Hibagon, the Japanese yeti

May 21, 2023

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When we talk about the mythical creatures of Japan, we immediately come to mind, the Yokai, a multitude of supernatural figures from folklore. Some of them are well known to manga lovers. Faithful to our approach, we first take as a starting point, the “monsters” which encroach on our reality, these fabulous animals which make the front page of the newspapers, and which manifest a real existence.

Obviously we could not miss the Japanese equivalent of bigfoot, nicknamed Hibagon. Its story is that of a thunderous and sensational appearance at the very beginning of the 1970s, followed by a popular fever and a hunt for the monster, to end in a total disappearance, at the beginning of the 1980s. proud of this story so often told? Does it really appear out of nowhere? It seems that the lore around a yeti/bigfoot-like creature in Japan is much richer than is often thought. Likewise, did it really disappear overnight? In fact, he may well have been talked about afterwards, and even quite recently.

Without further ado, dear reader, let’s discover Hibagon, and let’s start with its environment: Mount Hiba.

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The area where Hibagon is believed to live, the Chūgoku Mountains, and in particular the Mount Hiba region, was relatively uninhabited until around 400 years ago. Could a species have lived there for several thousand years, almost without contact with humans?
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Mount Hiba is part of a kind of national park, Hiba Dogo Taishaku, known for its natural reserve of Japanese beeches (fagus crenata and fagus japonica). Like the Iraty forest in France.
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All sightings of Hibagon have occurred within a 50km (30mile) radius of Mount Hiba. (original article)

 

Our story begins in 1969, around Saijô, a small village of about fifteen houses. Right next to it, shortly before, the construction of  Kenmin no mori began in the middle of the mountains, a small ski and tourist resort, with a campground, with an area of ​​1164 hectares. and culminating at 1264m. On the development site, a worker discovers strange footprints that form a track several meters long. He calls his colleagues who come to see the facts. This news item spreads very quickly in the surroundings, and the police are soon obliged to carry out the investigation to reassure the population and try to clarify the mystery. Especially since a rumor has it that an unknown creature was also seen during the day, prowling around the dam, in the north of the town.

Finally, the local police failing to achieve any result (the moldings of prints made were unusable) she asked for help from the departmental police who did not have much more success. The press then revealed the case to the general public, and a first expeditionary force sent by a Nagoya university went to the scene to launch an investigation, in the hope of recovering the slightest clue, trace, fingerprint, or other. In vain.

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However, during this time, the testimonies of sightings and encounters began to emerge. This is the official start of the affair, when the town hall of Saijö opens an anthropoid office (you are not dreaming) in order to collect elements and testimonies. Miko Toshihiro, a municipal employee, becomes the main investigator of this file.

The first reported sighting was on July 9, 1970, when Junji Miyazaki was driving a pickup truck on the Rokunohara Forest Road, which leads to the construction site.

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Footprint attributed to Higabon, 1970

 

On July 20 of the same year, near the Munohara dam Mr. Yasutaka Marusaki, then 31 years old, observed a creature resembling a gorilla, which stared at him while slowly moving away and disappearing into the woods. It seemed to descend into the valley. According to Maruzaki, it was about the size of a calf, its neck twice the width of a human, and there were footprints of the creature and traces of trampled trees. This is the first accurate eyewitness account. There will then be many sightings around the Munohara Dam.

On July 23, 1970, a man living on a farm in the same area encountered a monster as large as an adult. According to him the body was covered with black hair, the head was unusually large and the face looked like a human.

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In December 1970, footprints believed to belong to a monster were discovered in the snowfields of Mount Azuma. original website

The largest footprints attributed to Hibagon were about 30 cm long (12 inches) by 27 wide, although most are much smaller. Its weight is estimated at 80 or 90 kg (180 ft), but this estimate seems a little underestimated for an anthropoid of this size. For according to eyewitness accounts, the creature had a size of about 160cm (about 5ft) to 180cm, the height of an adult human, but a head that was almost twice that of a human, from the neck. Its head and face are inverted triangle shape, no sagittal crest mentioned. His entire body is covered in hair, except for his face, and probably the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet, although this is not mentioned in official testimony.

 

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An illustration of Hibagon published in the Chugoku Shimbun at the time. Presumably based on eyewitness accounts. original article

He does not possess hair, it is said that about 5 cm (2 inches) of dark brown hair stands on his head and his whole body is covered with rough hair of the same color as the hair on his head. it therefore does not have an undercoat, but hairs growing independently on the skin, like the anthropoids, which indicates a kinship with the higher primates.

