Saturday 29 October 2011

A note on Yokai and Japanese urban legends. And the mythical creature crusade!

Yokai, the mythical creatures from Japanese folklore, have captured my heart. Sort of. I've still got it and plan to donate it when I die.
You see, the standard in English language books featuring supernatural creatures always have vampires, werewolves, zombies or romantic ghosts[which will now be called VWZRG because I'm lazy] (I can't see what kind of creatures are in French or Spanish language books until A level and that's very far away). They're great and love them but isn't it time you get some variety? Possibly, with the mass-outbreak of teenage girls falling for VWZRG, stories about other legends have almost died out and are kept alive on life support by the tiny metaphorical Vatican cities of the book world. Understandably, this has come about because VWZRG all are vaguely human shaped. Still, that's no reason to throw away all the things that couldn't get cut by the human shaped cookie-cutter of fate! Even the word of mouth is dying out! Only Nessie, big foot and the abominable snowman is all that ever gets mentioned. Join the crusade by commenting or something!
Sorry, I'll calm down. Yokai is a generally term for Japanese monsters and Japanese ghosts. They fall into four categories, apparently: bakemono (shape shifters), Oni (demon/trolls),Tsukumogami (animated objects that come to life after they are 100 years old) and Yurei (ghosts). Yokai are so varied and different that I had to love them when I first heard about them. Japanese urban legends are also colourful. Many are about schools and toilets. Next I'm going to write about a few of my favourites:
  • Neko-mata and bake-neko - these are monster cats after they have reached a certain size or have been fed in the same place for 3 or 13 years. They can assume a human form. Neko-mata have a forked tail and can manipulate corpses and are the causes of strange fires. Some people used to cut the tails of kittens as they thought that if the tail couldn't fork then the cat couldn't become a bakemono.
  • Hainu - the winged dog from Chikugo in the Fukuoka Prefecture. There is a memorial there where the dog is supposedly buried. In one story, the dog was a ferocious creature who terrorised the local area. When Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried to conquer it's home it stood in his way and was slain. The other says that the dog was Toyotomi's pet.
  • Oni - Oni can apparently be repelled by soybeans and stinky fish. They are ften shown wearing tiger skin fundoshi carrying a club. Ao-oni (blue demon) and aka-oni (red demon) are said to be assistants to the king of hell. Ao-oni features in the video game "Ao oni".
  • Karakasa - Umbrellas which have reached their 100th birthday. They are generally shown as a battered paper umbrella with it's tongue sticking out of it's mouth, one leg (where the handle should be) and one eye. On it's one leg is usually a Japanese sandal. It's adorable!
  • Teke teke - the vengeful spirit of a girl who was cut in half by an oncoming train. She carries a scythe and drags herself making a scratching sound (teke teke is the sound for scratch in Japanese). If her victims are not fast enough, she will cut them in half. They may become a teke teke like her.
  • The Red Room - a pop up which shows are red door. It asks you if you like the red room. even if you close the pop up it will reopen. Victims are found dead, with the wall covered in their blood.
  • Aka manto (red cape) - a spirit which haunts toilets. He can also be called aoi manto (blue cape). He will ask you if you want a red cape/toilet paper/vest or a blue cape/toilet paper/vest. Saying red gets you sliced up until your clothes are stained red; saying blue gets your blood drained. Answering with another colour will get you dragged into the "netherworld". Saying yellow paper may get your head shoved into the toilet you just used. The correct answer is to refuse anything aka manto offers you.
Clearly, Japan is a more diverse place if you want to get killed in many different ways or become a monster yourself.


  1. I love this!! The VWZRG romance stuff is so common now. It's been a long time since I've read a truly monster filled book. I love being creeped out, but it doesn't happen often anymore. Such a great post.

  2. I love Japanese culture and despite the fact that I have read a lot about it I never looked for "scary things". You see, I don't like horror books.
    Until now. For some reason I've been reading horror books during a month and I like them...
    Anyway, great post, now I'm going to google all these stuff xD

    Alaiel Kreuz

  3. @Christy Thank you! I really want to read a book that can actually scare me but I haven't found one yet. Any ideas?
    @Alaiel Kreuz Not all monsters are scary. The karakasa, shojo and tanuki are relatively friendly and others are just a bit mischevious. Have fun researching!

  4. Well, I just finished Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts and it was the 1st book to creep me out and get under my skin in sooo long. I'm trying to write the review for it, but it's one of those books that is hard for me to express all the emotions I felt from it. If you read it, do it at night alone.. lol.


Thanks for taking time to read this!
Comments are much loved.
Nina xxx

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