A Family’s Bizarre Encounters with the Bigfoot of Japan

Reports of mysterious hairy hominids originate from a wide range of countries, locales, and cultures, from all corners of the globe. They go by many names and come in many shapes and sizes, but whether they are called Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Almas, Orang Pendek, or any of their other myriad names, one thing that these hairy homnids share is that they turn up everywhere, from high snowy peaks, to tropical forests, in alpine forests, to the deepest, darkest swamps. However, sometimes we get reports of Bigfoot or some other type of hairy hominid from places where they really seem to have no business being. Is the island nation of Japan, too, home to its own version of North America’s Bigfoot? There are many reports that seem to point to that conclusion, and one of the strangest is one that I personally managed to track down. Here is a tale that is exclusive to this article, and which you will find nowhere else, concerning a very bizarre series of sightings of Japan’s very own Bigfoot.

Before we begin, let’s look at the creature at hand. The “Japanese Bigfoot,” commonly referred to as the Hibagon, is said to lurk in the forests of Mt. Hiba in Northern Hiroshima, from which it gains its namesake, as well as its surrounding wilderness. The Hibagon is typically described as being reddish brown or black in color, and sometimes reported as having a patch of white fur on its chest or arms. It is said to be a foul smelling and ugly creature, with a fierce face covered in bristles, a snub nose, and glaring, intelligent eyes. The ape-like face is sometimes said to be long and somewhat protruding rather than flat like a human’s, and the head is often reported as proportionately large, and shaped somewhat like an inverted triangle.

The Hibagon is much smaller than its North American counterpart, the Sasquatch, and is most commonly reported as around 5 to 6 feet in height and estimated as weighing about 180 to 200 pounds. The creature is also reported to be more ape-like and animalistic than the Sasquatch as well. The Hibagon is often described as looking more like a gorilla or giant monkey than human-like, and although it is most often seen moving bipedally, many reports tell of the creature moving about on all fours quite easily. Some eyewitnesses even claim the animal was hopping along “like a monkey.” Other notable features of reports are the Hibagon’s apparent curiosity, its lack of fear of people and the general absence of any sort of vocalizations in the reports.

Image by Steve Baxter

The Hibagon is mostly known from a series of sightings in the Mt. Hiba area lasting from 1970 to 1982. Probably the first Hibagon sighting account occurred in early 1970, when a group of elementary school students out picking wild mushrooms in the forests of Mt. Hiba were terrified to come across an ape-like beast noisily crashing through brush nearby. The creature became perturbed at the presence of humans in its vicinity, and made some threatening gestures and snapped some branches, much like a gorilla’s bluffing display it might be noted, before darting away into the underbrush. The children immediately rushed back to their teacher to report what they had seen, but upon further investigation the creature was gone. All that remained in its wake were swaths of smashed underbrush and branches that seemed to have been twisted apart, something that would take far more strength than a school child would possess. A series of sightings would ensue, and one of the strangest is the one I managed to track down.

I was first introduced to the witness through a Japanese fan of my articles, who reached out to me with the case of a witness he knew who had never come forth publicly with his story. I managed to make contact with the witness, and as he did not want to be named in this article, he will remain known as simply “Mr. Saito” for this piece. Mr. Saito was rather shy and hesitant to  talk to me, not really willing to tell his tale at first, but as we talked he warmed up to the idea, and a very bizarre tale would begin to unfurl.

The setting for this story is a simple farmhouse nestled against the side of Mt. Hiba in the summer of 1980. In front stretch rice fields, and behind a tangle of wilderness sweeps up the mountainside. In this area the houses are far from each other, with the nearest neighbor sometimes some distance away, the houses simple wooden structures with traditional tiled roofs. It was in one of these modest houses that the witness to this tale was living at the time of his strange story, living a simple life with his wife and two young children. It was a quiet, serene place, far removed from the bustle and business of big cities like Tokyo or Osaka, a place where everyone knew each other, where doors remained unlocked, and where typically not much ever really happened at all. Yet this was about to change for the Saito family, and their lives were never to be the same.