His face is ape-like, with forward-pointing nostrils, dark complexion, prominent mouth region,

No official and verified information mentions the fact that he wears clothes or uses any tool worked. No one seems to have heard its call either, and there are no known cases of predation on livestock or domestic animals from it, nor is it aggressive or destructive to crops. Only one case of crop destruction is known. A cornfield was found partially ravaged the day after a Hibagon sighting, but the damage was not proven to have been caused by it. However, it is likely that he was the cause during his escape.

To summarize the Hibagon’s “spec sheet”:

・Height 150cm-170cm. Estimated to weigh between 80kg and 90kg.
・The face is an inverted triangle and the eyes are oddly sharp.
・The whole body is covered in dark brown, almost black hair. Body hair corresponding to the hair stands on end on the head.
・It moves slowly, is not afraid of humans, and poses no threat.

The Yeti of Mount Hiba quickly became known throughout Japan, and it aroused the vocations of watch hunters. Explorers, research groups rush to Saijo, which was until then a peaceful town. This period was dubbed “the hibagon riot”. The office of the anthropoids of the municipality, took care of collecting the reports of the ocular witnesses, of answering the media, an adviser of the anthropoids was even named in reinforcement.

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Saijö Municipality’s Anthropoids Office

The eminent University of Kobe organized an expedition in 1972, but found no evidence and closed its investigation.

Yet Hibagon continues to be observed imperturbably, every summer, until 1974. That year, on August 8, a man observes something on a mountain road located at the border of Sukawa, Ichikawakitamachi, Shobara.
A hairy creature all over the body, about 1.6 meters (5 feet) tall whose torso is about twice as large as a human’s. The monster seemed startled by the man’s car and disappeared into the woods.

A few days later, on August 15, in Nigorikawa-cho, Shobara City, a motorist spotted a large black animal walking by the side of a road on all fours. It is a bear, the witness then thinks, but when the creature noticed the approaching car, to the amazement of the motorist, it got up on two legs and drove off. The driver then has the reflex to stop his vehicle, to seize a camera fortunately at hand, and to go out to take a picture of the animal which was hiding behind a tree.

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The picture taken in Nigorikawa, August 15, 1974 showing a Hibagon. Or a tree trunk?

After a final sighting in October 1974, the city of Saijo announced the end of the Hibagon riot, and the closure of the anthropoid office. Hibagon seemed to have disappeared as mysteriously as he had appeared. As the years passed, his memory was fading.

But Hibagon had not said his last word. In October 1980, hairy ape men were reported in Yamano, a mountain village north of the city of Fukuyama, about 40km south of Mount Hiba. We no longer speak of Hibagon but of Yamagon.

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Newspapers at the time reported sightings of Yamagon, the Hibagon of Yamano City

An ape-man was then seen in Kui-cho, still further south in May 1982, and was nicknamed “Kuigon”. The suffix Gon in Japanese refers to the notions of power, power, legitimacy, and could mean that he is the master of the place. A frequent nickname for wild men, for example the Basque BasaJaun, the lord of the forest.

A person who witnessed Hibagon stated upon seeing a sketch of Yamagon that it was the same individual. Hibagon, Yamagon and Kuigon ultimately come from the same region, and it is likely that they are the same type of creature, observed in different places and times.

The most curious sighting of Hibagon occurs in 1982 in Mitsugi, very close to Yamano, the creature is described as being about 2 meters tall (7 feet) therefore, much larger than previous sightings, and in addition this large Hibagon is holding what looks like a stone tool, like an axe.

Then, then… nothing more? That’s the confusing thing about Hibagon, nothing before 1970, nothing after 1982? No past, no present, Hibagon could be just an unexplained parenthesis, a temporary anomaly.

In fact, Hibagon is not the result of chance and coincidence, it is part of a discreet but consistent tradition linked to ape-men in Japan. And still alive, according to information obtained by Japanese cryptozoologist Michihiro Amano.

After Hibagon: On August 8, 1995, a Canadian ornithologist on the ground for research in a small village in Kumamoto Prefecture (400 km-250 miles south of Hiroshima, on the island of Kyüshü) discovered a track of footprints steps of 40 cm long (15 inches) for 20 cm wide. The news passed through the newspaper, and a photo of the footprints published, but the creature does not seem to have been seen by people in the region, where at least no one has yet come to testify to this day, but it is possible that the tongues loosen in the years to come, if any creature there is. The size of the owner of the footprints was estimated to be over 2m (6.5ft). Cryptozoologist Michihiro Amano is one of the few to make the correlation with Hibagon.

