this is Nephila clavata, a large, striking orb-weaver common throughout most of japan.  i encountered many of them in the imperial gardens and kitanomaru-koen park in tokyo, while visiting in october 2007.  (these photos have, i confess, appeared here once before.)  at the time, i asked ika-san what kind of spiders they were, having been amazed by their size and vivid yellow and pink stripes.  a quick trawl back through my notes on the japanese squid collections revealed ‘jorō-gumo‘ noted in one of the margins, and bless google, i found not only the species name but also a page about jorō-gumo folklore.  apparently this spider fits into the siren or hulder-maiden category in local mythology, and even appeared in one of the animated hellboy films.  i have to say, i stood entranced in front of the large, head-height webs sparkling in the morning dew, so perhaps there’s some truth in the stories after all.

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