A “mermaid mummy” kept in a temple has been an object of worship, the stuff of nightmares, and a source of mystery for hundreds of years.
Now, for the first time, a project has begun to scientifically analyze the mummified creature, which has the upper body of a human and the lower body of a fish.
Researchers from the Kurashiki University of Science and Arts here and other organizations plan to announce their findings around fall.
On February 2, Kozen Kuida, 60, head priest of the Enjuin temple in Asakuchi, removed the precious 30-centimeter-long specimen to the computed tomography room of the university’s veterinary hospital.
Lying on her back on an examination table, the mummy seemed to be locked in a scream as she covered her mouth with her hands. In addition to nails and teeth, the mummy has hair on its head and scales on its lower body.
According to a note contained in the same box as the “dry mermaid,” the creature was caught in a fishing net off the coast of Tosa Province (present-day Kochi Prefecture) between 1736 and 1741.
Hiroshi Kinoshita, 54, a board member of the Okayama Folk Society, came up with the project after coming across a photo of the mummy while reading materials left behind by Kiyoaki Sato (1905-1998), a Satosho natural historian. .
Sato is believed to have written Japan’s first encyclopedia of ghouls, yokai, hobgoblins, and other supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore.
After learning that the mermaid mummy was housed in Enjuin, Kinoshita canvassed officials at the temple and university to conduct the investigation, he said.
Takafumi Kato, a university professor specializing in paleontology, is in charge of the morphological analysis of the upper body of the Enjuin temple specimen.
It will be his first investigation on a mythical creature and soon he will obtain results that he will share with the scientific community.