David Nardiello, 29, of Wantagh, encountered an evolutionary enigma this past May in Osaka, Japan, in a town called Shinke-Cho. Nardiello had lived in a small apartment in the town for three years, teaching English to high school students at the nearby Higshimozu High School.
After a tiresome night of Shorinji Kempo, a form of kung fu, Nardiello rode his bicycle the few blocks home, as he’d always done. It was a rainy and foggy night. This being Japan’s rainy season, continuous torrential downpours had flooded a rice field bordering his building. Staring out over the newly formed lake, something appeared that has piqued Nardiello’s curiosity ever since.
“I’m looking in the lake and I see this thing pop out,” Nardiello told me. “A white neck. And it’s got two black eyes. And then it turns its neck to look at me. And it noticed me. And then, right as it noticed me—it started walking out. But it looked like it had cat’s legs. It looked like maybe it was a lizard. It turns to look at me, then turns and takes out wings and starts to fly away. It must have gone almost 100 feet up in the air, out of nowhere. It sent shivers up my spine. I got the hell out of there.”
Curiosity turned to fear. Nardiello ran up the stairs to his third-floor apartment and peered outside the window. “I look out the window and I see it fly right by again,” he recalled. “Really fast, too. Right up, close. [The wings] looked like bat’s wings. And its paws looked like a cat—like the arms of a cat. It had a tail, too. [Its face] looked like a white snake with black eyes. Like great-white-shark black eyes.”
After asking neighbors if they, too, had ever witnessed the aerial creature, Nardiello found that no one else had actually seen the thing—but had in fact heard strange animalistic cries coming from the field in the past. Nardiello soon learned that there was a general theory among many of his native friends that the beast might be some sort of mutation, evolving from a foreign animal perhaps set loose in Japan. Nardiello ran an illustration of the being in his school’s newspaper to see if anyone else had witnessed the thing.
One co-worker, Kato Sensei, branded the animal Nekohebitori, which translated into English means “cat snake bird.”
Nardiello describes the abdomen of the cat-snake-bird as leathery. He speaks of its eyes and teeth, but describes the organism as being void of feathers. Nardiello also believes the avian quadruped may be part reptilian. One thing he is convinced of for certain is that the animal was dangerous. Nardiello believes it was a lone hunter.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” he said. “But it was definitely a predator. Just the way it moved. [As if it] was searching. It had a kind of a confidence in itself.”
What could this enigmatic creature be? Some prehistoric survivor that slipped through evolution’s cracks and escaped extinction? A mutated foreign organism, introduced into the island-nation’s ecosystem that adapted over time, as the locals theorize? I will refrain from my own speculations, instead calling upon the expertise of the world-renowned cryptozoologist, Loren Coleman. Coleman has traveled the globe extensively in search of various species of unclassified animals, has authored and co-authored several books on a number of cryptozoological topics—most recently Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America (Paraview Pocket, 2003)—and is considered by many to be the foremost authority on the subject.
“This Japanese creature could be a variation on the Kappa legend, about an amphibian-type beast,” Coleman says. “The wings, which I take to be a fantastic element added in storytelling, remind me of the Jersey Devil tales from New Jersey…. As I discuss in Mysterious America: The Revised Edition (Paraview, 2001), the Jersey Devil is a catchall for any strange creature account that happens in New Jersey. A similar phenomenon may be occurring in Japan, in which a name of a weird fabled monster becomes the lightning rod for all such stories—and the picture of what is really happening is confused.”
“Zoologically speaking,” Coleman continues, “the Japanese creature does not seem possible, but then we know that legends, myths, and folklore often hide deeper truths. However, a skeptic approach is worthwhile, and I would need a lot more information and evidence before I would consider this Shinke-Cho beast a valid cryptid [an animal of interest to cryptozoology] worth researchers’ time.”
While the winged, snakelike animal Nardiello encountered seems to elude a valid classification for now, Nardiello is returning to Japan later this month. He’s determined to get to the bottom of this mysterious creature’s origin, hoping for an eventual identification, and he promises to update me with any findings.