the most important habitats for boreal wildlife in Japan: 2,000 varieties of plants and animals, including Hokkaido deer. Birdlife is diverse, including the white-tailed sea eagle and Japan’s most unique species, the Red-crested Crane. The Kushiro marsh is the only habitat in Japan of the Siberian Salamander, and the key remaining habitat of threatened species such as the Blakiston’s Fish-owl and ancient dragonflies dating back to the Ice Age. Also found mainly on the Kushiro marsh is the Japanese Hutchen is Japan’s largest Japanese freshwater fish growing to more than 2m in length.
The tanuki (racoon dogs), shika deer, and mandarin ducks of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. These species originated from the deciduous forests of Korea and central and northern China. Asian land salamanders, cicadas, dragonflies and swallowtail butterflies also inhabit the main islands.
Living on the main island of Honshu and on Shikoku and Kyushu are unique indigenous species such as the Japanese serow, giant flying squirrel, Asiatic black bear, Japanese badger, and wild boar. Other species endemic to the Japanese mainland are the Japanese dormouse, the copper pheasant, and the primitive dragonfly.
In the cold mountain streams are freshwater Japanese giant salamanders, together with the Chinese salamanders are the largest amphibians on earth, known to grow to 180 cm long.
Birds like the inuwashi, kumagera and kumataka , akahige and akakokko, are found in the Shirakami Sanchi forests. The indigenous Japanese macaque keeps warm by taking baths in the hotsprings of the cold, snowy mountains of Shimokita Peninsula at the northern end of Honshu, the northernmost simians of the world.
The Ryukyu Islands are inhabited mostly by Southeast Asian tropical animals such as the crested serpent eagle, the flying fox, and the variable lizard. Brightly colored tropical coral fish, turtles, and sea snakes flourish in the tropical sea of the Ryukyu Islands, where the dugong and the black finless porpoise may also be seen.
The Ryukyu Islands became separated from the continent much earlier than the mainland, resulting in species found only in Japan such as the Pryer’s woodpecker, Amami spiny mouse, Amami black rabbit and Iriomote wildcat.
The coral reefs of Okinawa and Kerama Islands are some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, containing more rare species of marine life than anywhere. Adjacent to the coral reefs, Okinawa’s mangroves and mudflats are a vital ecosystem that supports a large number of resident birds, such as storks and herons, and migrants such as waders and egrets. The tidal forests are extremely productive wetlands and important breeding, nursery or feeding grounds for large numbers of wildlife species, especially for coastal fish and prawns. Many species of salt-tolerant plants thrive along sheltered, muddy coastlines.
The Ezo brown bear, hazel grouse, elk, deer, sable, striped squirrel, and Sakhalin red fox roam the sub-arctic boreal forests of Hokkaido. These species once came across prehistoric land bridges from the Siberian coniferous forests. Arctic-region animals such as the walrus also sometimes visit Hokkaido, the north-eastern side of which faces the Sea of Okhotsk. In the sea to the north of central Honshu, we often find sea lions, fur seals and beaked whales.