It started quite innocuously. One day Saito went out into his modest vegetable garden behind the house to find that some of his vegetables had been dug out from the ground and taken. Now remember this was a safe and rural little town where crime was a complete stranger, so he knew that a person wouldn’t have stolen his vegetables. Saito’s first immediate thought was that this was the doing of Japanese macaques, which are ubiquitous in many rural and suburban mountain area of Japan and which can be quite a nuisance, raiding trash cans and gardens. Saito had had problems with the monkeys before, having even erected a scarecrow on the property to ward them off, so this was his first guess as to who the perpetrators were. He decided to carry out a stake out of the garden, waiting by the window to catch the little rascals in the act, but he would soon find that the culprit was no Japanese monkey.

Japanese macaques

The strangeness really began on a warm evening as the sun was just starting to dip below the mountains with the coming of night. Saito had been waiting at the sliding door overlooking his garden for several hours and seen no monkeys, so he was beginning to think he might try again in the early morning hours when he heard something move through the brush beyond the tree line. Peering through the trees in the fading light, he still had enough light to see, and fully expected to see the macaques lurking about. The sound of the brush being disturbed came again, and it was somewhat furtive and subdued, as if whatever was making the sound was trying to be stealthy, perhaps even aware of Saito’s presence. The farmer continued glaring out into the forest when he saw something there in the trees, of which he would explain:

I saw a dark shape huddled near a tree, and it could have easily been mistaken for a tree trunk or garbage pile by anyone else, but I knew my property. I had lived there for years and knew that this big black shape was not supposed to be there. I was curious more than anything, and I got up to go out there and see what it was, and that was when it moved. I was startled, and began to think it was a black bear. We didn’t see those often around there and they were very rare, but not unheard of.

 

I was wondering what do when the shape moved again and stood up. I could see that it was fairly large, maybe 175 cm (5.5 feet), probably taller since it was sort of hunched over. It took a couple of steps and then sort of plopped down again to sit or squat there, and I could tell that it had rather longish dark hair and a head that sort of cocked to the side as if it were studying me. I could feel that it was watching me, but could not see its face clearly in fading light. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew this was no bear. If I had to say what it reminded me of, I’d have to say it was most like a long-haired ape, like maybe an orangutan. Although I could not see it well, that was my impression. I tried to quietly call out to my wife in the next room, and when I did, this thing just bolted and started running off up the steep mountainside. It was incredibly fast and agile whatever it was, and by the time my wife came to see what I wanted her to see it was gone.

Saito excitedly told his wife about what he had seen, but she just told him that it was probably a bear, something he strongly denied. When his kids heard of it, they were more curious than scared, and they chattered about what it could be throughout the rest of the evening. Saito himself found himself lost to his thoughts pondering what he had seen, and when he went to bed, he decided to try an experiment. From the kitchen he gathered together a platter containing an apple, banana, some sweet potatoes, squash, celery, and a bit of chocolate out of sheer curiosity. He then brought the platter out to the edge of his property and left it there by the trees, taking one last look into the pitch blackness and muttering “Eat this if you must, but leave my vegetable garden alone,” before heading off to a fitful sleep. The next morning, Saito got up just after dawn and went out to check the platter he had left out, and would tell me of his find:

The food was gone. Or I should say some of it was. The apple was still sitting there and the celery and banana remained, but the sweet potatoes, squash, and chocolate were all gone. I thought that if this had been monkeys then it would be strange of them to leave behind anything. They would have eaten it all. That day I saw nothing of our strange visitor, and that night I tried again, putting out the same selection of food, and again the next morning the sweet potato, squash, and chocolate were gone. For several nights in a row I did this, and whatever was taking the food sure didn’t like apples, bananas, or celery.

