View Full Version : Japanese Spirits/Ghosts, Monsters

October 23rd, 2006, 11:01 PM
Hi all,

I just thought I would post some work ive been doing for accuracy sake. I've been over the past few years trying to compile information on mythological creatures rom around the world in my attempt to create a quick and easy database for my own uses. I wonder if anyone sees any major faults, if you could help me to revise them?

Now, I only have five major sources, and most entries have been summarized in my own words (except about 20 entries which has been pieced together from the five sources). My sources are wikipedia, a forum called darkover, Carol Rose' two works (Encyclopedia of spirits, and Encyclopedia of Monsters)...as well as various websites.

Here we go...

October 23rd, 2006, 11:02 PM
Ghosts and Spirits

Literally, "bewitching apparition." Youkai are class of creatures in Japanese folklore ranging from the evil Oni to the mischievous Kitsune. Youkai are generally more powerful than human beings, and because of this, they tend to act arrogantly towards mortals. Youkai also have different values from human beings, and when these conflict, it can lead to animosity. They are generally invulnerable to human attack, but they can be defeated by skilled youkai exterminators (taijiya) and Buddhist monks with Buddha's blessing.
There are a large number of Yokai which were originally ordinary human beings, transformed into something horrific and grotesque usually by some sort of extreme emotional state. Women suffering from intense jealousy, for example, were thought to transform into the female oni represented by hannya masks. Other examples of human transformations or humanoid yo-kai are the rokuro-kubi (humans able to elongate their necks during the night), the ohaguro-bettari (a figure, usually female, that turns to reveal a face with only a blackened mouth), futakuchi-onna (a woman with an voracious extra mouth on the back of her head), and dorotabo- (the risen corpse of a farmer, who haunts his abused land), among many others.
Some youkai simply avoid human beings and, thus, trouble; they generally inhabit secluded areas far from human dwellings. Other youkai, however, choose to live near human settlements out of a true liking of mankind. Some stories even tell of youkai breeding with human beings to produce hanyou, or "half-demons". Most of these tales begin as love stories, but they often end in sadness resulting from the many obstacles faced by youkai and mortals in such relationships. Yokai usually appear at dawn or dusk.
There are countless number of yo-kai that are too bizarre to fit into broad categories. These are usually some sort of perversion or transformation of creatures found in ordinary life, or are entirely new types of goblin-like creatures. Some examples are the abura-sumashi, an old, smug-faced and potato-headed goblin who drinks oil; the amikiri, a creature that exists for no other purpose than to cut mosquito netting; and the ushioni, a cow demon that is sometimes depicted with the body of a giant spider.

The traditional ghosts, goblins and monsters from Japanese folklore; the term is virtually the same as "yo-kai", and includes traditional goblins and monsters, and "yu-rei", spirits of the human dead. The term obake derives from the Japanese verb bakeru, meaning "to change"; thus obake are preternatural beings who have undergone some sort of change, from the natural realm to the supernatural.
Obake can range from animals (kitsune, tanuki, mujina) that are thought to have shapeshifting powers, to mythological creatures, to inanimate objects that have come to life (called "tsukumogami"). Popular examples of obake are the kappa, a water-dwelling imp who drowns humans and animals if he can get his hands on them; the tengu, a long-nosed mountain goblin skilled at martial arts and having the wings and sometimes beak of a bird; kasa-obake, an umbrella that has come to life; and kitsune, foxes, the masters of shapeshifting.
Obake also constitutes yu-rei, the spirits of dead humans who have died in a great fit of rage or sorrow. Their spirit lingers on in the physical world, until their last desire has been fulfilled. This can range from obtaining revenge upon those that killed them, to ensuring that their children are properly cared for, as seen in the many tales of ubume.

Literally, "dim/hazy/faint spirit." Spirits of the dead who remain among the living for a specific purpose, usually to seek vengeance. Yurei generally appear between 2 and 3 AM. According to Shinto beliefs, all people are endowed with a spirit or a soul, called reikon. When a person dies, the reikon leaves the body and joins the souls of its ancestors, provided the correct funeral and post-funeral rites have been performed. Ancestral souls are a comforting presence; they are believed to protect the family, and are welcomed back to the home every summer during the O-Bon festival. However, when a person dies in an unexpected manner or with an excess of emotion, or when he or she hasn't been given an appropriate funeral, the Reikon may become a Yurei, a tormented ghost who remains among the living in order to seek revenge or take care of unfinished business.
According to Japanese beliefs, all humans have a spirit/soul called a ?? (reikon). When they die, the reikon leaves the body and enters a form of purgatory, where it waits for the proper funeral and post-funeral rites to be performed, so that it may join its ancestors. If this is done correctly, the reikon becomes a protector of the living family, and returns yearly in August during the Obon Festival to receive thanks. However, if the person dies in a sudden or shocking manner such as murder or suicide, or if the proper rites have not been performed, or if they are influenced by powerful emotions such as spite, love, jealousy, hatred or sorrow, the reikon may transform into a yu-rei, which can then bridge the gap back to the physical world. Not everyone is able to manifest as a yu-rei, however, and it requires someone who has extra psychological and emotional strength.
The yu-rei then continues to exist on Earth until it can be laid to rest, either by performing the missing rituals, or resolving the emotional conflict that still ties it to the physical plane. If the rituals are not completed or the conflict left unresolved, the yu-rei will persist in its haunting.
Originally, yu-rei had no special appearance and were visually indistinguishable from their original human selves. In the late 17th century, a game called Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai became popular, and kaidan increasingly became a subject for theater, literature and other arts. At this time, they began to gain certain attributes to distiquish themselves from living humans, making it easier to spot yu-rei characters.
In the beginning, yurei were visually indistinguishable from their original human selves. Then, in the late 17th century, as kaidan ("ghost stories") became increasingly popular in literature and in the theater, yurei began to acquire certain attributes which continue to characterize them today. It is believed that the main purpose of these attributes was to make it easier to distinguish yurei in art and on the stage from ordinary, living characters.
Most of the yurei's characteristics derive from Edo-period funeral rituals. For example, they appear in white, the color in which people were buried at that time--either in white katabira (a plain, unlined kimono) or in kyokatabira (a white katabira inscribed with Buddhist sutras). Yurei also appear with a white triangular piece of paper or cloth on their forehead--usually tied around the head with string--called hitaikakushi (lit., "forehead cover"). These were originally conceived to protect the newly dead from evil spirits, but eventually became just part of the ritual ornamentation of Buddhist funerals.
Yurei began to appear without legs in the mid-18th century, as part of the movement toward increasingly lurid and gruesome kaidan. Some attribute this new characteristic to Maruyama Ohkyo, a well-known artist of the time and his painting The Ghost of Oyuki. In the theater, actors portraying yurei wore long kimono to cover their legs, and were often hung by a hidden rope to appear more yurei-like. The outstretched arms and dangling hands typical of yurei also arose as a convention of the theater. Today, the appearance of yu-rei is somewhat of a uniform, instantly signalling the ghostly nature of the figure, and assuring that it is culturally authentic.
* White clothing - Yu-rei are usually dressed in white, signifying the white burial kimono used in Edo period funeral rituals. In Shinto, white is a color of ritual purity, traditionally reserved for priests and the dead. This kimono can either be a katabira (a plain, white, unlined kimono) or a kyokatabira (a white katabira inscribed with Buddhist sutras). They sometimes have a hitaikakushi (lit., "forehead cover"), which is a small white triangular piece of cloth tied around the head.
* Black hair - Hair for a yu-rei is often long, black and dishelved, which is a trademark carried over from Kabuki Theater, where wigs are used for all actors. Hair was considered to still grow after death, which helps to account for the unnatural length.
* Hands and feet - A yu-rei's hands dangle lifelessly from the wrists, which are held outstretched with the elbows near the body. They typically lack legs and feet, floating in the air. These features originated in Edo period ukiyo-e prints, but were quickly copied over to kabuki. In kabuki, this lack of legs and feet is often represented by the use of a very long kimono, or even hoisting the actor into the air by a series of ropes and pullies.
* Hitodama - Yu-rei are frequently depicted as being accompanied by a pair of floating flames or will o' the wisps (Hitodama in Japanese) in eerie colors such as blue, green, or purple. These ghostly flames are separate parts of the ghost rather than independent spirits.
While all Japanese ghosts are called yu-rei, within that category there are several specific types of phantoms, classified mainly by the manner they died or their reason for returning to Earth.
* Onryo- - Vengeful ghosts who come back from purgatory for a wrong done to them during their lifetime.
* Ubume - A mother ghost who died in childbirth, or died leaving young children behind. This yu-rei returns to care for her children, often bringing them sweets.
* Goryo- - Vengeful ghosts of the aristocratic class, especially those who were martyred.
* Funayu-rei - The ghosts of those who perished at sea.
* Zashiki-warashi - The ghosts of children, often mischievous rather than dangerous.
* Warrior Ghosts - Veterans of the Genpei War who fell in battle. Warrior Ghosts almost exclusively appear in Noh Theater.
* Seductress Ghosts - The ghost of a woman or man who initiates a post-death love affair with a living human.
Yu-rei often fall under the general umbrella term of obake, derived from the verb bakeru, meaning "to change"; thus obake are preternatural beings who have undergone some sort of change, from the natural realm to the supernatural.
However, Kunio Yanagita, one of Japan's earliest and foremost folklorists, made a clear distinction between yu-rei and obake in his seminal "Yokaidangi (Lectures on Monsters)." He claimed that yu-rei haunt a particular person, while obake haunt a particular place. When looking at typical kaidan, this does not appear to be true. Yu-rei, such as Okiku haunt a particular place, in Okiku's case the well where she died, and continue to do so long after the person who killed them has died.
Yu-rei do not wander at random, but generally stay near a specific location, such as where they were killed or where their body lies, or follow a specific person, such as their murderer, or a beloved. They usually appear between 2 and 3 a.m, the witching hour for Japan when the veils between the world of the dead and the world of the living are at their thinnest.
Yu-rei will continue to haunt that particular person or place until their purpose is fulfilled, and they can move on to the afterlife. However, some particularly strong yu-rei, specifically onryo- who are consumed by vengeance, continue to haunt long after their killers have been brought to justice.
Some famous locations that are said to be haunted by yu-rei are the well of Himeji Castle, haunted by the ghost of Okiku and Aokigahara the forest at the bottom of Mt. Fuji that is a popular location for suicide. A particularly powerful onryo-, Oiwa, is said to be able to bring vengeance on any actress portraying her part in a theater or film adaptation.
The easiest way to exorcise a yu-rei is to help it fulfill it's purpose. When the reason for the strong emotion binding the spirit to Earth is gone, the yu-rei is satisfied and can move on. Traditionally, this is accomplished by family members enacting revenge upon the yu-rei's slayer, or when the ghost consummates its passion/love with its intended lover, or when its remains are discovered and given a proper burial with all rites performed.
Like many monsters of Japanese folklore, malicious yu-rei are repelled by ofuda, holy Shinto writings containing the name of a kami. The ofuda must generally be placed on the yu-rei's forehead to banish the spirit, although they can be attached to a house's entry ways to prevent the yu-rei from entering. On occasion, Buddhist priests and mountain ascetics were hired to perform services on those whose unusual or unfortunate deaths could result in their transition into a vengeful ghost, a practice similar to exorcism. Sometimes these ghosts would be deified in order to placate their spirits.

