Who is Kumamon? How to say different animals in Japanese

Kuma is the Japanese word for bear. These days one name has been mentioned often – Kumamoto. Kumamoto city and Kumamoto castle. You know, Kyushu, one of the big 4 islands of Japan, has experienced a series of strong earthquakes, followed by hundreds of aftershocks.  There are victims and huge damages to the buildings and the infrastructure.

Kumamon. If you have been browsing the news about this disaster I am pretty sure you have seen one cute black bear with round red cheeks. This is Kumamon – the emblematic mascot of Kumamoto prefecture. And for sure one of the most favorite in whole Japan.

I decided this time to make a non-picture post – a list of the Japanese names of the animals (well, as many as I know myself so far!). I have received once compliments for knowing so many, but let me explain – working as a teacher in a Japanese nursery inevitably brings this knowledge to you! Kids know them all at very young age! Kids love animals, don’t they! 🙂

So if you want to know how to say some animal in Japanese, here they are:

Animals – doubutsu (literally “thing/creature in motion”)

Forest animals:

bear – kuma     wolf – ookami     fox – kitsune   rabbit – usagi    hedgehog – harinezumi Japanese racoon – tanuki   snake – hebi   lizard – tokage    squirrel – risu   deer – shika (go in Nara and you’ll see hundreds of shika!)   reindeer – tonakai (usually mentioned just around Christmas)   monkey – saru (they do have wild monkeys in Japan, even there’s a popular monkey park in Kyoto!)    bird – tori    wild boar – inoshishi     Japanese pit viper (a kind of forest snake) – mamushi and another poisonous snake in Okinawa – habu    bat – koumori 

Animals seen in the zoo (well, this is for Japan):

lion – rayon   tiger – tora   puma – pyuuma   cheetah – chiitaa    giraffe – kirin   zebra – shimauma   polar bear – shirokuma (literally means white bear)   kangaroo – kangaru   elephant – zou (actually sounds like dzoo)   koala – koara   penguin – pengin    hippopotamus – kaba   crocodile, alligator  – wani    gorilla – gorira   chimpanzee – chimpanjii    panda – panda   camel – rakuda   flamingo – furamingo   ostrich – dachoo  rhinoceros – sai   racoon – araiguma

Farm animals:

horse – uma   sheep – hitsuji   goat – yagi   pig – buta   duck – ahiru   hen, chicken – ahiru   cow – ushi   chick – hiyoko  donkey – roba


dog – inu   cat – neko    goldfish – kingyo   hamster – hamustaa    mouse – nezumi

Water animals (lakes and sea): 

koi –Japanese carp (you have seen these awesome colorful carps in the Japanese garden ponds)  fish – sakana   turtle (also tortoise) – kame   whale – kujira   shark – same   sea urchin – uni   eel – unagi   octopus – tako   squid – ika   shrimp – ebi   jellyfish – kurage   crab – kani    frog – kaeru  dolphin – iruka   seal – azarashi

Insects: (generally they are all mushi including some tiny molluscs)

ant – ari   butterfly – choochoo   mosquito – ka   cockroach – kokiburi (sometimes gokiburi)   fly – mushi   caterpillar – aomushi   cicada – semi   grashopper – batta   preying mantice – kamakiri   dragonfly – tombo   ladybug – tentoomushi     spider (I know it’s not an insect, but it always stays near them!) – kumo    snail – katatsumuri (I mentioned it is put in the “mushi” group)    rhinocerus beetle –  kabutomushi   firefly – hotaru  bee – hachi   cricket – koorogi   wasp – mitsubachi    roly poly bug – dangomushi   Japanese poisonus centipede  – mukade (really dangerous, its bite is painful and immediate hospitalization in necessary!)

Some birds:

The most famous Japanese crane – tsuru (they nicknamed the biggest castle Himeji like that)   sparrow – suzume   dove, pigeon – hato     crow, raven – karasu   seagul – kamome   heron – sagi    Japanese white eye – mejiro   kingfisher – kawasemi    eagle – washi  owl – fukuroo  wild duck – kamo


dinosaur – kyooryuu    mysterous mythical creature living in ponds and has a …tiny plate on its head – kappa

DONE! 100! Phew!!!

And I want to mention Kuma – bear again. Because of Kumamoto.

While people there are struggling to survive in temporary shelters and rescue teams are looking for miracle survivors in the collapsed buildings, campaigns for support and donations have started. If you live in Japan the easiest way to donate is …buying the delicious vegetables produced in Kumamoto. You can easily recognize them in the shops when you see Kumamon – the smiling black bear, the official mascot of Kumamoto.

Ganbatte, Kumamoto!

Sharing a beautiful art devoted to this current disaster and the hope we have in Kumamoto!



2 thoughts on “Who is Kumamon? How to say different animals in Japanese

  1. Great post on animal and other names! I didn’t know about ‘kokuburi’ before, and had only heard ‘gokiburi’ for ‘roach’.

    Best of luck to those effected by the recent earthquake tragedy, hopefully everyone can get the aid they need to get back on their feet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s