Before Hibagon: The countless stories of Japanese monsters and specters of past centuries are particularly present in the press of the Meiji era (1869-1912), a period of openness and development. There are articles about encounters with great apes. On April 27, 1883, in the mountains of Fukuoka, (about 300km/185 km south of Hiroshima, on the island of Kyüshü) a man saw a great white ape. The same year, on August 23, in the same department, still in the mountains, it was a “large wild beast resembling a baboon but without being one and covered with brown hair” which was seen. These last two testimonies are written in archaic language, and relatively difficult to access, halfway between the ancient language which persisted until the 19th century and the modern language.

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The ruijin’enkei, the anthropoid office of Saijö does not seem to have had knowledge of these other news items, therefore wrongly making the Hibagon affair an isolated case. Even older, two old legends relate to Mount Hiba. The first concerns the creator goddess Izanami who was, according to tradition, buried at the top of Mount Hiba.

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Goddess of the Shintô pantheon, Izanami engendered by her union with the god Izanagi the islands of the Japanese archipelago and the kami (or deities) of nature.

The second concerns us more, the Kumano sanctuary, at the foot of Mount Hiba. The legend is as follows:

”  The Kumano sanctuary, surrounded by giant, thousand-year-old cedars, is protected by the monkey-god and relentlessly venerated by men  “.

Moreover, on one of the scrolls preserved in the sanctuary would be drawn an unusual human figure. A monkey god? Kumano Shrine was probably erected when the Japanese arrived in these mountains nearly four hundred years ago. It would therefore seem that the Japanese have known a creature close to Hibagon in reality since their arrival in the Chûgoku mountains. At the time of Hibagon’s appearance in the 1970s, some locals said, “This is the god of Mount Hiba, the embodiment of the mountain god is angry.” »

Because there is a solid folk motif around the ape man in Japan. Japanese fantasy folklore is so rich that it’s easy to miss out.

We can find the theme of the anthropophagous monkey-god, notably named Sarugami, or Bokuroku, to whom human sacrifices are practiced. (more on “monkey” Yokai here )

A long time ago, a monk undergoing pilgrim training got lost in the mountains of Hida province (Gifu prefecture) and came to a waterfall, he was lost, then he saw a man jump into the waterfall and disappear. Then the monk also jumped into the waterfall and came out behind it, where he found a way and finally came to a village. He was assigned a splendid house, he was entitled to various parties, and in addition, he was assigned a beautiful daughter of about 20 years old. So the monk enjoyed both lay life and married life and spent about eight months there. The man had put on weight from his daily feasts, but his wife was starting to cry and break down with each passing day. “This year too, I had a hard time finding the right person, and when you came, the whole village wanted to offer you as a sacrifice. However, it is sad that you are destined to be sacrificed and eaten by the mountain god because you made a marriage vow like this and it is sad. When the man asked, “What does this god look like?” she replied, “He looks like a big female ape.” » . When the time finally came, the man was taken past the shrine in the mountains, where he was laid on a cutting board. In the middle of the night, the door to the sanctuary opens and human-sized monkeys appear one after another. So the man tried to kill him, with a sword hidden between his crotch and pushed it down and rammed it into the chief monkey, stabbing him to death. “It’s outrageous to ask for a sacrifice every year. Since you call yourself a god, you shouldn’t get hurt by my sword, so let’s try killing two or three monkeys there to see if I can cut them. The monkeys got scared, so the man tied the head of the monkey and his two and three subordinates with kudzu vines, set fire to the shrine and returned to the village. In the village, it was customary to keep the doors of the houses closed for a few days after the sacrifice, so no one came out, but the man’s wife noticed and hurriedly welcomed him, so people started to come out. The man showed everyone the monkey tied up and aimed a bow at him saying, “He’s a filthy guy who’s been pretending to be a god for years and ate human sacrifices.” After that, there were no more sacrifices and the man lived happily as the village chief.

And there is Satori , whose name means to predict people’s intentions, to perceive people’s minds in advance. The Satori are strange and intelligent ape-men who are believed to live in the mountains of Hida and Mino provinces (Gifu Prefecture) and are able to read people’s minds. Humans encounter them along mountain trails or when resting in the mountains. If they have the opportunity, they attack humans, to rape them, to eat them. 18th century Yokai artist Sekien Toriyama describes a Satori in his Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki as a giant long-haired ape.

