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.
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.
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?
And if you’d love to spot some fresh escapist reading…
“I don’t know when I’ve been more caught up in a story. A masterful achievement.” —Terry Shames, award-winning author of An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddoc
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!