Japanese folklore is full of intriguing and mysterious creatures known as yokai. These supernatural beings come in many forms and often have unique traits and stories. This article describes 10 popular and fascinating yokai from Japanese folklore.
Tanuki – Raccoon dog with a huge scrotum
Tanuki are playful and mischievous raccoon dogs with shape-shifting powers. They are known for their huge scrotum (yes, really!), which they often use as a tool or weapon. Tanuki are usually harmless and use their powers mainly for practical jokes and other lighthearted pranks.
Kappa – Tortoise with a penchant for sumo wrestling
The Kappa is a water creature with a turtle body, a mouth and a water bowl on its head. This water bowl, filled with water, is the source of his power. Kappas are known for their love of sumo wrestling and can be evil at times, but if you outsmart them they can become your friends and share their knowledge.
Tengu – Long-nosed bird-like mountain spirit.
Tengu are supernatural creatures with both human and bird-like characteristics. They are often depicted with long noses and wings and are known as masters of the martial arts. Tengu can be both helpful and harmful depending on their mood and the situation.
Kitsune – Fox spirit with magical abilities
Kitsune, or magical foxes, are intelligent and powerful creatures with shape-shifting abilities. They are often associated with Inari, the Shinto god of rice and agriculture. Kitsune can be both benign and malevolent and often have a soft spot for human emotions and desires.
Yuki-onna – Snow Woman who traps travelers in the cold winter nights
The Yuki-onna is an icy female spirit that appears during blizzards. She is often depicted as a beautiful woman with long white hair and blue lips. Yuki-onna can be both merciless and merciful, sometimes tempting travelers to kill them or protecting them from the cold.
Oni – Large, terrifying demon with horns and iron bars
Oni are demonic creatures with horns, sharp claws and a terrifying appearance. They are often depicted with red or blue skin and wearing tiger skin loincloths. Oni are notorious for their cruelty and are often associated with illness, death and misfortune.
Rokurokubi – Elastic neck for spying
Rokurokubi are women with an elastic neck, which allows them to extend their heads to spy on or startle people. During the day they resemble ordinary people, but at night they reveal their true form. Rokurokubi are often the result of a curse or supernatural punishment.
Noppera-bō – Faceless Ghost
The Noppera-bō, or faceless ghost, is a creature that takes the form of a human being, but has no face. They like to terrify people by revealing their true colors after pretending to be regular people. Despite their terrifying appearance, Noppera-bō are mostly harmless and just love to cause a scare.
Jorōgumo – Seductive spider woman who lures unwary men into her web
Jorōgumo is a spider yokai who can take the form of a seductive woman. She uses her charm to lure men to her web, where she then binds and devours them. Jorōgumo can often be found in abandoned houses or temples and is associated with both sexual temptation and mortal danger.
Yama-uba – Scary mountain witch
Yama-uba is a mountain witch often depicted as an old woman with an unkempt appearance. She lives deep in the mountains and is both feared and respected for her wisdom and magical powers. Yama-uba can be kind to lost travelers, but she can also exhibit cannibalistic tendencies and eat innocent people.
Japanese folklore is rich in captivating and colorful creatures that capture the imagination. Yokai range from playful and mischievous to terrifying and dangerous, and they remain an important part of Japanese culture and storytelling.