The giant salamanders of Japan and China are the world's biggest amphibians, by far. The species is virtually unchanged since the age of the dinosaurs.
The Japanese giant salamander (Adrias japonicus) - known locally as the hanzaki - lives in fast-flowing streams. Adults feed on fish and other river creatures, and can live for many decades - a century, possibly.
Many rivers in Japan are now heavily modified with concrete, for flood protection and irrigation. This prevents the males finding the nesting burrows they need in the banks.
Captive breeding programmes in institutions such as Asa Zoological Park aim to rear giant salamanders in a secure environment. The larvae (with external gills just visible) mainly eat insects.
Some populations are facing an additional threat - competition from the more aggressive Chinese species, introduced a few decades ago. When scientists find Chinese specimens or hybrids, they remove them.
The two species side by side. Conservation International's Dr Claude Gascon holds the native Japanese giant salamander, and Kyoto University's Professor Masafumi Matsui shows a Chinese specimen.
In some places, hanzaki are clearly popular. This shop near Hyogo sells manjo - a popular sweet - bearing a salamander logo. Eating the salamander itself is forbidden.
All sorts of products - pillowcases, bags, scarves - are made either in the shape of a giant salamander, or bearing its image. Dr Takeyoshi Tochimoto of the Hanzaki Institute shows off two of his favourites.
Maniwa City runs a festival each year to commemorate the legend of a 10m hanzaki slain by a local hero in the 16th Century. The procession features floats bearing replicas of the creature and its companion.
At many Japanese tourist sites, visitors can get a stamp as a record of their trip. Maniwa's hanzaki shrine features one in - of course - the shape of a giant salamander.
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