Female ghost distinguished by moving from place to place as a wheel of flame.

Female nature spirits inhabiting the mountains.

Mountain dwelling immortal hermits. Capable of flying through the air riding animals and also appearing the dreams of m ortals. There are 500 of them, but only a few are mentiond in literature. There are both male and female Sennin. Of the Sennin mentioned in literature there is Seibo, Tobosaku, Gama, and Chokaro.
Seibo, is called "the Queen mother of the west," and one of known Sennin. She cultivates a grove of enchanted peach trees which blossom every 1000 years. A peach from this garden is capable of giving immortality.
Tobosaku, is said to have stolen three peaches from Seibo's garden. He is always depicted as an old man, with a broad smile and a peach in his hand. He is viewed as an enemy in folklore.
Gama, is a benevolent Sage with magical knowledge of pills and drugs. He is accompanied by a toad, which he can also take the shape of. He is also able to mould his skin to appear young.
Chokaro, who was an extensive travelor, he had a magical pumpkin which when blown into would create a horse. He is always depicted with this pumpkin, which always has a horse emerging.

The Noppera-bo or faceless ghost, is a Japanese mythological creature. They are sometimes mistakenly referred to as a mujina, an old Japanese word for a badger or raccoon dog. Although the mujina can assume the form of the other, Noperro-bo are usually humans. Such creatures were thought to sometimes transform themselves into noppera-bo- in order to frighten humans. Lafcadio Hearn used the animals' name as the title of his story about faceless monsters, probably resulting in the misused terminology. Noppera-bo- are known primarily for frightening humans, but are usually otherwise harmless. They appear at first as ordinary human beings, sometimes impersonating someone familiar to the victim, before causing their features to disappear, leaving a blank, smooth sheet of skin where their face should be. The two primary stories relating to the Noppera-Bo are:

The Noppera-bo and the Koi Pond
This tale recounts a lazy fisherman who decided to fish in the imperial koi ponds near the Heiankyo palace. Despite being warned by his wife about the pond being sacred ground and near a graveyard, the fisherman went anyway. He is met along the way by another fisherman who warns him about the same, which the initial fisherman decides to ignore. Once at the spot, he is met by a beautiful young woman who pleads with him to not fish in the pond. He ignores her, and to his horror, she wipes her face off. Rushing home to hide, he is confronted by what seems to be his wife, who chastises him for his wickedness before wiping off her facial features as well.

The Mujina of the Akasaka Road
The most famous story recollection of the Noppera-bo- comes from Lafcadio Hearn's book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. The story of a man who travelled along the Akasaka road to Edo, he came across a young woman in a remote location near Kunizaka hill, crying and forlorn. After attempting to console the young woman and offer assistance, she turned to face him, startling him with the blank countenance of a faceless ghost. Frightened, the man proceeded down the road for some time, until he came across a soba vendor. Stopping to relax, the man told the vendor of his tale, only to recoil in horror as the soba vendor stroked his face, becoming a noppera-bo- himself.

There are other tales about noppera-bo, from a young woman rescued from bandits by a samurai on horseback whose face disappears; to stories of nobles heading out for a tryst with another, only to discover the courtesan is being impersonated by a noppera-bo.

Humans able to elongate their necks during the night.

A figure, usually female, that turns to reveal a face with only a blackened mouth.

A woman with an voracious extra mouth on the back of her head.

The risen corpse of a farmer, who haunts his abused land.

Tsukumogami are an entire class of yo-kai and obake, comprising ordinary household items that have come to life on the anniversary of their one-hundredth birthday. They are however classed as spirits and supernatural beings, as opposd to enchanted items. This virtually unlimited classification includes Bakezouri (straw sandals), Karakasa (old umbrellas), Kameosa (old sake jars), and Morinji-no-kama (tea kettles).
Karakasa in particular are Spirits of Parasols (umbrellas) that reach the century milestone. They are typically portrayed with one eye, a long tongue protruding from an open mouth, and a single foot, generally wearing a geta.
Tsukumogami vary radically in appearance, depending on the type of item they originated from as well as the condition that item was in. Some, such as tsukumogami originating from paper lanterns or broken sandals, can have tears which become eyes and sharp teeth, thus giving a horrifying visage. Others, such as worn prayer beads or teacups, may merely manifest faces and appendages, giving a warm and friendly appearance.
Though by and large tsukumogami are harmless and at most tend to play occasional pranks on unsuspecting victims, as shown in the Otogizo-shi they do have the capacity for anger and will band together to take revenge on those who are wasteful or throw them away thoughtlessly. To prevent this, to this day some Jinja ceremonies, such as the Hari Kuyou, are performed to console broken and unusable items.
It is said that modern items cannot become tsukumogami; the reason for this is that tsukumogami are said to be repelled by electricity. Additionally, few modern items are used for the 100-year-span that it takes for an artifact to gain a soul.

A type of yokai or obakemono (Japanese ghosts), are the spirits of women who have either died in childbirth, or died without making sure that their children have been provided for. Ubume address a common concern in Japan; that of a mother's duty toward her children, and the stories of ubume are many. Appearing in the form common to most Japanese ghosts, they are clad in robes of white, and have long, unbound, and dishevelled hair.
In some stories, the ubume will buy sweets and other foods for their still-living child with coins that later turn to dead leaves. In other stories, the ubume will try to attract the attention of a living human, and lead him or her to the place where its child is hidden, so that the child can be properly ritualized and accepted into human society.

A Japanese ghost who is able to return to the physical world in order to seek vengeance.
While male onryo can be found, mainly in kabuki reinactments, the majority are women. Powerless in the physical world, they often suffer at the capricious whims of their male lovers. In death they become strong.
The traditional Japanese spirit world is layered, with Yomi on one extreme, and the physical world on the other. In-between is a sort of purgatory, an uncertain and ambiguous waiting area where spirits languish before moving on. Ghosts in this in-between state who are influenced by powerful emotions such as spite, love, jealousy, hatred or sorrow can bridge the gap back to the physical plane where they can haunt and wreak havoc on their Earthly tormentors.

In Japanese folklore, not only the dead are able to manifest their reikon for a haunting. Living creatures possessed by extraordinary jealousy or rage can release their spirit as an ikiryo, a living ghost that can enact its will while still alive. The most famous example of an ikiryo is Rokujo no Miyasundokoro, from the novel The Tale of Genji.

October 23rd, 2006, 11:05 PM
Japanese Dragons, Serpents and Sea Monsters

The Dragon King
This is a particular class of Oriental dragon usually associated with command of an entire element or the element of a particular region, especially in the traditions and legends of China and Japan. They are usually powerful and splendid dragons inhabiting splendid crystal palaces but subservient to and the emissaries of the gods. The Dragon King of Japan associated with the element of water is called Ryujin.

Dragon of Izumo
This is the name of a mighty dragon in the traditions and legends of Japan. It is described as being of enormous size and having eight huge heads. It terrorized the people of Izumo in Japan until the hero Takehaya Susanowo, whilst in exile, met with and defeated this monster. While inspecting and dismembering the corpse, he found in its tail a magnificent enchanted sword. Such was its power that he named it "Kusanagi-no-Tsunegi," which may be translated as "Grass-cutting Sword," which implies that it will cut down anything before it. In a gesture of subservience, Takehaya Susanowo gave the sword to Ama Terasu, who passed it to her descendant, who became the first emperor of Japan. And this is the legend as to how the present Imperial Sword came to the emperors.

Eight forked serpent of Koshi
This is the name of a monstrous, many-headed serpent in the legends and traditions of Japan. This legend prominently features the Japanese favoring of the number eight, which is regarded not only to symbolize multiples but also mystery and enchantment. The Eight-Forked Serpent of Koshi is described as having eight heads and tails on its vast body. The eyes of each head glowed vibrant, deep red, while the rest of its body was so huge that the surface supported pine trees and mosses right to the top of each head. As it moved it created furrows of eight valleys and mountains in between, but the effort scraped scales and blood from its underbelly. Each year for seven years the Eight-Forked Serpent of Koshi demanded one of the king's daughters for its prey or it would devour the entire population. When the eighth year came the last daughter, PrincessComb-Ricefield, was about to be sent to her fate on Serpent Mountain when the heroic god Brave-SwiftImpetuous-Male made a plan to save her. He built a compound in which he placed eight enormous tower gates with platforms on the upper story. He placed an enormous vat full of rice beer on each and waited for the eight heads of the Eight-Forked Serpent of Koshi to appear. Sure enough, the anticipated damsel and the smell of the rice alcohol attracted the vast reptile, which slithered ahead quickly into each vat on the top of the eight gates. Very soon the intoxicated serpent was slumbering soundly. Then as quickly and accurately as possible the hero sliced each vast head from its neck, flooding the area with torrents of blood from the slain creature. On inspecting the vast corpse the hero discovered in its tail the enchanted sword, now in the shrine at Atsuta. In honor of the great victory, the mountain was renamed Eight Cloud Mountain; the hero BraveSwift-Impetuous-Male, of course, married the valiantly rescued Princess-Comb-Ricefield, and the image of the defeated Eight-Forked Serpent of Koshi was placed on Japanese currency.

Jinshin Uwo
This is the name of an eel-fish of enormous size in the legends and traditions of Japan. It is so vast that where it lies in the middle of the ocean it supports the entire islands of the country of Japan upon its great back. Its massive head is located beneath the city of Kyoto while its tail is located seven hundred miles north, under Awomori. In order to prevent Japan from falling off its great back, there is a rivet that goes through a stone in the temple gardens of Kashima that secures the country to Jinshin Uwo. However, when this great beast of the ocean rolls or lashes its tail, then an earth tremor, earthquake, or tsunami will affect Japan.

Jinshin Mushi
This is the name of a subterranean monster in the legends and traditions of Japan. Jishin-Mushi, also known as the "Earthquake Beetle," is described as having a thick body covered in scales, ten enormous legs with hairs, claws like that of a spider, and the head of a dragon. This monster is the subterranean counterpart of the monstrous eel-fish known as Jishin Uwo, and it is said that the burrowing of Jishin-Mushi causes the earthquakes in Japan.

This is the name of a gigantic fish in the mythology of Japan. The Kami is described in the sacred literature of Japan as being a vast fish that resembles a catfish whose body is in the great ocean beneath the islands of Japan. It was the movement of this enormous fish that made many of the earthquakes above it in the islands. However, after one such episode the Great Deity of Deer Island took an enormous sword and speared it deep through the earth down into the great ocean and straight through the head of the Kami, transfixing it forever. Henceforth, whenever the Kami wriggled beneath the islands, the Great Deity would take hold of the hilt of the sword and apply pressure to the head of the Kami until it was still. This great sword is carved from a granite rock in the temple, and during the seventeenth century one of the lords of the island had his men dig to find the point. After six days the point of the sword had still not been reached, and they gave up. Also the name given to deities and other spirits.

This is the name of a fabulous bird in the legends of Japan. The Kirni is described as being very similar to the Griffin of classical medievaJ legends of Europe.

