Like our last entry on the fabled "Lizard Man" of South Carolina, today's cryptid curiosity, which hails from the smaller islands of Japan, is also reptilian in nature: the weird, bloated serpent known as the Tsuchinoko (also known as Nozuchi, Bachi-Hebi and other names) is apparently much smaller, but according to legend it's often just as dangerous.
Descriptions vary from one region to another, but most depictions of the Tsuchinoko portray it as a sort of bloated snake about a yard long, usually a dark color, and sometimes with demonic or human-like facial features and the ability to leap in the air and/or grab its own tail and roll like a wheel. In most tales, it's said to have huge fangs secreting deadly venom, but tends to avoid contact with humans. Some legends say it can mimic a human voice, and has a taste for alcohol, leading to stories of the Tsuchinoko tricking people into offering it booze.
Accounts of the Tsuchinoko date all the way back to the 8th Century – the earliest known descriptions are found in the Kojiki, the oldest known book of Japanese history – and not only do sightings of the creature still persist today (there's even a long-standing reward for its capture in some towns), but like many legendary monsters, it's become a regular staple of Japanese culture. Fans of Pokemon claim it's the inspiration for the droopy-eyed “Dunsparce” (pictured below); it's made appearances in anime shows like Uchurei; and gamers know the monster from Metal Gear Solid, in which a player wins a major trophy for capturing it. For a creature that is probably based on exaggerated accounts of various snakes and lizards, the Tsuchinoko legend has some serious staying power.