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The origin of Satori is not entirely clear. Encyclopedias from the Edo period link satori to Yamako, monkeys from western China. It has also been theorized that the Satori are cousins ​​of the Yamabiko, a small monkey-like Yokai. The satori’s ability to read people’s minds and the Yamabiko’s ability to imitate their words are rooted in the same folklore. More recent folklorists have suggested that the Satori are fallen mountain gods of ancient proto-Shinto religion who were repurposed as yokai over the ages.

Now back to our dear, and not so lonely Hibagon. Moreover, the Hibagon footprints collected show various sizes, implying the presence of several individuals.

So who is he, what was he?

We will quickly review the usual theories. The mistake with a bear is obviously one of the main ones, it is present in Japan, the black bear is a good candidate. But the witnesses say they would have recognized a bear if that was the case. An animal escaped from a zoo, or rather held secretly by an individual, then released or escaped? It’s a track too, even if it was several individuals, and they were obviously well adapted to their environment, in any case did not beg for food and did not attack anyone. A loca monkey a bit corpulent, and poorly identified? According to the witnesses, Hibagon did not have the tail that monkeys should have, nor the red rump.

A deception? The hypothesis deserves our full attention. First of all, the business started when a tourist resort was being built. The desire to quickly obtain enormous notoriety, to make the investments profitable, (knowing that in 1968 The Planet of the Apes is on display) would have been a very credible motive. Until today, Hibagon has guaranteed fame to this region, it seems to be everywhere and waiting for us with open arms.

The conspiracy thesis is supported by a practice set up in Saijô. At the height of the “Hibagon riot”, when the village was invaded by onlookers from all walks of life, the municipality instituted financial compensation for witnesses. The indemnity amounted to 5,000 yen, a handsome sum (the starting salary at the town hall was 15,000 yen) in compensation for the harassment of which the 29 witnesses were victims. Did it give rise to false testimonies?

Yes probably, but there you go, Saijô, the geographical heart of the Hibagon apparitions is a very small community where moral values ​​are rooted. Everyone knows each other, and everyone jealously old on his own reputation. Not only are the witnesses offended that they are suspected of having made it all up, but they also refuse to consider that their neighbour, their cousin could have lied to them. Fifty years after the affair, the witnesses are still just as sure of themselves, still just as impressed, still just as motivated to testify publicly. as seen in this article .

And… what if it was an unknown species of primate?

Whose habitat would have been disturbed by the development site and who would have moved little by little towards the south. A journey that seems to indicate the chronology and the location of the observations.

 

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1:Hibagon 2:Yamagon 3:Kuigon. 73% of Japan’s land area is made up of forests and mountains

 

The hypothesis of a large native anthropoid of Japan, having taken up residence in the mountains of chûgoku (central region of Japan including the department of Hiroshima) and perhaps Kyûshû, knowing that there are no great apes living in Japan outside of zoos. But let’s keep digging into this fantastic hypothesis.

Indeed, it is not uncommon for smaller continental species to be found on the islands. In particular, the Japanese wolf ( Canis lupus hodophilax ), having for ancestor the Korean wolf ( Canis lupus coreanus ) itself descending from the Siberian wolf ( Canis lupus albus ), was not larger than a coyote and he was the smallest wolf in the world (about one meter long-3.2 feet).

The gigantopithecus would also have reached Japan during a period of glaciation, finding refuge in the low mountains of southern Japan, where bamboo, its supposed food, grows in abundance. He also had no rival for food, and no predator. However, the resources and the spaces of Japan being less than in China, that could justify that its population remains reduced, and that by adaptation its physiognomy conforms to the relative exiguity of its new environment. He would then have lived there for several millennia apart from men, and would perhaps still live there.

All this is pure speculation, we will probably never know the end of the story.

unless…

A surprise discovery changes everything. Did this happen in 2017 in the Hibagon viewing area? It seems that the skeleton of a large primate was found there.

I might as well tell you right away, I don’t have a lot of information, it would seem, alas, that the inhabitants who buried the carcass after having photographed it have since died and the burial place has not yet been found. It doesn’t sound very serious, but still, a book, Hibagon Japanese bigfoot was written about Hibagon in 2021 and it contains the details of this skeleton ‘hunting’.

The author who lives in Japan, seems to affirm that several regions (in particular that of Niigata) have a tradition concerning an ape-man, and that hikers disappear a little too often in these places. for example )

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