By Dave Paddock
Courting the Brown Frog of Tago
‘In the spring a frog’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love?’
Well, perhaps Tennyson never mentioned frogs, but never mind that. Spring is the ideal time for frog-spotting. Normally hidden in the forest away from sight, frogs gather in more visible places during the spring mating season, making for fascinating viewing. Living mostly in mountainous forests, Tagofs Brown Frog (tago-gaeru), can be found from northern Honshu all the way to the bottom of Kyushu. I see them each spring at Mt. Takao, an easy day-trip from Tokyo or Yokohama.
What to look for
To spot tago-gaeru, choose a trail that runs near a stream, such as Mt. Takao’s Trail #6. Tago-gaeru mate in rocky crevices or in holes dug near stream banks, containing pooled water from subterranean streams.
“Creak creak” or “Kororororo”?
If you have trouble finding these love-struck creatures, don’t worry; you’ll almost certainly hear their mating call before you see them. To me, it’s a creaking sound, but some Japanese hear “kororororo.” Which is it? Decide for yourself! Listen to a recording of the tago-gaeru’s mating call at www.nat-museum.sanda.hyogo.jp/wave/docs/tagogaeru.html.
Be careful to approach slowly and quietly when you hear the frogs. Otherwise, they’ll retreat deeper into their holes. Even in the best case, they will often be back in the recesses of their dark abodes, so a flashlight will come in handy.
When you do find them, you may see what looks like an amphibian rugby scrum. Somewhere at the bottom of that pile is a female frog, no doubt overwhelmed by the attention of the suitors vying for position. After mating, the female will lay between 30 and 160 eggs in a grayish brown mass, usually in the same still waters. Those pools contain little nourishment, so the tadpoles do not eat until completing their metamorphosis in early summer. After that, they head into the forest to hunt small insects, spiders and snails.
Where to go: Mt. Takao’s Trail 6 (3.3 km,, about 90 minutes) follows a picturesque stream through mixed natural forest to the 599-meter peak. The damp banks along the trail provide numerous mating spots for tago-gaeru.
Getting there: Take the Keio Line to Takaosan-guchi (高尾山口) Station. From the nearby cable car station, follow the road on the left for about 400 meters. Just before reaching a group of buildings, cross the stream on the left-hand side. This is the start of Trail 6.
When to go: Tago-gaeru mating season is from March to late June. I’ve observed them on Mt. Takao’s Trail 6 from late March to early April.
Cherry-blossom spots: From the top of Mt. Takao, you can reach Icho-daira (一丁平) in about 20 minutes. Along with the golden gingko trees that give the spot its name, enjoy Yamazakura (mountain cherry) and Yoshino cherry blossoms. Most people dive into their lunches as soon as they reach the peak but, if you can hold out until Icho-daira, it’s far more scenic and often less crowded.
More information: The Takao Visitor Center, on the top of Mt. Takao, provides maps and advice on the many courses that cover the mountain. http://www2.ocn.ne.jp/~takao-vc
Dave Paddock is the director of English Adventure (www.english-adventure.org), offering camps and outdoor programs for kids, families and organizations. Send comments, questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.