This is the name of a dragon in the legends of Japan. The legend tells how a novice monk went to a teahouse on the bank of the Hidaka River, where he met and fell in love with a waitress there called Kiyo. They had many meetings, but he was eventually filled with guilt and resolved never to see her again. In despair her love turned to anger and her anger into the desire for revenge. Soon she acquired the knowledge of magical formulas in the temple of Kompera and was able to transform herself into a dragon. In this form Kiyo went to the monastery, where her former lover hid under the great bell. With one blast of fire from her dragon's mouth, Kiyo melted the bell and killed the cowardly man beneath it, who should have been loyal to his vows.

This is the name of a monstrous fish in the mythology and folk beliefs of Japan. The Moshiriikkwechep, whose name may be translated as "World Backbone Trout," was one of the first beings created, and as a result the fish supports the world upon its back. However, it is so vast that when it writhes it sends shockwaves along the earth over it. So it had to be secured in the mud under the oceans, and two sea gods usually keep it there, but every now and again it wriggles free, causing earthquakes and tsunamis until it is brought under control again.

O Goncho
This is the name of a dragon in the traditions and legends of Japan. O Goncho is described as an enormous, winged dragon that unusually was white and inhabited a deep pool of water at Yamahiro, called Ukisima. Ukisima is near Kyoto, at a place called Yama-Shiro. Every fifty years the O Goncho transformed into a type of bird with golden plumage and a call resembling the howl of a wolf.

This is the name of a dragon in the Buddhist traditions and legends of Japan. The legend tells how a poor farmer named Bimbo desperately prayed to Buddha for rain to save his crops. Soon the rains came, and during the height of the storm he found a tiny child. He carefully took the child home; no parents could be located, so he adopted the child, and he and his wife called him Raitaro, meaning "Thunder Child." Years later, after helping whenever the farmer needed rain or other help with his fields, Bimbo was well off and the couple well provided for. It was then that Raitaro decided to thank them for rescuing him and taking care of him and depart, but before he did they saw him change into a magnificent White Dragon.

This is the name of one of the Dragon Kings in the legends and traditions of Japan. Ryujin is described as an enormous being with a vast mouth that inhabits a magical jewelled palace beneath the seas. He is the controller of the sea tides and the father of a beautiful daughter who was won by the hero Fire Fade, or Prince Hoori, thus becoming the legendary ancestor of the emperors of Japan. Also called Rinjin.

Serpent of Omi
A vast serpent that plagued the area of Omi until it was killed by the hero Yamato Take, son of King Keiko.

This is the name of a class of dragon in the mythology of Japan. The Tatsu is depicted as having a very serpentine body with only three claws on each foot. This dragon is associated with the sea and is an astrological creature in the Japanese zodiac.

This is the name of a monstrous princess in the mythology and traditions of Japan. Toyotama, whose name means "Luminous jewel" or "Rich jewel," is also known as Otohime. When Yamasachi (in some versions Hoori) the son of the god Ninigi, lost his brother's best fishing hook, he had to retrieve it. So he searched the depths of the ocean and enlisted the aid of Owatatsumi, the sea god. During that timespan of three human years, Yamasachi had fallen in love with Toyotama, the daughter of Owatatsumi, and taken her as his wife. But when the fishing hook was eventually found, he had to return to the surface and the earth. Toyotama agreed to follow, so long as he promised not to be present when their child was born. They went back to earth, and when the time came Yamasachi could not resist a look to see his child emerge. To his horror, what had been his wife now lay on the couch as a vast, monstrous creature resembling a crocodile or a dragon. His shout alerted others, and she slid away quickly back to the sea. But as he raised their child, the part monster, part god never forgot his origins and eventually married his mother's sister, Tamayori. Their child, Jimmu, was said to be the ancestor of the Japanese Imperial family.

This is the name of a monstrous serpent in the traditions and legends of Japan. The Uwabami is described as being like a vast serpent sometimes with wings, sometimes without, but flying through the air. It was particularly predatory toward humans and would descend to scoop them up in its huge jaws. Even a knight on horseback was not safe from the Uwabami until it was despatched by the hero Yegara-no-Heida.

Yofune Nushi
This is the name of a sea serpent in the traditions and beliefs of Japan. This gigantic, monstrous creature was both predatory and destructive, preying upon the fishermen and the inhabitants of the islands remorselessly. The Yofune-Nushi was placated by the local fishing population by sacrificing a maiden on the thirteenth of every June to its lair under the island of Oki. Eventually, the turn came of the heroine Tokoyo, who took with her a dagger with which she stabbed out the eyes of the monster, and while it was thrashing in agony she was able to kill it.

October 23rd, 2006, 11:07 PM
Demons of Shinto

The Oni
These are generally Demons in Japanese folklore, Buddhism and Shinto. They are a group of differint types, each type having a different function. There are four major forms of Oni: The Gaki (Underworld Demons), Earth Oni, Mortal women turned into Oni, as well as the invisible Oni. The Gaki and earth oni are the more important of the two. Depictions of oni vary widely but usually portray them as hideous, gigantic creatures with sharp claws, wild hair, and two long horns growing from their heads. They are humanoid for the most part, but occasionally, they are shown with unnatural features such as odd numbers of eyes or extra fingers and toes. They have no neck, but have a huge mouth, and their arms are elevated to the shoulders.. Their skin may be any number of colors, but red, blue, black, pink, and green are particularly common. Their fierce appearance is only enhanced by the tiger skins they tend to wear and the iron clubs they favor, called kanabou. This image leads to the expression "oni with an iron club", that is, to be invincible or undefeatable.
Gaki are the Hell raised Demons who report to the God Emma-Hoo-No-kami, the God of the underworld. They are described as having a somewhat human shape, but their huge-bellied bodies are red or green and have the head of either a horse or an ox with three eyes, and grotesque horns and talons. They are tortured incessantly by raging hunger and thirst. These demons pounce upon the souls of the wicked who are about to die and convey them to the torments of the underworld in a chariot. Among their powers is the power of flight, which they use to capture their victims.
The earth demons can shape shift to assume the form of a relative or friend of the human they wish to torment. In the Buddhist tradition, Earth Oni are sometimes described as wearing red Kimonos. These demons are responsible for bringing misfortune and spreading diseases, especially the plague. They are sometimes said to be the souls of women who have died of excessive grief or jealousy, although this may be a different form entirely. There is a third group of invisible Oni, whose presence may be known by whistling or singing.
In the earliest legends, oni were benevolent creatures said to be able to ward off evil and malevolent spirits and to punish evil-doers. Japanese Buddhism incorporated these beliefs by at least the 13th century, calling the creatures aka-oni and ao-oni and making them the guardians of hell or the torturers of the wicked there. In Buddhist lore though, the Oni were not always evil either, and there are tales of monks who after death were incarnated as Oni to protect temples from potential disasters. They also came to be recognized as shinto spirits. Some vestiges of the oni's once benevolent nature still remain, however. Men in oni costumes often lead Japanese parades to ward off any bad luck, for example. Japanese buildings sometimes include oni-faced roof tiles, which are thought to ward away bad luck, much as gargoyles in Western tradition. In Japanese versions of the game tag, the player who is "it" is instead called the "oni".
Over time, the oni's strong association with evil colored the perception of the creatures themselves, and they came to be seen as harbingers or agents of calamity. Folk tales and theater began to depict them as dumb, sadistic brutes, intent only to destroy. Foreigners and barbarians were said to be oni. Today, they are variously described as the spirits of the dead, of the earth, of the ancestors, of the vengeful, of pestilence, or of anger. No matter what their essence, oni are today seen as something to avoid and to ward off.
Since the 10th century, oni have been strongly associated with the northeast (kimon), particularly in yin yang tradition. Temples are often built facing that direction, and Japanese buildings sometimes have L-shaped indentions at the northeast to ward oni away. The Japanese capital itself moved northeast from Nagaoka to Kyoto in the 10th century.
When confronting an Oni, they may be driven out by by use of the Shinto Oni-Yarahi ceremony. In Buddhism, all one must do is tame the demon and convert it to Buddhism to destroy it's evil. Some villages hold yearly ceremonies to drive away oni, particularly at the beginning of Spring. During these festivals, people throw soybeans outside their homes and shout "Oni out, good luck in!". Monkey statues are also thought to guard against oni, since the Japanese word for monkey, saru, is a homonym for the word for "leaving".
The Oni character is a deep-rooted aspect of Japanese culture even today. Japanese children grow up with tales of Oni. In medieval times, people living on distant islands were considered as oni. And during the time of the Japanese seclusion from the rest of the world and during war times, foreigners were looked at as Oni.

The Kappa
Water Demons of popular Japanese mythology. Also called the Kawako, "The Children of the river" where they inhabit and draw their power.
They appear as small monkeys with scaly skin, with a beak-like snout, a turtles shell, webbed feet, and a bowl like structure on their heads that give them supernatural powers. Most depictions show kappa as child-sized humanoids, though their bodies are often more like those of monkeys or frogs than human beings. Some descriptions say their faces are apelike while others show them with beaked visages more like those of tortoises. Pictures usually show kappa with thick shells and scaly skin that ranges in color from green to yellow or blue. The kappa's most notable feature, however, is the water-filled depressions atop their heads. These cavities are surrounded by scraggly hair, and this type of bobbed hair style is named okappa atama for the creatures. The kappa derives their incredible strength from these liquid-filled holes. They are sometimes said to smell like fish, which they swim like.
Kappa are mischievous troublemakers. Their pranks range from the relatively innocent, such as loudly passing gas or looking up women's kimonos, to the more troublesome, such as stealing crops, kidnapping children, or raping women. In fact, small children comprise one of the gluttonous kappa's favorite meals, though they will eat adults as well. They feed on these hapless victims by sucking out the entrails (or blood, liver, or "life force", depending on the legend) through the anus. Even today, signs warning about kappa appear by bodies of water in some Japanese towns and villages. Kappa are also said to be afraid of fire, and some villages hold fireworks festivals each year to scare the sprites away.
Kappa are not entirely antagonistic to mankind, however. They are curious of human civilization, and they can understand and speak Japanese. They thus sometimes challenge those they encounter to various tests of skill, such as shogi (a chess-like game popular in Japan) or sumo wrestling. They may even befriend human beings in exchange for gifts and offerings, especially cucumbers, the only food kappa are known to enjoy more than human children. Japanese parents sometimes write the names of their children (or themselves) on cucumbers and toss them into kappa-infested waters in order to mollify the creatures and allow the family to bathe. There is even a kind of cucumber-filled sushi roll named for the kappa, the kappamaki.
Once befriended, kappa have been known to perform any number of tasks for human beings, such as helping farmers irrigate their land. They are also highly knowledgeable of medicine, and legend states that they taught the art of bone setting to mankind. Due to these benevolent aspects, some shrines are dedicated to the worship of particularly helpful kappa. Kappa may also be tricked into helping people. Their deep sense of decorum will not allow them to break an oath, for example, so if a human being can dupe a kappa into promising to help him, the kappa has no choice but to follow through. On some occasions, Kappas struck deals with the local villagers, where the Kappa would not harm anyone. It would warn the villagers if another Kappa came to visit, not to allow the children near the water.
Anyone confronted by a Kappa may escape by simply getting the kappa to spill the water from its head. One trusted method to do this is to appeal to the kappa's deep sense of etiquette, for a kappa cannot help but return a deep bow, even if it means losing its head-water in the process. Once depleted, the kappa is seriously weakened and may even die. Other tales say that this water allows kappa to move about on land, and once emptied, the creatures are immobilized. The Japanese custom of bowing originated in part as a defense against kappa.
There are several theories for the origins of the kappa in Japanese myth. One possibility is that they developed from an ancient Japanese practice of floating stillborn fetuses down rivers and streams. Another theory is that the kappa were invented to explain the swollen anus common in drowning victims. The name "kappa" may be derived from the term for "robe" used by the Portuguese monks who arrived in Japan in the 16th century; they called this garment a capa, and the monks' appearance is not unlike that of the similarly named Japanese sprites, from the loose, shell-like cloaks to the tonsured hair.
Today, kappa are popular figures in Japanese animation, children's toys, and literature. Modern depictions make them much less monstrous, showing them instead as cute, cartoonish figures. A notable literary appearance is the short story "Kappa" by Akutagawa Ryunosuke. The kappa were also the inspiration for the creature in the film Ringu. The creatures have been featured in several Final Fantasy games, and were the inspiration for the "Koopas" in the Super Mario Bros. series of video games. Some modern commentators even suggest that the kappa may be space aliens, and many of their pranks are similar to those often attributed to UFOs.

