Venomous snakes of Okinawa-Japan


Okinawa has three species of pit vipers and one coral snake. These venomous snakes are commonly found in the jungle. They are sometimes found in neighborhoods and local parks at nighttime during the summer season. Majority of the snake bites that I am familiar with happened on neighborhood night walks or harvesting sugar cane.  I have seen pit vipers on public roads at night, on sidewalks, crawling on fences, on rock walls, in drainage ditches and inside vending machines.

Habu in vending machine

Drink machine – Photo by Leia Heider

The Okinawan Habu is the largest and most venomous pit viper found on Okinawa.

  • Scientific name: Trimeresurus flavoviridis
  • Common name: Okinawan or golden habu
  • Habitat: Rock walls, caves, tree lines, parks, farming fields and near fresh water
  • Diet: Mice, rats, shrews, bats and birds
  • Average size: 100-200cm
Okinawan Habu (Trimeresurus flavoviridis)

Okinawan Habu (Trimeresurus flavoviridis)

Fangs of the Okinawan Habu

Fangs of the Okinawan Habu

Okinawan Habu on a fence

Okinawan Habu on a fence -WAM perspective

Okinawan Habu- MYN field studio technique

Okinawan Habu- MYN field studio technique


The Taiwanese Habu was introduced to Okinawa in the 1970′s. They were imported for exhibitions and medical purposes. Somehow a few escaped and have populated the Island.  I have seen over a dozen on my night hikes near Ryukyu Mura in Onna village.

  • Scientific name: Trimeresurus mucrosquamatus
  • Common name: Taiwanese habu or Brown spotted pit viper
  • Habitat: Rock walls, trees and caves
  • Diet: Frogs, bats, mice and birds
  • Average size: 80-150cm
Taiwanes habu- Onna village

Taiwanes habu- Onna village.  Ready to strike!

Taiwanese habu-

Taiwanese habu- patiently waiting for a frog

Taiwanese habu- neighborhood at night

Taiwanese habu- neighborhood at night


The Princess habu is the most common venomous snake on Okinawa. It is the smallest of the pit vipers found here.

  • Scientific name: Ovophis okinavensis
  • Common name: Princess habu or Hime habu
  • Habitat: Rivers, ponds, creeks and runoff ditches.
  • Diet: Mainly frogs
  • Average size: 40-80cm
Princess habu -Yanbaru

Princess habu -Yanbaru forest

Large Princes habu- Yanbaru

Large Princes habu- Yanbaru

Princess habu -MYN technique

Princess habu -MYN technique


The Okinawan coral snake is extremely rare.  I have only seen two specimens

  • Scientific name: Sinomicrurus japonicus boettgeri
  • Common name: Okinawan coral snake
  • Habitat: Forest areas in northern Okinawa
  • Diet: blind snakes and small lizards
  • Average size: 30-60cm




Ways to avoid injury! 

  • Avoid catching or handling venomous snakes
  • Wear exposure protection, such as snake boots when exploring the forest at night.
  • Bring a flashlight on night walks in the neighborhood

Safety first or pay the worst!




Facing extinction – Ishikawa’s Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)

Ishikawa’s frog (Odorrana ishikawae) is the most beautiful frog found in Japan. It is only found in northern Okinawa and currently on the endangered species list. It is one of the many endemic species facing extinction due to habitat loss. Ishikawa’s frog is a designated national monument of Okinawa.

This is my favorite frog on Okinawa. I have only seen about a dozen in the last three years.

shikawa's Frog (Odorrana ishikawae) Yanbaru forest ,Okinawa

Ishikawa’s Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)  Night dwelling in the Yanbaru forest, Okinawa

They live around mountain streams in the Yanbaru forest. They hide in cracks and crevices in the rocks making it hard to photograph them at times.

Ishikawa's Frog (Odorrana ishikawae) Yanbaru forest ,Okinawa

Adult Ishikawa’s Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)   ” out of the den “

They are also masters of of camouflage. The unique pattern helps them blend into the the moss and leaves on the riverside.

ishikawa's Frog (Odorrana ishikawae) Yanbaru forest ,Okinawa

Ishikawa’s Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)       ” blending into the surrounding  “

Iskikawa's frog searching for a meal

Iskikawa’s frog searching for a meal

Photographing the frog on white ( MYN technique ) isolates the subject without any distractions. The images are used for conversation awareness and educational purposes.

ishikawa's Frog (Odorrana ishikawae) Yanbaru forest ,Okinawa

Ishikawa’s Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)     MYN  - Isolation Technique

A juvenile Ishikawa’s frog searching for food.  (Wide angle perspective)

herpetologists dream come true - the find

herpetologists dream come true – the find

Sometimes they can bee seen crossing the road !

Crossing the road - Kunigami Village

Crossing the road – Kunigami Village

Ishikawa's Frog

Ishikawa’s Frog – Photographed using the L&M Stella 2000

Top view- Ishikawa's frog

Top view- Ishikawa’s frog

Be careful and pay close attention to crossing wildlife.

Ishikawa's Frog

Ishikawa’s Frog -Wide angle macro photography

Let’s protect the wildlife of Okinawa!