A mummified “mermaid” that is said to grant immortality to whoever eats its flesh, will be studied by scientists looking to find its true nature. The creature is believed to have been caught in the Pacific Ocean, off the Japanese island of Shikoku, between 1736 and 1761, and is currently being kept in a temple in the city of Asakuchi.
The creature has some human features such as two hands and hair on its head and brow, but it also has razor-sharp pointed teeth, and a fish-like lower half complete with a tail.
Hiroshi Kinoshita of the Okayama Folklore Society, who’s in charge of the project, said the mummy could have religious significance.
“Japanese mermaids have a legend of immortality,” he said. “It is said that if you eat the flesh of a mermaid, you will never die. The is a legend in many parts of Japan that a woman accidentally ate the flesh of a mermaid and lived for 800 years.”
In the age of COVID-19, a mermaid could be a dark omen according to folklore.
“There is also a legend that a mermaid predicted an infectious disease,” warned Hiroshi.
A historic letter dated 1903, written by a former owner stored with the mummy tells of its origin.
“A mermaid was caught in a fish-catching net in the sea off Kochi Prefecture,” the letter states.
The fishermen who caught it did not know it was a mermaid, but took it to Osaka and sold it as an unusual fish.
“My ancestors bought it and kept it as a family treasure.”
It’s unknown how or when the mummy came to the Enjuin temple in Asakuchi.
According to the chief priest, Kozen Kuida, it was put in a glass display case 40 years ago and is currently in a fireproof safe.