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つまじろ, 望潮蟹

Ryōan (1712-1713)

つまじろ, 望潮蟹 (Ryōan 1712-1713) image
This drawing is from an illustrated Japanese Encyclopdedia known as the Wakan Sansai Zyue. This figures comes from the lower right corner of the page containing crabs in volume 46 (the pages are not clearly numbered). Harada (1993) believe this entry refers to a fiddler crab and I concur, even though the figure itself is ambiguous. The kanji at the very bottom of the figure (俗云爪白蟹) literally translates to “claw-white-crab,” In particular, the third and fourth characters (爪白 = tsumajiro) literally mean “animal whose feet are white,“ so the entire name is white-footed crab. The katakana immediately adjacent to those two characters (ツマジロ) and the hiragana above and to the right of it (つまじろ) are also pronounced tsumajiro, indicating spellings in the different alphabets.

The middle column of kanji immediately below the image (望潮蟹 = wàng cháo xiè) translates roughly to “looking-at-tide crab” in Mandarin; the katakana to its left (ワンチャヤウヒヤイ) is not Japanese, but rather a sylabolic pronounciation of the Chinese. This name matches the spirit of other translated names from the region (e.g., beckoning for the return of the tide) and still appears to be used to refer to fiddler crabs in China today.

The column of text to left of the figure (本綱望潮蟹生海中似膨媒而潮至出穴望者可食) very roughly translates to “the looking-at-tide crab lives at the ocean and resembles the benkeigani. It comes out of its hole when the tide arrives and faces the ocean. It is edible.”

This certainly sounds like it could be a fiddler crab, and the references to a white-claw or foot, would likely make it Uca lactea.

Many thanks to Dr. Koji Tanno for providing the translations.