I Saw A New Wild Animal In Tokyo!

Walking home late one night, a flicker of unexpected movement caught my eye. When I looked up, there was something scampering along the phone lines above my head! A cat? A rat? No it was BIG.

Sorry these photos are so crap – the only camera I had with me was my phone!

Sorry these photos are so crap – the only camera I had with me was my phone!

At first, I thought it might be a tanuki, but it was the wrong shape. It had a long body and an even longer tail, that it was flinging about in a rather comical way for balance as it walloped along the wires. When I got home, the first thing I did was google Wild Animals Tokyo, and guess what? It’s a Masked Palm Civet! Hakubishin, in Japanese.

Thank you, Wikipedia, for a much better pic. You can read more factoids about these fine furry friends on the Masked Palm Civet page.

Thank you, Wikipedia, for a much better pic. You can read more factoids about these fine furry friends on the Masked Palm Civet page.

They’re native to most of Asia, and came to Japan long ago enough for most sources to consider them “native” here too. I also discovered that they sometimes invade peoples’ crawlspaces and make a hella big mess (reducing their cuteness score among home owners) but usually they live up in the trees, which explains how they got so good at shinnying along wires. They also apparently remember a good thing when they see it, because if they locate a fine source of snacks, they tend to use the same route to get there every day. Which is why I always walk home with my head in the air now, hoping for another spotting! I saw this one in Hiroo, near the French Embassy. Has anybody seen them in other places around Tokyo?

Jonelle Patrick writes mysteries set in Tokyo. Her fourth book – Painted Doll – is just out in paperback 

“A genuinely gripping crime thriller which wrong-foots and perplexes the reader throughout, drawing us in emotionally . . . Highly recommended.” Raven Crime Reads

It's been nine years since she didn't make it home, but now Tokyo Detective Kenji Nakamura's life is about to unravel... Read more

When Tokyo Detective Kenji Nakamura’s phone rings with the news that his mother’s death ten years ago wasn’t an accident, his world begins to unravel. New evidence links her to…read more