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Jinmenken: The Human-Faced Dogs of Japan

Image Credit: John C. Frohn / TopicSprout
Could the Jinmenken from Japanese folklore be real? Could these mythical creatures have really existed and, more importantly, are they still around today?

The Jinmenken, or "The Human-Faced Dog", was first reported back in the "Edo Era" from the early 1600s to the mid 1800s. They were often seen by locals and were so common that they were featured in some newspapers of that era. Many of the creepy critters that weave their way through Japanese mythology are purely imagined fantasies. They border between fact and fiction, thus blurring one's perspective of what is reality and what is just pure fantasy.

But what if this bizarre creature is still among us today? Sighting locations of this strange animal can vary, from dark rural roads to bustling city streets, where they have reportedly been seen to rummage through rubbish bins for scraps of food.

Unlike most of the mythical creatures in Japanese folklore, it is said that the Jinmenken means you no harm. They are known to plead with those who have come in contact with them to leave them alone. Or in some rare cases, have held simple conversations with those who would choose to stay and listen.

These sad-eyed beasts are said to look like ordinary dogs from a distance, but have dirty, matted coats with their tails between their legs as if to cower or be submissive. To the observer, these pathetic creatures seem to be sad and scared.

Image Credit: Pixabay
Jinmenken are said to look like ordinary dogs from a distance
It has been reported that Jinmenken were once used in "misemono" - the Japanese equivalent to a travelling sideshow. These exhibits would typically feature an assortment of exotic creatures, mummified monsters and mysterious artefacts of the strange and macabre.

After visiting a misemono, one noted zoologist of the time described his reaction to seeing a purported Jinmenken on display:

There, cowering and whimpering in the corner of the display booth I saw the hunched over form of what I first took to be a typical Shiba Inu, although of a somewhat more pungent odour. Then the thing looked up with sad eyes and I could see clearly that it was the face of a human being, albeit with the empty, soulless gaze of an animal. I was eager to be on my way from such a ghastly abomination and the thing’s gaze left me with a deep unease long after I had left.

The zoologist was not the only one to feel such unease. Foreboding feelings of dread and despair are common among those who claim to have encountered Jinmenken. There are even reports of observers being hypnotised by these peculiar creatures, which some say are omens of tragedy and misfortune.

But can there be a logical explanation for the bizarre beasts?

One theory is that these creatures are nothing more than Japanese macaques, or "snow monkeys". These primates, the most northern inhabitants of the monkey world, can be found all over Japan and resemble a small dog from a distance. That also have human-like faces and have a varied range of vocal abilities that could easily be mistaken as speech buy the anxious observer.

Image Credit: Pixabay
Could the Jinmenken be nothing more than Japanese macaques?
That leaves us the question, is the mystery of the Jinmenken just a myth? Or is there some truth to the stories that are still being told today? Could they just be the imaginations of a people steadfastly engrossed in the fables of their culture? Or are they just a misunderstood little monkey?

Look deep into your soul, could you have seen one of these creatures in your dreams? Did you recognise your own face on the body of a desperate animal? Could these mythical beasts be real?

We’ll leave that up to you to decide.

What do you think? Could the Jinmenken really exist? Let us know what you think in the comments and don't forget to follow us on social media (TwitterFacebookGoogle+) to avoid missing out on new articles!
Jinmenken: The Human-Faced Dogs of Japan Jinmenken: The Human-Faced Dogs of Japan Reviewed by Christopher Christou on March 07, 2018 Rating: 5

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