Japanese folklore is full of strange monsters, ghosts, and demons. A large number of these creatures can be classified as either yōkai or yūrei. The yōkai are generally what in English we would call “monsters”, although some of them look like humans, and others are even inanimate objects like umbrellas. The yūrei are ghosts, often unable to move onto the next world because they died violently or are seeking revenge. While many of these creatures are bizarre and unique, the ones listed below are especially fascinating.
10 Interesting Creatures from Japanese Folklore
The gashadokuro is a gigantic skeleton said to be fifteen times taller than the average person. Their bodies are formed by the angry spirits of people who have died from starvation. Because of their hunger, they wander the countryside late at night, searching for travelers to eat. While their bones usually make a rattling sound while they walk, they become completely quiet when looking for their next meal. Once a victim is found, the gashadokuro grabs the unfortunate man and bites his head off. Then it drinks all of the victim’s blood until the body is entirely emptied out.
The ubume is the ghost of a pregnant woman who died before or during childbirth. Sometimes they take on the form of beautiful young girls, other times they are ugly old women. They can be seen on dark, stormy nights, crying and holding what seems to be a baby in their arms. If a stranger offers to help her and her child, the ubume will suddenly vanish after handing the Good Samaritan her baby. The baby then starts getting very heavy, until it becomes a boulder and crushes whoever is holding it.
The jorogumo is a monster that has the upper body of a woman, but the lower body of a spider. (Others say that it is just a magical spider that can transform itself into a beautiful woman.) While looking for men to eat, it keeps its lower-half hidden. It sometimes appears carrying a “baby” made out of thousands of spider eggs, which it gives to its victim to stun him so it can wrap him into a web and devour him.
The bakekujira is the ghostly skeleton of a whale that haunts the Japanese coastline. Some say it’s the spirit of a disgruntled whale that was killed by fishermen, others insist that it’s a sea god. Whatever it is, it comes out on foggy nights, bringing along unknown fish and birds with it. While it doesn’t try to attack humans, people who see it become cursed with bad luck.
The kasaobake is an umbrella that’s become a ghost after its 100th birthday. They usually have one wooden leg, an eye or two, and a long tongue. They like to trick and prank people, but some are resentful and attack their old owners.
The akaname is a red-colored, child-sized demon that licks up filth and waste with its unusually long, sticky tongue. It has slimy hair, greasy skin, and walks on all fours. Its absolute favorite places are dirty bathrooms. This demon might seem helpful, but it really isn’t, as it spreads disease wherever it goes.
The katakirauwa is the ghost of a baby piglet. While it doesn’t look that different from a normal pig, it ‘s unable to cast a shadow, and has glowing red eyes and only one ear. It can only be seen at night in large cities, hopping like a rabbit and searching for human souls to steal.
An encounter with an umibozu rarely leaves any survivors. They are a human-like sea creature with dark skin, but they are so large that nobody has ever seen one from above its shoulders. They appear abruptly on calm nights, attacking ships by pushing waves or outright smashing them. From time to time, an umibozu will ask a ship’s crew for a barrel. If the crew can comply, the umibozu fills the barrel up with an insane amount of water, then dumps it out onto the boat until the crew drowns. The only way to stop it is to give it a barrel that doesn’t have a bottom. That way, the umibozu will keep attempting to fill it, and the ship can escape. Umibozu literally means “sea monk”, and they are thought to be the vengeful spirits of drowned priests.
There are two variants of the rokurokubi, a monster that is practically indistinguishable from a human woman with the exception of what it can do with its head. One type can lengthen its neck up to insane heights, some sources say 20 feet, while the other type is capable of detaching its head and flying around with it. Rokurokubi are born as ordinary female humans, but are cursed and transformed by the bad karma of evil deeds done by themselves or by male relatives.
Japanese folklore is certainly not without its vampires, and perhaps the most bizarre is the jubokko, a blood-sucking tree. These trees had the misfortune of being located on battlefields, having developed their taste for blood by absorbing blood spilled onto the soil into their roots. Eventually, they get so desperately addicted that they grab passing humans with their branches, attacking them and sucking their blood. Nobody is sure how to kill a jubokko- If you cut it open, it bleeds just like a living thing.
List Created By: Tristan Shaw