The Tengu
Another prominent demon in Japanese folklore is the ‘Tengu’, a mythological ogre or goblin living in mountain forests.
There are many types of Tengu- the most prominent being the Karasa Tengu and the Konoha Tengu. They are described as having the body of a human with glowing eyes, but with the long red beaks and wings of a bird. The female Tengus are described as having a humanoid body but the head of an animal with huge fangs for teeth and enormous ears and noses. Artistic depictions of the ‘Tengu’ range from stumpy, bearded creatures to beings with great lumpy noses. Artists depicted them with a bird’s head on a human body with spreading wings and clawed feet. There are various descriptions for the two main forms.
The Karasu Tengu or kotengu are crow-headed humanoids. Their heads may be red or green as well as black, and they often have human ears and hair. Their beaks are large, big enough to carryu a man through the air, and are sometimes lined with sharp teeth. They also have clawed, birdlike hands and feet. They have small wings as well, sometimes shown as beating extremely fast like those of a hummingbird. Their wings and tails are feathered, as may be the entire body. Coloration varies, but they are generally depicted with red clothing, hair, or skin. They sometimes carry ring-topped staffs called shakujo to fight with or to ward off evil magic.
The Konoha Tengu, (also called yamabushi tengu, konsha tengu, or daitengu) are more human-like than the other form. They are tall beings with wrinkled, red skin or red faces. Their most unnatural feature is an extremely long noses. These tengu typically dress as mountain hermits (yamabushi) or Buddhist monks or priests. They often carry a staff (bo) or a small mallet. They sometimes have birdlike features as well, such as small wings or a feathered cloak. Some legends give them hauchiwa fans made from feathers or the leaves of the Aralia japonica shrub, which they can use either to control the length of their noses or to cause gale-force winds.
They inhabited a fortress in the dark forests of Mount Kurama north of Kyoto, where warriors hope to meet one and absorb their skills, but any other traveler will be turned mad if they encounter a Tengu. They are also particularly associated with Mt. Takao. They also prefer deep forests of pine and cryptomeria. The land of the tengu is known as Tengudo, which may be a specific physical location, a part of some spiritual realm, or simply a name for any tengu settlement. According to lore, anyone entering the territory of the ‘Tengu’ unwittingly can fall into strange and unpleasant situations. The woodcutters and huntsmen offered tributes to the ‘Tengu’ deities in order to receive success in their work. Those that were less respectful found themselves in all sorts of trouble.
Legends often describe tengu society as heirarchical. The kerasu tengu act as servants and messengers for the yamabushi tengu. At the top sits the tengu king, Sojobo, who lives on Mt. Kurama. Sojobo is an ancient yamabushi (mountain hermit) tengu with long, white hair and an unnaturally long nose. He carries a fan made from seven feathers as a sign of his position at the top of tengu society. He is extremely powerful, and one legend says he has the strength of 1,000 normal tengu. Sojobo is perhaps best known for teaching the warrior Minamoto Yoshitsune (then known by his childhood name Ushiwaka-maru or Shanao) the arts of swordsmanship, tactics, and magic in the 12th century. This relationship serves as the basis of many Japanese woodblock prints, including one by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka. In addition, many areas of Japan claim to be haunted by other named tengu, often worshipped in shrines. Though invariably pictured as male, tengu lay and hatch from eggs.
The Tengus in general are particularly aggressive and skilled in the martial arts, battle tactics, and swordsmithing. They sometimes impart this knowledge to human beings. The human hero Minamoto Yoshitsune learned sword fighting from the tengu king, Sojobo, for example. Such instruction does not even require the student to meet a tengu in person, as the tengu can impart this knowledge through dreams. The black mask worn by ninja is called the tengu-gui due to the tengu's association with fighting.
The Tengu can transform themselves into ugly little men, women and children; then they maliciously tease people with all sorts of nasty tricks. Tengu can change their appearance to that of an animal also (often a raccoon dog or a fox), though they usually retain some vestige of their true form, such as an unusually long nose or a bird-like shadow. Although both types of tengu have wings and can fly, they are generally able to magically teleport as well. As quickly as they appear, just as quickly they vanish.
Tengu enjoy posing as human beings to dupe lost mountain travelers. They tend to take friendly forms, such as wandering hermits. After gaining a victims trust, the tengu may simply toy with him by, for example, flying him around on a saucer-like contraption or immersing him in a masterfully created illusion. Alternately, the tengu may kidnap him, a practice known as kami kakushi or tengu kakushi -- divine or tengu kidnapping. Victims often awaken far from where they were taken with no memory of the lost time. Missing children are also often blamed on the tengu. Tengu may also communicate with people as if by telepathy, and they are sometimes accused of possessing human beings or taking over their minds. Because of their malicious tricks, people often leave offerings to keep the creatures from bothering them (usually rice and bean paste).
Tengu are proud, vengeful, and easily insulted. They are particularly intolerant of the arrogant, blasphemous, those who misuse power or knowledge for their own gain, and those who disrupt tengu-inhabited forests. This particularly compels them to pursue crooked monks and priests, and in earlier eras, samurai (in fact, some traditions say that the arrogant themselves are reincarnated as tengu). They are sometimes shown with political instincts, as well, meddling in the affairs of humanity to keep mankind from becoming too powerful or disruptive. Despite their intolerance for such behavior in others, tengu are notoriously egotistical, leading to the phrase tengu ni naru ("to become a tengu"), i.e., to be boastful. Tengu are capricious creatures, and legends alternately describe them as benevolent or malicious. In their more mischievous moods, tengu enjoy playing pranks that range from setting fires in forests or in front of temples to more grave offenses, such as eating people (though this is rare), or even inciting wars. Some ancient beliefs depicted the ‘Tengu’ as creatures of war and conflict. Sometimes their actions in legends are hypocritical.
They are not immortal, and a seriously wounded tengu will change into a bird (often a crow or a bird of prey) and fly away. At least one legend claims that tengu can be reincarnated as human beings if they behave altruistically during their lives.
The tengu most likely have their origins in China. The name "tengu" is probably derived from the Chinese t'ien-kou ("heavenly dog"), the Dog Star of Chinese astrology, or possibly a name given to a dog-tailed meteor that struck China in the 6th century BC. Eventually, an entire class of mountain demons called t'ien-kou developed in China, behaving much as the Japanese tengu in their more malevolent moods. These t'ien-kou were brought to Japan with the first Buddhists in the 6th or 7th century, where they perhaps became identified with native Shinto spirits. The earliest tengu legends feature only the karasu (crow) tengu, who are almost invariably evil in these tales. Tengu grew more humanoid over the years, as well as less evil and more mischievous.
Until the 14th century, evil legends were told about the ‘Tengu’; but gradually they evolved into both good and bad beings. Many tales were told of the ‘Tengu’ overcoming evil. In the Buddhist belief they became guides for monks in understanding the Dharma tenets and sacred rites, and also protected Buddhist shrines. During Japan's "middle ages", corruption infested much of the Buddhist clergy. It was during this period that the tengu took to punishing the blasphemous, and this association made them a favorite literary device by the Kamakura period for authors wishing to safely criticize particular clergy or sects. The yamabushi mountain monks were also seen as fighting against this corruption, and eventually, the tengu took on their current yamabushi tengu form due to this association.
In Shintoism, in the 18th and 19th centuries they were revered as mountain deities- tributes were offered to them. They are a part of the traditions of most Japanese religions including Shinto and Buddhism, where they are classified as marakayikas. They are sometimes identified with the gods Saruta-hiko, Susano-o, and Karura.
The belief in the ‘Tengu’ continued until the beginning of the 20th century. As late as the Edo period, government officials posted notices warning tengu to leave the area before visits by the Shogun. Today ceremonial festivals are held in their honour. Tales are still being told of them in modern Japan. In some areas, woodsmen still offer rice cakes to the ‘Tengu’ before starting their work. Tengus in modern times have also been demonized to become pranksters and child-stealing beings, sometimes used as nursery bogies by parents. Sometimes their benevolent sides coem out in childrens stories. A well known Japanese children's story relates the tale of two tengu sitting atop mountains who can extend their noses great distances, following interesting smells down into the villages below.

By day, nukekubi appears to be normal human beings. By night, however, their heads and necks detach smoothly from their bodies and fly about independently in search of human prey. These heads attack by first screaming to increase their victims' fright then closing and biting.
While the head and neck are detached, the body of a nukekubi becomes inanimate. In some legends, this serves as one of the creatures few weaknesses; if a nukekubi's head cannot locate and reattach to its body by sunrise, the creature dies. Legends often tell of would-be victims foiling the creatures by destroying or hiding their bodies while the heads are elsewhere.
By day, nukekubi often try to blend into human society. They sometimes live in groups, impersonating normal human families. The only way to tell a nukekubi from a normal human being is a line of red symbols around the base of the neck where the head detaches. Even this small detail is easily concealed beneath clothing or jewelry.

A ghoul. It usually lives near crematoriums and tries to feed on the dead before they are burned.

An ogre like being living in the forests of the islands of japan.

Hitotsume-kozou ("one-eyed boys") are goblins found in Japanese folklore. They are roughly the size of ten-year-old children, but otherwise resemble bald Buddhist priests. Their most distinctive feature, however, is a single, giant eye peering from the center of the face.
Hitotsume-kozou are relatively benign creatures, content to run about frightening human beings or telling loud people to be quiet (they enjoy silence). However, many people consider an encounter with a one-eyed goblin to be a bad omen. For this reason, the superstitious often leave bamboo baskets in front of their houses, as these are reputed to repel the creatures.

A female monster with an extremely flexible neck. By day they are indistinguishable from normal women, but after nightfall rokurokubi stretch their necks out to any length in search of prey. According to one theory, they are seeking out men in order to suck the life energy out of them.

Akuma/Toori Akuma/ Ma
This Japanese creature is terrifying and evil. It has an enormous flaming head with eyes like coals. It flies through the air brandishing a sword. Even the sight of an akuma brings bad luck.

