'Mermaid' mummy worshipped in Japan found to be a doll with fish parts

The mummified "mermaid," worshipped for the last 40 years, was found to have been a man-made creation from the late 1800s.

 This creature has mystified people for decades. (photo credit: FLICKR)
This creature has mystified people for decades.
(photo credit: FLICKR)

A creature resembling a mummified mermaid, which has been worshipped by Japanese people for decades, has been analyzed and proven to be a doll with fish parts attached to it.

The mermaid was housed in the Enjuin temple in Asakuchi for the last 40 years. It was believed to have been captured in the Pacific Ocean sometime between 1736 and 1741. Radioactive dating now leads scientists to believe it was constructed in the late 1800s. 

Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts investigated the mummy using a CT scanner.

This creation is not the only one

Similar mummies have been found across Japan and are thought to have been created during the Edo-period.

“Based on our analysis and the history of mummy creation in Japan, we can only conclude that the mermaid mummy was probably man-made,” Takafumi Kato, a paleontologist working on the project, told Vice World News. 

 Mummified mermaid statue (credit: FLICKR) Mummified mermaid statue (credit: FLICKR)

The 12-inch statue was made from paper, cloth, cotton and fish parts, The Sun reported. The mermaid did not have a spine, ribs or other bones.

Locals believed the mermaid has the power to bestow immortality to those who bit it.

Mermaid mythology in Japan

Mermaids, or Ningyo in Japanese, play a large role in Japanese mythology. They are described as having golden scales, a monkey’s mouth, a fish’s teeth, and a voice that sounds flute-like, according to KCP International

According to the myths, capturing a ningyo will bring about bad luck and stormy weather. If one washes ashore, it is thought to be an omen of war. 

A mermaid mummy is on display at the Tenshou-Kyousha shrine. It is believed that the mummy was once a fisherman who entered forbidden waters and was punished by going through a mermaid transition. 

Another myth tells of a fisherman drunkenly feeding a mermaid to his daughter. The daughter never aged, became a nun and wandered the earth. She was believed to have died at 800 years old.