Do you know about the famed kamoshika? If you’ve been to Nozawa before you’re sure to have heard of the name at least and you may have been lucky enough to spot a kamoshika. They are gorgeous creatures who wander through the mountains of Nozawa and other areas of Japan. They’re a Japanese serow, which is a sort of goat/antelope animal and they like to wander the forests alone, nibbling on leaves and shoots as they go.
Kamoshika are now a national symbol of Japan. They’ve been considered a “special natural monument” since 1955 but it wasn’t always so. Before that time they were a threatened species due to overhunting and loss of habitat. Now they are happily thriving, although spotting them is still relatively rare as they blend in well with the foliage. It’s a real treat to spot one in winter as they’re usually pushing slowly through deep snow.
If you’d like to see a video of one running across a ski track, check this video out.
Tales and rumours about kamoshika
As a national treasure of Japan, kamoshika are held in very high regard. I’ve been told plenty of curious things about kamoshika by the Nozawa locals and others. First, spotting one is supposed to give you luck for years.
Second, they’re sometimes called the ‘spirits of the forest’ for their quiet, wandering ways.
Third, kamoshika are known for being agile and strong when the time calls for it. While I’ve only ever seen them amble through the snow, they’re known to jump nimbly between rocky cliff faces and sprint up mountains. It’s a great compliment to be called kamoshika-like, and a term that is bestowed upon great athletes in Japan.
Finally, kamoshika are considered very sure-footed so students mark omamori charms with kamoshika hoofprints, hoping that it will give them sure-footedness and luck to pass their exams.
4 Tips – How to Spot a Kamoshika
Morning and afternoon is best
Kamoshika are diurnal creatures, meaning that they like to feed in the early mornings and late in the afternoon. So you’re likely to see them when you’re heading up for first tracks or almost done for the day.
Focus on the trees
Kamoshika are forest dwellers and will be seen nibbling on shrubs, or walking slowly between the trees. In Nozawa, the common places to see them are on either side of the gondola lines and I’ve also spotted my fair share from the Shin Yu chairlift.
Look for lone kamoshika
Don’t expect to see huge hoards of kamoshika hanging out together. They are solitary creatures, living most of their life alone. If you’re lucky enough to see two together it will likely be a mother with her child.
Kamoshika are good camouflagers with coats the same colour as their surroundings (usually foliage, rocks and dirt), although they are a little easier to spot in winter against the white snow. They often stay still if they know you’re nearby, so if you’re a dedicated nature watcher it’s handy to bring a pair of binoculars to spot them between the trees.