Yama Uba
Yama-uba ("mountain crone") is a spirit or monster living in the mountains. The name may also be spelled "Yamamba" or "Yamanba". She is sometimes confused with the Yuki-onna ("snow woman"), but the two figures are not the same.
Yama-uba looks like an old woman, usually a hideous one. Her unkempt hair is long and white, and her kimono is filthy and tattered. Her mouth is sometimes said to stretch the entire width of her face, and some depictions give her a second mouth at the top of her head. She is able to change her appearance, though, and she uses this tactic to great success in capturing her victims.
Yama-uba inhabits the deep forests of the mountains of Japan. Various regions claim her as a native, including Sabana (where she is supposed to have once lived in a cave at the base of Mt. Nabekura), the Tohoku region (northern Honshu), and the Ashigara Mountains. Most stories say that she lives in a hut.
Yama-uba preys on travelers who have become lost in her wooded lair. Her exact tactics vary from story to story. Sometimes, she changes her appearance to that of a beautiful woman or possibly one of her victim's loved ones. Other times, she retains her hag-like form and plays the part of a helpless old woman. Once she has gained her quarry's trust, she often closes and eats them then and there. She is able to animate her hair (or turn it to snakes in some legends) and use it to pull the prey into the maw atop her head. She may also offer to "help" the lost soul and then lead him to a dangerous area of the mountain where he falls to his death and allows her to feed. Alternately, she may offer to lodge the victim in her hut. Once the luckless traveler is sufficiently fattened up, she pounces. In addition to killing adults, Yama-uba is often blamed for missing children, and parents use her as a sort of bogie man.
Because her behavior is similar to that of female oni, some scholars suggest tha Yama-uba is simply a named member of that class of creature. Others suggest that several Yama-uba live all throughout Japan. Unlike the invincible oni, however, Yama-uba is fallible. A few tales make her a nocturnal creature unable to move about in sunlight. At least one tradition holds that her only weakness is a flower that holds her spirit, so that if the flower is destroyed, the mountain crone is as well. She is often depicted as quite gullible, and tales of her would-be prey fooling her to make their escape are common.
Yama-uba is skilled in the arts of sorcery, potions, and poisons. She sometimes trades this knowledge to human beings if they bring her a substitute victim to eat or satisfy some similarly wicked bargain. Despite her predatory nature, Yama-uba has a benevolent side. She raised the orphan hero Kintaro (who became the famous warrior Sakata no Kintoki, for example, a relationship that forms the basis for the noh drama Yama-uba. In this story, Yama-uba is portrayed as a loving mother, which has influenced some more modern tales to depict her as a matronly figure. Some even make her a representation of love. Other storytellers hold that she is simply a solitary wanderer who represents harmony with nature.
Some scholars place Yama-uba's origin in the Edo period when a great famine caused Japanese villagers to cast their elderly out into the woods for lack of food (others say they ate the elderly). Yama-uba was thus born out of the psychological undercurrent from such actions. Legends of Yama-uba have existed since at least the Heian period. At this time, a village named Sabane built the Nenbutsu Toge bypass around a cave that was thought to house the witch.
Yama-uba's legend is still very much alive in Japan. A late 1990s fashion trend called "Yamanba" took its name from Yama-uba, since those who followed it were said to look like the mountain crone.

Yuki-onna ("snow queen") is a type of vampire found in Japanese folklore. She is a popular figure in Japanese animation, manga, and literature. Yuki-onna is sometimes confused with Yama-uba ("mountain crone"), but the two figures are not the same.
Yuki-onna appears as a tall, beautiful woman with long hair. Her skin is inhumanly pale or even transparent, causing her to to blend into the snowy landscape. She sometimes wears a white kimono, but other legends describe her as nude, with only her face, hair, and pubic region standing out against the snow. Despite her inhuman beauty, her eyes can strike terror into mortals. She floats across the snow, leaving no footprints (in fact, some tales say she has no feet), and she can transform into a cloud of mist or snow if she is threatened.
Yuki-onna is winter personified, particularly the storms common during that time of year. She is at the same time beautiful and serene, yet ruthless in her killing of unsuspecting mortals. Until the 18th century, she was almost uniformly portrayed as evil. Today, however, stories often color her as more human, emphasizing her ghostlike nature and ephemeral beauty.
In many stories, Yuki-onna reveals herself to travelers who find themselves trapped in snowstorms and uses her icy breath to leave them as frost-coated corpses. Other legends say that she leads them astray so they simply die of exposure. Other times, she manifests holding a child. When a well-intentioned soul takes the "child" from her, he or she is frozen in place. Parents searching for lost children are particularly susceptible to this tactic. Other legends make Yuki-onna much more aggressive. In these stories, she often physically invades people's homes, blowing in the door with a gust of wind, to kill them while they sleep (though some legends require her to be invited inside first).
Exactly what Yuki-onna is after varies from tale to tale. Sometimes she is simply satisfied to see her victim's death. Other times, however, she is more vampiric, draining her victims' blood or "life force". She occasionally takes on a succubus-like manner, preying on weak-willed men in order to drain or freeze them through sexual intercourse or a kiss.
Like the snow and winter weather she represents, Yuki-onna has a softer side. She sometimes lets would-be victims go for various reasons. Here is a popular Yuki Onna story:

The Snow Bride
Mosaku and his apprentice Minokichi journeyed to a forest, some little distance from their village. It was a bitterly cold night when they neared their destination, and saw in front of them a cold sweep of water. They desired to cross this river, but the ferryman had gone away, leaving his boat on the other side of the water, and as the weather was too inclement to admit of swimming across the river they were glad to take shelter in the ferryman's little hut.
Mosaku fell asleep almost immediately he entered this humble but welcome shelter. Minokichi, however, lay awake for a long time listening to the cry of the wind and the hiss of the snow as it was blown against the door.
Minokichi at last fell asleep, to be soon awakened by a shower of snow falling across his face. He found that the door had been blown open, and that standing in the room was a fair woman in dazzlingly white garments. For a moment she stood thus; then she bent over Mosaku, her breath coming forth like white smoke. After bending thus over the old man for a minute or two she turned to Minokichi and hovered over him. He tried to cry out, for the breath of this woman was like a freezing blast of wind. She told him that she had intended to treat him as she had done the old man at his side, but forbore on account of his youth and beauty. Threatening Minokichi with instant death if he dared to mention to anyone what he had seen, she suddenly vanished.
Then Minokichi called out to his beloved master, "Mosaku, Mosaku, wake! Something very terrible has happened!" But there was no reply. He touched the hand of his master in the dark, and found it was like a piece of ice. Mosaku was dead!
During the next winter, while Minokichi was returning home, he chanced to meet a pretty girl by the name of Yuki. She informed him that she was going to Yedo, where she desired to find a situation as a servant. Minokichi was charmed with this maiden, and he went so far as to ask if she were betrothed, and hearing that she was not, he took her to his own home, and in due time married her.
Yuki presented her husband with ten fine and handsome children, fairer of skin than average. When Minokichi's mother died, her last words were in praise of Yuki, and her eulogy was echoed by many of the country folk in the district.
One night, while Yuki was sewing, the light of a paper lamp shining upon her face, Minokichi recalled the extraordinary experience he had had in the ferryman's hut.
"Yuki," said he, "you remind me so much of a beautiful white woman I saw when I was eighteen years old. She killed my master with her ice-cold breath. I am sure she was some strange spirit, and yet tonight she seems to resemble you."
Yuki flung down her sewing. There was a horrible smile on her face as she bent close to her husband and shrieked, "It was I, Yuki-Onna, who came to you then, and silently killed your master! Oh, faithless wretch, you have broken your promise to keep the matter secret, and if it were not for our sleeping children I would kill you now! Remember, if they have aught to complain of at your hands I shall hear, I shall know, and on a night when the snow falls I will kill you!"
Then Yuki-Onna, the Lady of the Snow, changed into a white mist, and, shrieking and shuddering, passed through the smoke-hole, never to return again.

Karitei Mo
A demon who is found also in India and China. She is venerated by the Shingon and Nichiren sects in Japanese Buddhism, where she is represented holding a child or the flower of happiness. It is said that the Buddha converted her to Buddhism where she became the guardian of children, and a Goddess capable of blessing couples with enfants and cure sick people.

This is the name of a demonic monstrous humanoid in the legends and traditions of Japan. Kojin is described as being a huge female ogre with thousands of arms. She hated human beings and more especially the children, whom she abducted and crushed to death. She was converted from her wickedness and became a protectress of children. Similar to Karitei Mo.

Also known as the Shiko-me, they are known as the frowning Women. It is a generic term for a group of hideous female demons who inhabit the land of the dead.

The gigantic Centipede terrorized the region of the northern mountains, lying in wait for cattle and humans as its prey, and devouring all who strayed into its territory. The terrified people pleaded for someone to rid them of the monster. Eventually the hero Hidesato stalked the creature and slew it with an arrow straight through the head. His reward was a never-emptying bag of rice for his family, given in recognition of his bravery by the Dragon King of Lake Biwa.

This is the name of a humanoid monster. The Kudan is described as having the body and legs of a gigantic bull with three eyes along each side and a row of horns protruding from its spine. It has the head of a human. It was regarded as a beast that could never deceive and always spoke the truth.

An old, smug-faced and potato-headed goblin who drinks oil

A cow demon that is sometimes depicted with the body of a giant spider.

Mountain Man
This is the name of a monstrous humanoid in the traditions and folklore of Japan. The Mountain Man is described as an enormous, strong being covered in hair like an ape, living in the woods and forests on the mountainsides. The local population hardly ever sees him, but they are terrified and leave offerings of food to placate him.

Mountain Woman
This is the name of a demonic giantess in the legends and folklore of Japan. The Mountain Woman is described as being extremely strong and enormous yet able to fly through the air. She lives in the forests and woodlands on the mountainsides, where she will attack and consume any foolish travelers who enter her territory without caution.

The Spider is a traditional monster adversary in the traditions and folklore of Japan. The traditional tales have the motif of the weary traveler seeking shelter in an old mansion or castle for the night and being engulfed in the webs of a gigantic Spider. These Spiders are vast, malevolent creatures whose webs are enchanted and unbreakable, except by supernatural means. The victim, if he has no access to these powers, is doomed to be consumed.

The Tsuchigumo
A spider-limbed monster which appears in Japanese folktales, which may be possibly mythical retellings of battles against an actual tribe who lived in the japanese Alps in ancient times. Tsuchi-Gumo is described as a vast spider that was almost immortal, as no metal could harm it. It preyed upon the region's population and destroyed everything in its way. Ultimately, it was killed by trapping it in its cave with a huge mesh of steel wire and building such great fires that it was smoked and roasted to death. There are a few stories of these creatures, the most famous example is that of Minamoto no Raiko. In this story, Raiko investigates tales of a giant skull flying through the air. He and his retainers chase the skull, but it eludes them. It is during this chase he found a youth named Kintaro. Raiko, impressed by Kintaro's strength, added him among his retainers and continued on his venture. The search for the skull proved fruitless, and Raiko retired for the night. At the house where they stayed, Raiko found himself feeling ill, and a young servant boy brought him medicine daily under the pretense of helping him to recover. Raiko continued to grow ill, and began to suspect the boy of mischief. He waited for the daily visit and then lashed out, striking the boy and causing him to run wailing from the house. This broke a powerful illusion, and Raiko found himself covered in a spider's web. His retainers freed him, and together they tracked down the boy by his trail of blood. They followed it into the mountains, and there found a huge spider, dead from a sword wound.
There are many alternate tellings of this popular story. In another famous version, instead of being a small boy, the Tsuchigumo appears as a beautiful woman leading an army of Yokai. Raiko's retainers prepare to battle the Yokai, but Raiko avoids them and strikes the woman, causing them to disappear as if an illusion. He then follows the woman to a cave in the mountains where she becomes the great spider, and after a battle splits her open. Even in death, several thousand spiders the size of human infants are said to have crawled from the Tsuchigumo's belly. Raiko and his retainers claimed total victory only after having made sure every last one was slain.

