Did you know that catfish cause earthquakes?

20 Mar

About nine months ago I wrote a post about a Japanese folklore character called a “Kappa” which is meant to scare children from playing to close to bodies of water where they may drown.

Signs in Japan warning children to stay away from a river or lake almost always have a picture of a Kappa.

But there is another folklore character that is found in warning signs in Japan today. The 鯰 (catfish).

Long ago in Japan it was said that earthquakes were caused by a giant sleeping catfish who lived under the ground when it woke up and began it thrash around.


A 浮世絵 (woodblock print) of a god stopping the catfish from causing an earthquake.

So, in Japan today, even though no one actually believes that earthquakes are caused by catfish, signs for earthquake evacuation shelters, earthquake evacuation routes and earthquake safety usually have a picture of a catfish.


A roadsign in Japan for an earthquake emergency road.


It says: "It's an earthquake! We support you and your families safety with earthquake evacuation"

Even though no one believes the folklore legend about the giant catfish underground causing earthquakes, many people do believe that catfish act peculiar just before an earthquake strikes…and this is where the folklore story may have originated from.

40 Responses to “Did you know that catfish cause earthquakes?”

  1. Anonymous February 23, 2016 at 1:19 am #


    Liked by 1 person

  2. duncan November 6, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    maybe its only a giant catfish maybe 23feet tall


    • tokyo5 November 6, 2012 at 11:25 am #

      I’ve never heard about a real catfish growing to 23 feet (seven meters) in length.


  3. twixraider July 28, 2011 at 1:01 am #

    I run a viral benefit performance blog feat. everything Namazu:


    If you have something to contribute, be my guest blogger!


    • tokyo5 July 28, 2011 at 2:16 am #

      You’re site looks very interesting.
      You like namazu (Japanese catfish) a lot, don’t you?

      >be my guest blogger!

      Thank you. I’d be happy to…if I can think of something to write.


      • twixraider July 28, 2011 at 3:19 am #

        Thank you, even it gets more and more random… I’ve spotted such a monster in a river near my hometown ages ago and I stumbled upon Namazu two years ago on PINK TENTACLE (not what it sounds like!), after the Tsunami in March a schoolgirl on deviantArt asked for ideas/designs for benefit t-shirts. The rest is “history” (filed under “The Mission), now I’m a Catfishophile. What you could write about? How about a Namazu recipe? My target audience are housewifes… 😀


      • tokyo5 July 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

        >How about a Namazu recipe?

        Catfish is eaten in the southern U.S. (where I grew up)…but it’s not usually eaten in Japan.


  4. shiawase April 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    This is a very interesting, albeit brief, post. I can finally see the inspiration behind Namazun, the catfish pokemon which is able to produce tremors in the ground. Also, I feel saddened by the tragedy caused by the earthquake and tsunami and have already donated some things, just some clothes I do not wear. I hope they reach where they are needed.


    • tokyo5 April 16, 2011 at 1:04 am #

      I don’t know the Pokemon characters…but if there’s a catfish, I’m not surprised that it causes earthquakes—seeing as Pokemon‘s a Japanese cartoon.


  5. musings March 30, 2011 at 6:16 am #

    This is very interesting. I’ll have to ask my mom about the catfish.


    • tokyo5 March 31, 2011 at 12:39 am #

      Is your mother Japanese? Then she will certainly know about ナマズ (catfish) “causing” earthquakes.


      • musings March 31, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

        My mother was born on Molokai where her zen priest father was a minister working in Kalaupapa to aid the Buddhist leprosy victims. They returned to Japan when she was about six. It’s a long, harrowing story but she was sent back to Hawaii to be married after the war. She is American, but Japanese in her heart.


      • tokyo5 April 1, 2011 at 12:13 am #

        Has your mother visited Japan since she moved to Japan? Japan is unique in that it has ultra-modern next to ancient and traditional…some parts are so different from Japan of years ago and other things are exactly the same even centuries later.


  6. Hieronymo March 23, 2011 at 12:26 am #

    Thanks for the great photos of earthquake warning signs. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if catfish are able to detect the very first hints of an earthquakes–not only do they have extraordinarily sensitive vibrissae which can apprehend the slightest variation in water current, they also are electrosensitive and covered with highly receptive taste buds. The whole creature is a super-tuned sense organ.


    • tokyo5 March 23, 2011 at 12:44 am #

      So I guess people should start paying attention to the catfish. Maybe we’ll be able to prepare for earthquakes if we do.


  7. Blue Shoe March 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    I love this kind of folklore! I’ve seen this particular one alluded to in video games before. What comes to mind, in particular, is a Super Nintendo game called Lufia 2 (Estapolis in Japan, I think). In the game, there was a town being terrorized by earthquakes, and you had to travel to a nearby cave and defeat a giant catfish that was causing the shaking. Good times.


