We spent yesterday along the Kanzaki River, east of Lake Biwa in the Shiga prefecture. The forested rocky cliffs along the river were prime habitat for the Japanese Fire Belly newt (Cynops pyrrhogaster). I found two 2-3 meter long / 50 cm wide ponds in crevices in the cliffs with 4-5 newts in each. I easily caught the newts, photographed them and then released them unharmed back into the pool. Most information online is geared towards the pet trade, and I read where they have toxins on their skin. I did not feel the effects, but being so easy to catch, I would guess the bright orange belly warns predators that they are deadly to eat.
They are commonly found in Japan and are studied by researchers because of their remarkable ability to regenerate not only limbs, but eyes and other body parts. It would be wonderful to eventually learn how they do this and replicate it in humans. That is a long way off. Research is highlighted in the video below.
The ultimate prize in salamanders/newts still eludes me however, the Giant Salamander. I hope to be able to see this special creature before I leave Japan.
Besides the fire belly newt, I also caught this Japanese Brown frog (Rana japonica). I love the leafy, reddish color.