Spider Woman
This is the name of a gigantic evil spider in the legends of Japan. The Spider-Woman inhabited a mountain lair, where she was attended by two decrepit humanoids. The legend tells how Raiko and his retainer, Tsuna, were traveling very late and, as they approached a ruin, saw a skull flying into it. Investigating the mystery, Raiko was soon caught in a glutinous web by what had seemed to be a beautiful woman. As she enclosed him, Raiko stuck his sword, though the mass broke and she fled. Tsuna rescued his master, and together they searched the ruin, at last finding the enormous, grotesque, white spider dying, with the tip of his sword protruding from its belly. As it split open, first the skulls of its victims and then her monstrous progeny spilled out. One by one the heroes slew the spider children, and the region was saved from the plague of gigantic spiders.

October 23rd, 2006, 11:10 PM
Creatures and Spirits

A Nue is a legendary creature found in Japanese folklore. It has the head of a monkey, the body of a raccoon dog, the legs of a tiger, and a snake instead of a tail. A nue can also transform into a black cloud and fly around. Nue are bringers of misfortune and illness. One legend tells of the Emperor of Japan becoming sick after a Nue took up residence atop his palace in the summer of 1153. After the emperor's guards killed the creature, the emperor recovered. Nue are also a type of nocturnal blackbirds native to Japan. They, too, are thought to bring bad luck.

In folklore, the spirit of the Asian Raccoon Dog, sometimes called in old Japanese as Mujina. It was a trickster much like the Kitsune and would often come into conflict with them. One of the favorite tricks of the Tanuki was to change its scrotum into a giant scrotum and beat on it like a drum keeping people and livestock awake at night, and this form of it is often depicted in Tanuki statues. Tanuki are able to shapeshift, and often they will appear without a face. This is often what leads them to be sometimes mistaken for Noppera-Bo. Statues of tanuki can be found outside many Japanese temples and restaurants, especially noodle shops. These statues often wear big, cone-shaped hats and carry bottles of sake in one hand, and a "promissory note" (a bill it never pays), or sometimes an empty purse, in the other hand. Tanuki statues always have a large belly, and contemporary sculptures may or may not show them with the traditional large testicles. These exaggerated features represent fertility and plenty. Called Kin-tama (Golden Balls) in Japanese, the testes are supposedly symbols of good luck rather than overt sexual symbols (the Japanese are more tolerant of low humor than most Western nations). This current humorous image of tanuki is thought to have developed during the Kamakura era. The actual wild tanuki has unusually large testicles, a feature that is often comically exaggerated in artistic depictions of the creature. Tanuki may be shown with their testicles flung over their backs like a traveller's pack, or using them as drums. Tanuki are also typically depicted as having large bellies. They may be depicted drumming on their bellies instead of their testicles, especially in children's art.
During the Kamakura and Muromachi eras, some stories began to include more sinister tanuki. The Otogizoshi story of "Kachi-kachi Yama" features a tanuki that clubs an old lady to death and serves her to her unknowing husband as "old lady soup". Other stories report tanuki as being harmless and productive members of society. Several shrines have stories of past priests who were tanuki in disguise. Shapeshifting tanuki are sometimes believed to be a transformation of the souls of household goods that were used for one hundred years or more.
A popular tale known as Bunbuku chagama is about a tanuki who fooled a monk by transforming into a tea-kettle. Another is about a tanuki who tricked a hunter by disguising his arms as tree boughs, until he spread both arms at the same time and fell off the tree. Tanuki are said to cheat merchants with leaves they have magically disguised as paper money. Some stories describe tanuki as using leaves as part of their own shape-shifting magic.
In metalworking, tanuki skins were often used for thinning gold. As a result, tanuki became associated with precious metals and metalwork. Small tanuki statues were marketed as front yard decoration and good luck charm for bringing in prosperity.

Guardian spirits. The origins of the shishi character are in China. Shishi dogs are the equivalent of the Chinese foo dog. Shishi were posted right and left of temple and house entrances as guardians. They can also be found on roofs. Shishi dogs are depicted either with their mouth open (to scare off the evil demons) or with their mouth closed (to keep the good spirits in). The thing that they hold in their hands, which looks like a globe, is called a tama, the Buddhist jewel.

This is the name in Japanese mythology for the Ch'Lin or Oriental unicorn, of China. It is described as being a multicolored animal with a single horn protruding from its forehead. The Kirin is the reward of the good and just and the punisher of those that do evil deeds.

A Japanese monster said to resemble a weasel, literally “sickle weasel.” They attack their victims in teams, knocking the victim down and slashing him.

A shapeshifting cat, who must ingest lifeforce to use magic. Nyaki also have vampiric qaulities. They could be large or small, monstrous or benign. One such Nyaki was said to be so huge that it devoured a sacrificed young maid every year in its lair on the island of Oki. It was eventually torn to bits and utterly destroyed by a heroic knight and his dog, Shippeitaro.
Another tale tells of the Nyaki's ambivelent nature. An old couple had a black cat to which they were much attached. They were exceedingly poor and when there hardship seemed to have no solution. The cat, in return for there sacrifices for it down the years, turned into a geisha, taking the name of Okesa. She thus made money for the couple though at considerable cost, for apparently she did not relish the life, which involved having sexual intercourse with her customers as well as giving them the more formal entertainment of conversation, singing and dancing. At the last of which she was particularly adept. One of her clients, a boatman, once caught a glimps of her in her cat form, eating. She made him promise not reviel her true idenity, but when taking a boatload of passengers to Hokkaido, he could not resist the temptation of telling them that the famous dancing geisha of Sado was really the cat belonging to the old couple, and in the circumstances it is hard to blame him. Immediately he had betrayed Okesa's confidence, it is said that a dense cloud appeared in the sky and from it a vast black cat appeared and snatched him from view. The passangers apparently escaped unharmed: they had, after all, only listened to the story. One can still buy dolls doing the Okesa dance. It is a story much told, depicted and danced.
The Nyaki was at tiems an unmerciless hunter. It is said that the Prince of Hizen, a member of the honored Nabeshima family, had as his favorite concubine a charming woman whose name was O Toyo. One evening the lovers wandered into the garden and stayed out enjoying the flowers until sunset. While returning to the palace, they realized that a cat was following them.O Toyo retired to her own room and went to sleep. At midnight, awakening with a start, she became aware of being watched by a huge double-tailed crouching cat. Before she could cry for help, it sprang at her throat and throttled her to death. The cat then scratched a hole under the verandah, buried O Toyo, and assumed her form. The prince knew nothing of this tragedy. He had no idea that the beautiful woman who came and made love to him every night was in fact, a demon who was draining his life's blood. Day by day the Prince of Hizen's strength dwindled; his face became both pale and livid, as he appeared to be suffering from a fatal illness. He took all the medications prescribed by doctors, but none did any good.Since his sufferings always increased at night, it was arranged for one hundred servants to form a guard every evening when he retired for bed. Each evening the watchers took up their positions, but around ten o'clock they were overcome by drowsiness. The vampire would prey upon her victim as usual. The prince's health deteriorated steadily each day. His counselors realized that they were up against something supernatural. They turned to the chief priest at the temple, begging him for prayers for the prince's recovery. The prayers of the priest were disturbed by noises from the garden, a soldier called Ito Soda, who served in the infantry of Nabeshima. The young man begged to sit up one night with the prince to try to resist the drowsiness and detect the evil spirit.Eventually his request was granted. However, as the others, at ten o'clock he felt drowsiness overcoming him. To ward off the sleep, he thrust his dagger deep into his thigh so that sharp pain would keep him awake.As he watched, the sliding doors of the prince's room opened, and a beautiful young woman slipped into the room making her way to the bedside. Suddenly she became aware of another presence. Though she called out, Ito refused to answer, staying hidden. Several times she attempted to cast her spells over the prince, but as long as Ito glared at her, she was unable to concentrate. Finally she retired in frustration to her own sleeping chambers, leaving the prince undisturbed. The following night the soldier again took up his vigilance and the same thing happened. After two undisturbed nights, the prince's health began to improve. Again and again the vampire returned, only to have fruitless attempts at the prince. Gradually the night guards ceased to be overcome with drowsiness.It was obvious to Ito that the being who appeared at night as O Toyo was really a demon; he began making plans to kill her. At nightfall the soldier went to her chambers, pretending to deliver a message from the prince. As he approached, he struck at her with his dagger but she sprang away. Finding herself no match for Ito, she formed herself into a cat, leapt to the roof, and escaped into the mountains.The cat demon harried the local residents until one day the prince, having fully regained his health, organized a great hunt for the cat. He succeeded in avenging his beautiful concubine, for the vampire of Nabeshima was finally destroyed.

A Japanese mythological creature, believed to metamorphose from domesticated cats. It was believed that after a cat reached ten years of age, its tail would slowly split into two tails, and along the way would develop magic powers, primarily those of necromancy and shamanism. By gesturing with its tails or with its forepaws (as it walked upright), nekomata were said to animate and control the dead. Nekomata in the wild were also said to feed on the corpses as carrion, as well.
Though nekomata were normally assumed to behave with the same aloof manner as normal cats, they were known to hold grudges (especially older, mistreated cats, which tended to be more powerful than the average nekomata). To gain revenge, these nekomata usually controlled the tormentors' dead relatives, haunting them until the nekomata was appeased with food, apologies and attention.
Some Japanese folk tales said that nekomata could shapeshift and become human in appearance; however, unlike the more common nekomusume, nekomata women tended to look older, display bad habits in public and always had an air of dread around them, which if around people for an extended period could cause disease and pestilence.

A cat with shapeshifting abilities akin to the kitsune or tanuki. It is often confused with the nekomata, and the distinction between the two is vague. There are legends about bakeneko everywhere in Japan, and the story of the bakeneko of Sagahan is especially famous.
The bakeneko is often imagined licking the oil out of andon lamps, and as lamp oil used to be made from fish, this may have been based on actual feline behavior.
There were a few ways in which an ordinary cat could become a bakeneko. A pet feline that had lived for many years was thought to be able to transform into a human. Additionally, a cat that had already become a nekomata might become a bakeneko after living a bit longer, but sometimes this order of transformation was reversed. A cat might also become a bakeneko in order to aid a human to whom it owed a favor.
A bakeneko might resemble an ordinary cat, except walking about on two feet. It could also take the form of a human, and sometimes it was said to have three or seven tails. A bakeneko with a forked tail (or two tails) is said to be transformed into a nekomata.