    • tokyo5 March 22, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

      I’m not much of a video game player, so I don’t know that game (I’m of the “Pac-Man” generation 😉 )…but since that’s a Japanese game, it makes sense (a least to Japanese people) that there would be a ナマズ (catfish) if there are 地震 (earthquakes) in the game.


  8. metalodyssey March 21, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    This is such an interesting bit of info! Never would I have known about this Japanese catfish folklore or how the catfish is used on Japan’s evacuation signs… unless Tokyo Five writes about it! 🙂

    I do believe however, that animals (fish included) can alert us to nasty impending weather and even geographic disasters. I do wish we had the “technology” to predict an actual earthquake is going to happen though… it would save so many lives. My cat always acts strange whenever a storm is on it’s way… rain, snow or even a dramatic drop in temperature and my cat is out of sorts the day before a major weather change occurs.


    • tokyo5 March 21, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

      Yes, I think we should pay more attention to our animal “friends”. They’re more “in tune” with nature and seem to notice approaching dangers long before we do.

      I watched a special on TV about a man with heart disease who’s dog would warn him before he had a heart attack.
      After the man learned to “listen” to his pet, he began to take his medication on the dog’s warning…and avoided future heart attacks!


      • metalodyssey March 21, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

        That’s remarkable stuff. Let’s face it, when a huge flock of birds suddenly fly away from a tree or park grounds… it usually means there is a “predator” in the area. That’s a “signal” alone, from the wild. It might seem like a corny example, yet I pay attention to it!


      • tokyo5 March 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

        Sometimes a flock of pigeons or crows will be on the ground and suddenly fly away with no visible provocation…I’ve heard it’s because they felt an earthquake tremor that was too small for people to notice.


  9. cocomino March 20, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    I like this woodblock print. I want to depend on the catfish about future earthquake, if possible.


    • tokyo5 March 20, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

      Yeah, I wish there was a way to accurately predict earthquakes soon enough for people to evacuate ahead of time!

      By the way, is there any earthquake damage in Kawagoe? Kawagoe is a very nice part of Japan!


      • cocomino March 21, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

        I’m happy to hear that you know Kawagoe.

        I don’t hear about the big damage in Kawagoe.
        Of course there are small damage of buildings.
        I haven’t seen the center of the town because I live in the edge of the town.


      • tokyo5 March 21, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

        Of course I know Kawagoe. I like 下町 (downtown) areas a lot.

        Also Kawagoe has many fun festivals…and I like festivals a lot too.

        Click here (and scroll down a little bit) to see a festival in Kawagoe that I mention.


      • cocomino March 21, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

        How nice!
        My wife used to play a drum on a float(山車 dashi) during the Kawagoe festival.

        I also like downtown “Tsukishima”, “Ueno”,”Asakusa” and the other..I used to live in Tokyo.


      • tokyo5 March 22, 2011 at 12:08 am #

        >My wife used to play a drum on a float(山車 dashi) during the Kawagoe festival.

        It’s cool. Kawagoe is kinda far, so I don’t go often. But I like to go when I can.

        >I also like downtown…I used to live in Tokyo.

        Well, you live in a very nice 下町 (downtown area) now.
        How long have you lived in Saitama?


      • cocomino March 22, 2011 at 10:25 pm #

        Oh, I had lived in Tokyo about for twenty five years.
        And I have lived in Saitama since nine years ago.


      • tokyo5 March 22, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

        Are you 34才 then? 😉
        Still young!

        How old are your children?


      • cocomino March 22, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

        about 34 🙂

        My eldest daughter is seven years old and my youngest daughter is three years old.

        My wife’s age is secret.( I will be scolded.)


      • tokyo5 March 22, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

        Seven and three. So next month they’ll start 小学校2年 (second grade) and 幼稚園 (pre-school)?

        >My wife’s age is secret.

        Of course. 😉


      • cocomino March 22, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

        ・小学校2年 and
        ・保育園(nursery) です。。 🙂

        They are still cute.


    • tokyo5 March 22, 2011 at 11:43 pm #


      Actually my kids went to 保育園 (Nursery school) too.

      My daughters will start 高校3年 (12th grade), 高校2年 (11th grade) and 中3年 (9th grade) next month.

      Time flies!

      >They are still cute.

      I’m sure they are.


  10. cuteandcurls March 20, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    Interesting 🙂 I never knew that at all. I love reading folklores by the way 🙂


    • tokyo5 March 20, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

      >Interesting I never knew that at all.


      >I love reading folklores by the way

      Me, too.
      Are there any interesting ones from your country?


      • cuteandcurls March 21, 2011 at 1:59 am #

        Yes we do, I’ll have to compile some when I go back home to my country in 2 weeks time 🙂


      • tokyo5 March 21, 2011 at 2:30 am #

        I’ll look forward to it.


  11. sixmats March 20, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    Hmm, I’m sure I have seen that, but I don’t remember. I don’t see many catfish signs around Sendai.


    • tokyo5 March 20, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

      >I don’t see many catfish signs around Sendai.

      Not even near earthquake shelters?


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