Image by Steve Baxter

During these nights and during the days, Saito saw nothing more of the creature he had seen, but this would soon change. After four days of this, one day his daughter came to him as he read a book and whispered that there was something out in the forest. He immediately went to look and could see that thing out there again, much to his amazement. It was now broad daylight and sitting less than 100 feet away, so now he was able to more clearly see it, and he would say of what happened:

I could now see that it was definitely no bear. It looked like some sort of ape. It was squatting down near a tree, its long arms casually resting in front. The hair was rather long and unkempt, like that of an orangutan, and of a deep reddish- gray hue. It was quite wide and muscular, and its head had a slight rise to it, like that of a gorilla. The face I could now make out and it was not like any ape I had ever seen. It seemed very human-like, but with a squashed, flat nose and large mouth. Its eyes were deep-set under a prominent brow, mostly hiding them in shadow.

 

It was just sitting there staring at us for some time, and then it let out a sound that resembled “oof oof.” It was a gentle sound. It didn’t give me the impression of aggression. It called out several more times like this, “oof oof,” and then stood up on two legs. I could see now that it was around 180 cm (6 feet) high, with wide shoulders and a bit of a pot belly, and its arms were long, dangling down to its knees. It took a few steps towards us and that was the point that our curiosity turned to fear. My daughter and I backed away into the house and closed the sliding door. The sound of the door closing must have spooked it, because again it took off at high speed into the trees and was gone.

By now Saito was completely obsessed with this strange creature, and began spending most of his time sitting there by his yard staring up at the mountainside waiting for it to appear again. For several days, he saw nothing, and then, remembering his daylight encounter, he decided to try putting the food platter out in the daytime. He put together a platter of sweet potatoes, squash, and chocolate, no apples, and placed it by the forest edge, and he did not have to wait for a response. Within thirty minutes of putting the food out, he saw movement from up in the trees, and the creature appeared, making its way down the hill with smooth confidence and agility despite the treacherous terrain. This time it came closer than ever, walking on two legs right up to the food, and Saito could now see it better than ever before. He would say of the surreal situation:

The creature did not seem to be so afraid of me this time, as if it knew I meant it no harm. It approached the platter of food, a little warily but not scared, and I could see it very well now. My wife saw it too this time, and she now knew it was not a bear. Its long hair was a tangled mess, knotted up in places, full of twigs and grass. The hands were rough and leathery, but looked very human. But it was the eyes that struck me. I could see them now and they were full of a keen intelligence. There was an awareness there beyond a mere animal. It looked right at me as it approached and I could see that it was not aggressive and that it was studying me as much as I was studying it. It did not take those remarkably human eyes off me for a moment as it reached out with its long arms, plucked the food off the plate, and then backed away. It then made its way up the hill again. It stopped once, looked at me, and let out one single “oof” sound. Then it went off out of sight into the trees. That was the last time I ever saw it.

Image by Steve Baxter

Saito would continue to look out through those trees, waiting every day to see it again, but the creature never did come back. Maybe something had happened to, maybe it had decided not to get too close to humans anymore, or maybe it had just moved on, wandering off on its inscrutable path. This story is not only bizarre, but also incredibly unique among Hibagon sightings at the time. During the short time that the creature was seen, it was always only fleetingly witnessed, renowned for being elusive and shy. There is no other report that I know of that involved a witness seeing the creature up close or for an extended, and certainly none involving what seemed in this case to have been actual interaction. It is so amazing, in fact, that I often wonder if any of it is true. However, considering that Saito never went to the news about it, kept it to himself, and as far as I know has only ever told me, why would he make up such an elaborate story? What is going on here?

It is hard to say what the Hibagon phenomenon could really be about, since it is a type of animal that would be one of the last things anyone would expect to encounter out in the woods here. What is the Hibagon and what did this witness really see out there in the trees and how does it tie into the whole Hibagon phenomenon? Is this all speculation, myth, and legend, or is there perhaps something more to it all? What did Mr. Saito and the many others who saw the Hibagon actually see, if anything at all? It looks like something we may not ever get the answer to, and the Hibagon and this report lie out there in a true realm of mystery.

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