A benevolent semisupernatural monster that looks somewhat like a giant tapir. The Baku is described as having the body of a horse, the head of a lion and the legs of a tiger. This creature fulfills a role for humans in the early moments of waking. If one has had a bad dream, one just calls to the Baku and it comes to devour the bad dream, restoring the dreamer's peaceful day.

Hai Riyo
The Hai Riyo, also known as the Tobi Tatsu and the Schachi Hoko, is described as having the body of a bird and bird's claws and wings but with the head of a dragon. This legendary creature's image is to be found on screens in the monastery of Chi-on-in in Kyoto. It is possible that it is derived from the only winged Chinese dragon, the Ying Lung.

This is the name of a creature that was the familiar of the thunder god in the mythology of Japan. Raiju, also known as the Thunder Beast, was depicted as an enormous sort of badger or type of weasel that raced about the earth during storms and created havoc and terror among humans.

A similar being to the western Werewolf.

This is the name of a fabulous creature in the mythology of Japan. The Takujui is portrayed as very similar to the Kudan, with the body of an animal with eyes and spines on it and with the head of a human. It was regarded as a creature of auspicious periods and appeared at a time of justice and good government, as did the Ch'i-Lin of China.

A Ri is an aquatic creature described as a mix between a human and a jellyfish.

Samebito ("shark men") are are humanoid for the most part with black skin and green, luminescent eyes. They usually sport a pointed beard, and gleaming eyes as well. Samebito are the inhabitants of a vast underwater kingdom, so they have little contact with mankind. When a samebito does find itself on land, it is usually in some sort of trouble. They are honest creatures and will repay any kindness offered by a human being. One legend tells of a Samebito that normally inhabited the seas, but how one night, whilst walking on the Long Bridge near his castle, the hero Totaro met the monster. Terrified, the young hero stood his ground, but the monster surprisingly requested food and shelter, because he had been exiled from the seas by the Sea King. Without hesitation, Totaro's breeding and hospitality encouraged him to take Samebito to a lake near the castle in which he lived. There the monster was happily fed without causing threat or alarm to anyone. This lasted until the time that Samebito's benefactor fell deeply in love with Tamana, whose greedy father had set a price for the match as ten thousand jewels. Totaro languished in grave despair, and Samebito, no longer looked after and distraught for his benefactor's imminent death, wept near the castle. However, one of the castle servants discovered that the tears of the monster had turned into emeralds, pearls, and rubies. All was saved, and the happy couple were married-thanks to Samebito.

A mermaid like creature. These are benevolent spirits warding against misfortune on land or sea.

Hu Hsien
Found also in China, these are the Fox Spirits, and may takle the form of little foxes or as beautiful women. In japanese folklore, they are melevolent and bring about misfortune, trickery or death on their victims. They induce the love and surrender of their prey, and when the human is completly in their power, they withdraw the life essance of the human until death occurs.

This is the name of a type of Wild Man or being in the legends and folklore of Japan. The Shojo is described as being shaped like a human but with red or pink skin and long, red hair, and they wear seaweed. They are amphibious beings that live on the seabed. They are purported to be masters of the medical and herbal arts and to make a type of shiro sake, or brandy, that tastes and behaves as poison to the wicked but as nectar to the good.

In Japanese folklore, these animals are believed to possess great intelligence, long life, and magical powers. Foremost among these is the ability to shapeshift into human form; a fox is said to learn to do this when it attains a certain age (usually a hundred years, though some tales say fifty). Kitsune usually appear in the shape of a beautiful woman, a young girl, or an old man, but almost never an elderly woman.
The folkloric kitsune is a type of yo-kai. In this context, the word kitsune is often translated as fox spirit. However, one should not take this to mean that a kitsune is not a living creature, nor that a kitsune is a different creature than a fox. Because the word spirit is used in its Eastern sense, reflecting a state of knowledge or enlightenment, any fox who lives sufficiently long, therefore, can be a fox spirit. There are two major types of kitsune; the myobu, or celestial fox — those associated with Inari, who are presented as benevolent — and the nogitsune, or wild fox (literally "field fox"), who are often, though not always, presented as malicious.
The physical attribute kitsune are most noted for is their tails — a fox may possess as many as nine of them. Generally, an older and more powerful fox will possess a greater number of tails, and some sources say that a fox will only grow additional tails after they have lived for a thousand years. After that period of time, the number increases based on age and wisdom (depending on the source). However, the foxes that appear in folk stories almost always possess one, five, or nine tails, not any other number.
When a kitsune gains its ninth tail, its fur becomes silver, white, or gold. These kyu-bi no kitsune ("nine-tailed foxes") gain the power of infinite vision — they can see (and hear) anything happening anywhere in the world. Occasionally, they are also attributed "infinite wisdom," essentially omniscience.
In some stories, kitsune have difficulty hiding their tail — usually the foxes in these stories have only one, which may be an indication that this is a weakness born of inexperience — when they take human form; the observant protagonist sees through the fox's disguise when the drunken or careless fox allows its tail to show.
Looking for the fox's tail is one common method of attempting to discern the true nature of the kitsune, but some sources speak of other methods to reveal its true shape. Sometimes, a shapeshifted kitsune will cast the shadow of a fox rather than of a human; other stories say that a transformed kitsune's reflection will be that of a fox. Foxes also have a great fear and hatred of dogs, even while in human form, and some become so rattled by the presence of a dog that they will revert to the shape of a fox and flee. Finally, a particularly devout individual may be able to see through the fox's disguise.
Supernatural powers commonly attributed to the kitsune include, in addition to shapeshifting, possession (see kitsunetsuki below), the ability to generate fire or lightning from their tails or to breathe fire (known as kitsune-bi, literally "foxfire"), the power to manifest in dreams, the power to fly, and the ability to create illusions so elaborate as to be almost indistinguishable from reality.
Some tales go further still, speaking of kitsune with the ability to bend time and space, to drive people mad, or to take such nonhuman and fantastic shapes as a tree of incredible height or a second moon in the sky. Occasionally kitsune are ascribed a characteristic reminiscent of vampires or succubi — these kitsune feed on the life or spirit of humans, generally through sexual contact.
Sometimes kitsune or their possessed victims are depicted carrying a round or pear-shaped ball, known as as a "hoshi no tama" ("star ball"). Those who obtain the ball can sometimes force the kitsune to promise to help them in exchange for its return. One belief states that the ball holds some of the kitsune's magical power when it changes shape.
In Japanese folklore, the kitsune are often presented as tricksters — sometimes very malevolent ones. The trickster kitsune employ their magical powers to play tricks on people; those portrayed in a favorable light tend to choose as targets overly-proud samurai, greedy merchants, and boastful commoners, while the more cruel kitsune tend to abuse poor tradesmen and farmers or Buddhist monks.
Despite their role as tricksters, however, a kitsune will keep a promise it has given and will strive to repay any favor it owes. Occasionally a kitsune will take a liking to and attach itself to a certain person or household; as long as it is treated with respect, it will use its powers for the benefit of its companion or hosts. As yo-kai, however, kitsune do not share human morality, and a kitsune who has "adopted" a house in this manner might, for example, bring its host "gifts" of money or items that are in fact stolen from the host's neighbors. Any household suspected of harboring kitsune, therefore, tends to be treated with suspicion.
Kitsune are also commonly portrayed as lovers. These love stories usually involve a young human male and a kitsune who takes the form of a woman. Sometimes the kitsune is assigned the role of seductress, but often these stories are romantic in nature. Such a story usually involves the young man (unknowingly) marrying the fox, and emphasizes the devotion of the fox-wife. Many of these stories also possess a tragic element — they usually end with the discovery of the fox, who then must leave her husband. On some occasions, the husband wakes, as if from a dream, to find himself far from home, filthy, and disoriented, and must often return to confront his abandoned human family in shame.
Many stories tell of fox-wives bearing children. Such progeny of human-kitsune marriages are always human, but they are generally held to possess special physical and/or supernatural qualities, which are often passed to their children in turn. The specific nature of these qualities, however, varies widely from one source to another. Among those who are said to have inherited such extraordinary power is the famous onmyoji Abe no Seimei, who is said to be the son of a kitsune.
The oldest known story of a fox-wife provides a folk etymology of the word kitsune. This story is an exception to the norm in that it does not end tragically.
In the story, a fox takes the shape of a woman and marries a human man. The couple spends many happy years together and have several children. The wife is ultimately revealed as a fox when, terrified by a dog, she reverts to her fox shape in the presence of many witnesses. She prepares to leave her home and return to the wild, but her husband says "Now that we have spent so many years together, and I have had several children by you, I cannot simply forget you. Please come and sleep with me." The fox agrees, and from then on returns to her husband each night in the shape of a woman, leaving again each morning in the shape of a fox. She comes to be called Kitsune because, in classical Japanese, "kitsu-ne" means "come and sleep," while "ki-tsune" means "always comes."
Some have suggested that the origins of the word "kitsune" may be an onomotopoeia. "Kitsu" was said to be the sound produced by foxes in Japan, much in the way that "woof" is said to be the noise dogs make in the West. "-ne" can be translated to mean "noise," and so the word "kitsune" can also literally refer to the sound produced by a fox. However, "kitsu" has not been used as representative of the sound foxes produce for some time; in modern Japanese the sound of a fox is said to be "kon kon" or "gon gon."
Rain falling from a clear sky — a sun shower — is sometimes called kitsune no yomeiri or "the kitsune's wedding," in reference to a folktale describing a wedding ceremony between the creatures being held during such conditions. The event is considered to be a good omen, but folklore states that it is an unfortunate person who witnesses the ceremony itself — the kitsune do not take kindly to uninvited guests and will seek revenge. Oddly enough, in parts of Scotland, rain on a sunny day is also called a fox's wedding.

Kitsune as servants of the deity Inari
Kitsune are often associated with the deity of rice known as Inari. Originally kitsune were the messengers of Inari, but the line between the two has now become blurred to the point that Inari is sometimes depicted as a fox, and that there exist shrines dedicated to the kitsune. There is speculation as to whether there is another shinto deity who is a fox him/herself, but little historical evidence to support this. Kitsune are connected to both the shinto and Buddhist religions.
In addition to their role as messengers, Inari's kitsune possess the power to ward off evil, and sometimes serve as guardian spirits. According to beliefs derived from Chinese geomancy (feng shui, or fusui in Japanese), a fox statue serves to ward off evil kimon that flows from the northeast.

Origins of kitsune myths
There is some debate as to whether the "Kitsune" is originally from China or is an indigenously Japanese concept, dating perhaps as far back as the fifth century B.C.E. Some fox-related myths in Japan can be traced to China, Korea, or (indirectly) India.
Chinese folklore contains fox spirits with many similarities to kitsune, including the possibility of nine tails. Similarly, in Korea, a kumiho (literally "nine-tail fox") is a mythical fox that has lived for a thousand years. However, the Korean fox is always depicted as evil, unlike the Japanese fox, which can be benevolent.
Some scholars have suggested that fox-related myths spread from Indian sources such as the Hitopadesa to China and Korea, and ultimately to Japan.

