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Truth behind Japan’s 300-year-old 'Mermaid Mummy' that worshipped for immortality

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 19 February 2023, 13:22 IST
memaid mummy (Pen News Hiroshi Kinoshita)

The mummified 'mermaid', which is worshipped in Japan, remains a mystery to the world. It was allegedly caught in the 17th century, between 1736 and 1741, in the Pacific Ocean off the Japanese island of Shikoku.

Currently, the creature's remains are kept in a temple in Asakuchi city, where people visit to worship it. According to legend, the mummified 'mermaid' has the power to grant immortality, and it was worshipped during the Covid-19 pandemic in an effort to ward off the virus.

However, scientists believe that the creature is not real and that it is just a fish tail grafted onto the upper body of a primate.

To reveal the truth, they sent the artifact for a CT scan. Hiroshi Kinoshita, from the Okayama Folklore Society, who conceptualized the study, stated that they were shocked by the findings.

According to Kinoshita, the findings refute the claim that the creature was a combination of the lower body of a fish and the upper body of an ape.

“However, the survey results show that this is not the case. From what we now know, the lower half of the body is fish, but the upper half is not mammalian,” Dailymail UK quoted Kinoshita as saying.

Pen News Hiroshi Kinoshita

The findings revealed that most of the upper body of the creature was made from cloth, paper, cotton, and pufferfish skin was used on the arms, shoulders, neck, and cheeks.

The hair of the creature is derived from a mammal, while its nails are composed of animal keratin. The creature's jaws, on the other hand, were obtained from a carnivorous fish of unknown origin.

Interestingly, no internal skeleton was detected in the creature. However, researchers found metal needles in the back of its neck and lower body. The bottom half was manufactured with scales from a croaker fish. The body was painted with a paste made of sand or charcoal powder.

During the study, the researchers used almost all tests, including X-ray imaging, CT scanning, fluorescent X-ray analysis, DNA analysis, and radiocarbon dating, to solve the mystery behind the relic. Not only that, but they also studied the relic with optical and electron microscopes. After conducting all these tests, the Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts concluded that the creature was manufactured.

Hiroshi stated that the artifact was likely created to make quick money by exploiting the Japanese fascination with mermaids

'So much content was created, including stories, pictures and legends,' he said.

“'There were groups and technicians in Japan at the time who had the skills to make these elaborate mummies. One of the keywords in my research is demand - mummies were created because of demand,” Dailymail UK quoted Kinoshita as saying.

Kinoshita announced the study in 2022 and also described some of the religious significance of Japan’s mermaids.

'Japanese mermaids have a legend of immortality. It is said that if you eat the flesh of a mermaid, you will never die. There is a legend in many parts of Japan that a woman accidentally ate the flesh of a mermaid and lived for 800 years,” he said

“This 'Yao-Bikuni' legend is also preserved near the temple where the mermaid mummy was found. I heard that some people, believing in the legend, used to eat the scales of mermaid mummies,” he added.

However, there are no trace that how and when the mermaid mummy came to Enjuin temple in Asakuchi.

According to chief priest of the temple Kozen Kuida, the mummy was put on display in a glass case some 40 years ago and had recently been stored in a fireproof safe.

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First published: 19 February 2023, 13:22 IST