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Wildlife of Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-national Park


Mt. Takao is also known as a sacred mountain for worshipping tengu, a creature of Japanese legend. Yakuoin Temple has statues of a large tengu with a large nose and of a karasu-tengu, another Japanese legendary creature that is similar to the tengu, but has a raven-like beak. The tengu of Mt. Takao are regarded as attendants that protect the principal object of worship on the mountain and as carriers of many blessings, such as good fortune and protection from misfortune. As Mt. Takao has been the training place for shugendo (Japanese mountain asceticism), local residents consider the mountain monks who practice shugendo and bravely guard the mountain to be similar to the tengu. Although tengu are imaginary creatures, mountain monks are still often seen on the mountain.

Large tengu

White-Bellied Green Pigeon

The white-bellied green pigeon is a beautiful bird with a yellowish green body and light-blue beak. The male and female are similar in color, but males can be identified by their purple wing feathers. The white-bellied green pigeon lives in forests. They form flocks in broad-leaved forests of oaks, maples, and Mongolian oaks. It is difficult to catch a glimpse of the birds, but you can hear their calls of “a-oh, a-oh” in the forest. Around June, they build dish-shaped nests in treetops by using branches and vines and lay about two eggs at a time.

White-bellied green pigeon

Varied Tit

Of the Paridae family, the varied tit (Parus varius) has a variety of calls and birdsongs such as “tsu-tsu-pee, tsu-tsu-pee” and “nee nee nee.” The birds skillfully press acorns with their feet to eat, and store acorns in the gaps in tree bark. By using moss, tree bark, and animal fur, the birds build nests in tree hollows and nest boxes, and lay eggs and raise chicks in April and May. In winter, they sometimes form flocks with other birds such as Japanese tits, long-tailed tits, and Japanese pygmy woodpeckers.

Varied tit (Parus varius)

Chestnut Tiger

The chestnut tiger (Parantica sita) is known as a long-distance flier and can be observed around Mt. Takao. The chestnut tiger is a butterfly belonging to the milkweed butterfly subfamily of the family Nymphalidae. It is distributed throughout nearly all of Japan. In spring and summer, adult butterflies travel from south to north, where they reproduce, and travel back south in autumn. Chestnut tigers are the most often observed at Mt. Takao, especially in May and October.

Chestnut tiger (Parantica sita)

Tago's brown frog

Tago’s brown frog (Rana tagoi) lives in the forests and valleys near mountains. The color of its body ranges from yellowish brown to reddish brown. Preying mostly on insects, spiders, and terrestrial mollusks, the frogs reproduce in March and April. In deep tones, the frogs’ ribbit “ga ga goo goo” can heard from gaps among rocks in rivers and streams. Their eggs are larger than those of other frogs. Once tadpoles hatch, they feed solely on the nutrients of the egg yolk until they become frogs and move onto land. This species of frog was named after Katsuya Tago, a famous amphibian researcher from the Meiji era (late 1800s to early 1900s).
(C)Center for Environmental Studies

Tago's brown frog (Rana tagoi)

Japanese Giant Flying Squirrel

The Japanese giant flying squirrel (Petaurista leucogenys) is one of the most famous mammals of Mt. Takao. A nocturnal creature, it glides between trees by using the flaps of skin between its front and hind legs. Feeding on tree leaves, fruits, and buds, the Japanese giant flying squirrel can grow to a length of 34 to 48 centimeters (13 to 19 inches) from its head to the base of its tail, and weighs approximately 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds). Including a variety of forests such as mixed forests and planted forests, natural parks serve as valuable environments for many Japanese flying squirrels to live in lush nature. To observe the Japanese flying squirrel at night, please use red lamps so that you do not scare them.
(C)Center for Environmental Studies

Japanese giant flying squirrel (Petaurista leucogenys)

Takao Sumire (V. yezoensis f. discolor)

Mt. Takao is known as a violet sanctuary. As much as 18 types of violets have been recorded in the quasi-national park alone. The number of violet species climbs to more than 40 if crossbreeds and different color variations in flowers and leaves are included. Among them, the Takao Sumire (V. yezoensis f. discolor) was the first violet species to be found on Mt. Takao and was given the name “Takao.” A variation of the Chinese violet (Viola yezoensis), Takao Sumire is characterized by dark brown leaves, whereas the Chinese violet has green leaves. The Chinese violet blooms from mid- to late April.

Takao Sumire (V. yezoensis f. discolor)

Golden-Rayed Lily (Lilium auratum)

The golden-rayed lily is a perennial herb that grows at the edges of forests on mountains and hills, and in hilly areas. It is especially common in areas spanning the Kanto and Tokai regions. It can grow to a height of 1 to 1.5 meters (3.3 to 4.9 feet) and bears flowers with a strong fragrance. The golden-rayed lily is native to Japan. On Mt. Takao, flowers start to bloom in early July and reach full bloom in mid-July. Individual a single golden-rayed lily plant can bear anywhere from a few to more than a dozen flower buds. The flowers can be found along route 1, the Inariyama course, and Icchodaira on Mt. Takao.

Golden-rayed lily (Lilium auratum)

Japanese blue beech (Fagus japonica Maxim.)

The Japanese blue beech is one of the representative deciduous trees of Mt. Takao. Deciduous broad-leaved forests consisting of Japanese blue beech, beech, Carpinus laxiflora, the Japanese bigleaf magnolia trees cover the upper portions of Mt. Takao’s north-facing slopes. Compared to regular beeches, trees with white bark are sometimes called “white beeches” and black ones, “black beeches.” The trunk is about 50 to 70 centimeters (19.7 to 27.6 inches) thick. From April to May, Japanese blue beech trees flower and bear many fruits, though the fruit rarely grow to a significant size. Around the time that leaves come out, the buds of male flowers emerge and droop from the branches. Meanwhile, the buds of female flowers emerge from the top parts of branches, where, in autumn, triangular fruit is produced.
(C)Center for Environmental Studies

Japanese blue beech (Fagus japonica Maxim.)

Japanese Collinsonia

Japanese Collinsonia (Collinsonia japonica, also known as Keiskea japonica) belongs to the family Lamiaceae. A perennial herb that grows in the shade of trees on mountains, it can reach a height of 40 to 70 centimeters (15.7 to 27.6 inches). From September to October, the plant bears white spike-like flowers. The Japanese name of this plant literally means “columns of frost.” It was so named because, while the part of the stem above ground withers in winter, the moisture inside the stem freezes, expands, and ultimately ruptures the stems, resulting in “flowers of ice.” These ice flowers can be seen on Mt. Takao from mid-December to February.
(C)Center for Environmental Studies

Keiskea japonica


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