Kitsunetsuki (also written as kitsune-tsuki) literally means the state of being possessed by a fox. The fox was believed to enter the body of its victim, typically a young woman, beneath her fingernails or through her breasts. In some cases, the victim's facial expressions were said to change in such a way that they resembled foxes. Japanese tradition holds that the possession can cause illiterate victims to temporarily gain literacy.
Lafcadio Hearn describes the condition in the first volume of his Japanese Fairy Tales: "Strange is the madness of those into whom demon foxes enter. Sometimes they run naked shouting through the streets. Sometimes they lie down and froth at the mouth, and yelp as a fox yelps. And on some part of the body of the possessed a moving lump appears under the skin, which seems to have a life of its own. Prick it with a needle, and it glides instantly to another place. By no grasp can it be so tightly compressed by a strong hand that it will not slip from under the fingers. Possessed folk are also said to speak and write languages of which they were totally ignorant prior to possession. They eat only what foxes are believed to like — tofu, aburage, azukimeshi, etc. — and they eat a great deal, alleging that not they, but the possessing foxes, are hungry."
He goes on to note that, once freed from the possession, the victim will never again be able to eat tofu, azukimeshi, or other foods favored by foxes. Victims of kitsunetsuki were often treated cruelly in hopes of forcing the fox to leave. It was not unusual for them to be beaten or badly burned. On some occasions, entire families were ostracized by their communities after a member of the family was believed to be possessed. In Japan, kitsunetsuki was a common diagnosis for insanity as recently as the early 20th century. Possession was the explanation for the abnormal behavior displayed by the afflicted individuals. Kitsunetsuki is also an ethnic psychosis unique to Japanese culture, which causes its victims to believe they are being possessed by a fox. Some of the symptoms of kitsunetsuki are cravings for rice or sweet red beans, listlessness, restlessness, and an aversion to eye contact. It is similar to, but distinct from, clinical lycanthropy.

In Japanese mythology, Shikigami are spirits summoned to serve or protect an Onmyoji, much like the western concept of a wizard's familiar. Shinto priests and miko (at least in fiction) also are capable of summoning shikigami.
Shikigami can take the forms of birds or other small animals, and the more powerful of the shikigami can even take possession of a person. The range of abilities possessed by a shikigami is dependent on the Onmyoji's capabilities.
It is said that one can summon up to one or two shikigami at a time. There are legends that the powerful Onmyoji Abe no Seimei is able to summon and use twelve shikigami simultaneously.

October 23rd, 2006, 11:12 PM
Mythological Birds in Japanese Mythology

Yata Garusa
This is the name of a gigantic bird in the traditions and mythology of Japan. The Yata Garasu is described as an enormous black bird resembling a crow but having three legs. This massive bird is the messenger for all the deities in the heavens.

This is the name of a fabulous bird in the traditions and folklore of the people of Japan. It was described as being so huge that it could take up and consume a camel at one go. Its feathers were so big that when they dropped to the earth humans made water casks from the quills. Its wingspan blocked out the sun from the earth like the Roc in the Tales of the Thousand and One Nights.

This is the name of a fabulous bird in the legends and folklore of Japan. The Raicho is described as resembling a gigantic rook that inhabits the pine trees. It is the terrifying Thunder Bird whose calls bring the fear of the storms to all who hear them.

An alternate name for the Feng Hwang, the oriental Phoenix in Japan. Unlike the western form of the Phonenix, the Chinese and Japanese version does not die the same way. In China the Feng Hwang is in fact two birds, the Feng being the male and the Hwang being the female, always referred to as paired. The Feng Hwang may also be referred to as the Fum Hwang or the Fung Hwang and is portrayed as beautifully graceful with the body of a swan but the hind parts of a Unicorn with twelve tail feathers, a sinuous neck, and the head of a swallow-throated fowl. Its plumage is striped and colored black, green, red, white, and yellow. The Feng Hwang is a huge bird said to be about nine feet tall. It is considered to be the Chinese Phoenix, although it does not die in the same way; it was born of fire and is considered to presage good fortune and the reign of a just ruler. When it flies it is surrounded by all the birds of the air, and when others make music, its sweet trill can be heard joining them. It was said to have been seen with the Chi Lin (Chinse form of Unicorn) at the end of the reign of Yellow Emperor Hwang Ti, acknowledging his benevolence to his people; then again after the death of Hung Wu (A.D. 1399). Its image was reserved for royalty and most especially for the Empress.

October 23rd, 2006, 11:15 PM
Wikipedia Japanese Mythology section:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitsune (Entire Kitsune section)


Carol Rose' work:



I highly reccomend the two books, impressive collection of information on world mythological creatures.

October 25th, 2006, 08:15 PM
In general, I was delighted by a Hiroshima schoolmate who told chilly summer ghost stories--she told us the common tales that elementary children all over might tell each other. It's just she had different terms for the names. She also told us second-generational 'ghost sightings' of deceased who did not survive the atomic bombing--these stories at least had been around twenty-to-thirty years after the event. It was supposed to add to a kind of romantic authenticity to a gruesome, childish delight in chilling tales. In general, I do remember my grandmother and also story collections that said similar things about kappa, oni, kitsune, etc.

The sites below are for kids.



People who read translated manga may or may not be aware some of these can be childish tales--for instance, the frightful Ring movie series that adults in the U.S. have said is so horrid was originally a girl-manga that I just found so-so.

But there are those who can be quite serious about the spirits or haunting in sacred, legendary or regional areas...in the energy of certain mountain regions, especially in an old areas of Japan...I heard from one who practised jujitsu and another teacher of aikido that tengu and kappa energy may not just be folk tales.

I hope the additional links might suggest resources to help you refine your listings.

Best regards,


October 26th, 2006, 12:29 AM
Thankyou :)

Im always looking to test and increase my number of sources and then study those sources. Its unfortunate though becasue a lot of the asian mythology is either exclusivly understood only in Asia, or those translations and books written on it are mistaken soemhow. There are a few great books on Shinbto that I am looking to add to my ever growing occult section of books...but for now must rely online for my information. I think it's pretty interesting, becasue in soem ways these spirits are similar to other world spirits...but in other ways, especially since Japanese and Chinese mythology is slightly different than their neighbours...its interesting!

I think now, especially sicne the 1970s...theres been a resurgance of interest in japanese anime and the unique culture that it is...and when you look at soem of the incredible story lins they create through their art...it makes one wonder how much is created by the artist and how much is drawn upon by traditional or even folkloric stories. i know with miyazaki, one of the more well known Anime creators some of his story lines and characters are based on people in his life...some are based on traditional mythology. But for some reason, although the manga and anime stories and characters are interesting...when looking at the reality of the mythology it is vastly different...of what i can see. I mean if one takes a literal approach, which I sometiems do...soemtimes...its true, these beings are energy creatures to some respect and do exist in our dimension. And ofcourse it is what you were saying, their 'energy' may not be too dissimilar to the energy of Human brains...which gives a whole new bent on eincarnation and the respectful ancestor worship that goes on.

Thanks Cerulean! :)


October 26th, 2006, 12:53 AM
That's pretty intersting, Galadraal. :)

The kitsune is popular in anime. I don't know anything about anime though, it scares me. _inabox_

Yuki-onna, I found her when I was looking up Snow Queens. Pretty interesting.

October 26th, 2006, 01:41 AM
I love anime and yes the kitsune is very popular in anime. Very interesting stuff. I bookmarked this :)

October 26th, 2006, 02:41 AM
:thewave: excellent topic*

*marking thread for further study :yayhawaii:

October 26th, 2006, 04:49 PM
If you're all interested, please go ahead and copy and save all this...as long as you also take down the sources as well. id be interested in putting more of my research files up here to help be developed for all of us...as well as perhaps a list of good, sound reference sources. I think when it coems to the study of Mythological and Magical creatures...people tend to take inaccurate folklore or metaphysical stuff and apply it to creatures and spirits which normally wouldnt have had those attributes. Watch outm, Im moving into this thread! hehe.



October 26th, 2006, 07:22 PM
This is a cool list, and i'll definantly read it later (i've only read a bit so far ;)), it sounds really cool that you've got like a database of different supernatural beings from different cultures, if you wanted to put up others, please feel free as i think me and a lot of others would love them :).

Anyway, thanks for posting this :).

October 26th, 2006, 08:32 PM
:thewave: excellent topic*

*marking thread for further study :yayhawaii:

I second Czechy!

:fpraise: :boing:

Thanks for sharing this.


October 26th, 2006, 08:39 PM
This is a cool list, and i'll definantly read it later (i've only read a bit so far ;)), it sounds really cool that you've got like a database of different supernatural beings from different cultures, if you wanted to put up others, please feel free as i think me and a lot of others would love them :).

Anyway, thanks for posting this :).

Thankyou :).

Well it always interests me becasue I mean Gods are ofcourse a major thing (and Im also currently trying to get a datatbase on Gods as well)...but mythological creatures are so cliched....people only think of the Unicorn, the Kraken, the Faeries, the Gnomes, and Trolls...etc. The more well known ones....but my interest is what of thsoe other beings...and in my understanding of them (even if they have a lesser part in mythology) I actually gain a better understanding of the gods Im studying as well and the religion as a whole.

October 26th, 2006, 08:48 PM
One of my favorite 'gothic' ukiyo-e artists, Yoshitoshi, has many images of demons and ghosts from folkloric mythology, the myths in kabuki and other common folkloric areas...here's a site that allows free use of his images...remember, these were supposed to be 'gruesome' or amazing as some of our memories of horror movie posters or 'old paperback novels'. Please do not take these seriously, but see them as fantastic imaginary mindscapes of the time...and Yoshitoshi had a rather eventful life and struggle and poverty might have contributed to his mad fascinations...


You may find these of interest in terms of period 'gothic horror' art to go with the descriptions

Best wishes,


February 23rd, 2007, 02:25 AM
This is really great! I love Japanese mythology and folklore, thanks so much for sharing this :D

Rin Daemoko
May 1st, 2007, 01:49 PM

This is wonderful, thank you very much! I'm bookmarking this thread for future reference as I am endless fascinated by this material, and can find much use for it in my own practices. I am very grateful.

August 11th, 2007, 06:55 PM
Galadraal I have some links that show art of Kitsune, Tanuki, and Tengu if you'd like them.

www.coyotes.org/kitsune/myths.html - 3k
www.youkaimura.org/kirin.htm -

August 11th, 2007, 09:59 PM
Galadraal I have some links that show art of Kitsune, Tanuki, and Tengu if you'd like them.

www.coyotes.org/kitsune/myths.html - 3k
www.youkaimura.org/kirin.htm -

oo, good list, thankyou :).

theres another site too:


July 14th, 2009, 09:08 PM
TobySimpson, what a fabulous post! I especially enjoyed the fascinating section on tengu. I noticed you mentioned Mt. Takao, what is the tengu association here? Also, you mentioned In addition, many areas of Japan claim to be haunted by other named tengu, often worshipped in shrines. Can you list some of these, or perhaps respond in a PM?

July 17th, 2009, 09:24 PM
What an interesting topic. :uhhuhuh: I love anime and have heard of the Kitsune. I'm also fascinated by ghosts in general so I found the different Japanese ghosts and spirits very interesting. Thank you for posting all of that. :)