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Japanese Island Is Home To Adorable Mammal Thought To Be Pikachu Inspiration

Do I really need to start this article with an explanation of who and what Pikachu is?

I mean, I suppose for those less enmeshed in Pokémon as a cultural force (So...over 40? I guess?) there may be some confusion in regards to whether Pikachu is a breed of Pokémon or the name of the specific Pokémon that pals around with Ash Ketchum.

Yes. Because anime.

Anyway, while many of the original 150 Pokémon are clearly inspired by animals, there has been some debate over what Pikachu is inspired by.

The name is pretty clear. Pika is the Japanese onomatopoeia word for the sound of a spark — like "zap!" in English — and chu is the onomatopoeia for the sound a mouse makes.

I think we can agree that "Pikachu" is much cuter than "Zapsqueak," and it's good that the English dub didn't anglicize that part of the show.

However, the pocket monster known as a pikachu did not take a mouse as its physical inspiration.

That would make too much sense.

Instead, rumors have differed over what the exact inspiration was. Artist Atsuko Nishida credits a squirrel for inspiring the chubby cheeks and prominent tail, but that's not the only inspiration.

May I present to you, the Northern pika!

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Seriously, this cute little mammal is called a pika. Like squirrels, these herbivores collect up their food by stuffing it into their cheeks and taking it home for later.

The Japanese island of Hokkaido has its own unique subspecies, called the Ezo Naki Usagi.

Instagram | @saoka_hokkaido_guide

"Ezo" is an old name for the island, and naki usagi means "crying rabbit."

Apparently, the "crying" part isn't so much about tears, as it is their tendency to make loud alert noises.

I can't explain the rabbit part.

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If you disregard the ears, I suppose they have a bunny-like face and apparently they rub their faces the way bunnies do too.

Anyway, these little dudes are part of why Hokkaido is such a popular wildlife destination, and even if it isn't a direct inspiration for Pikachu, there are definite similarities beyond just the name.

h/t: H.I.S.Go, Wikipedia