Wow! I was taking a photo of a beetle on a leaf when I saw this beautiful little Japanese four-lined ratsnake (shimahebi) lying on a branch about 50cm from my face! I thought it was a venomous Viper (mamushi) at first so I jumped. Anyway, I grabbed its tail and dropped it into an insect cage, so that I could take it home to show the kids. A very exciting morning.
Reptilia: Ophidia: Colubridae
Japanese four-lined ratsnake: shimahebi: Elaphe quadrivirgata
80cm – 150cm (nonvenomous)
This one is a juvenile, measuring only around 50cm.
Information from Ishikawa Prefecture: http://www.pref.ishikawa.jp/ringyo/hebi/sima.htm
According to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, the young of this species are often mistaken for vipers (mamushi) because of their similar patterning: http://www.maff.go.jp/nouson/mizu_midori/yougo/youda.html (in Japanese)
Here’s some information from Nara University of Education: http://www.nara-edu.ac.jp/ECNE/kaerhebi/kaisetu/sima.htm