8 creatures of Japanese folklore by region in Japan: the Yokai

2019年 06月05日

Before they appear in the films of any recent works or pieces, the Yokai: creatures, gohsts, animals, demons, ogres or any other monsters of Japanese folklores have been already present in the books before the Middle Ages. They were also called as mononoke, which means "a supernatural being" as well as the kanji 妖 “yo” of Yokai is translated to the "calamity" or the mystery. The most general definition is the appearance of an inexplicable thing that beyond human comprehension. The oldest writing about the Yokai dates back to the ancient China, in the 1st century, when the Emperor testifies the appearance of a specter in the imperial court.
In Japan, it tells the same story in the historical and official handiwork ordered by the Emperor some centuries later, a specter invited also to the court and it occured many rituels of Shinto for making it to be disappeared. A real belief of those creatures having existed in the past before they appear in the Japanese art of the Edo period, the books of Yokai existed many years ago, in Jomon period, hunter-gatherer period of Japan, especially with the production of clay figures dated 2000 BC.
"The demon who laughs" drawn by Hokusai in 1830: The demon called Yamamba, devours the travellers who come to have the advantures to the mountain. This story had been used for avoiding the children not to go far and lost in the nature.
The following Yokai on different regions of Japan who you may meet on a road....


Onikuma - the demon bear (north forest of Hokkaido)

A 18th century's legend tells that a hunter should have been killed one of them. The Onikuma is a gigantic bear, living in a dense forest of north of the Hokkaido island. It is rare to meet a human, but in a night, the Onikuma devours the one who stepps in its territory. 

It might have been inspired from the black bears populating in the north of Japan, whose size is much more bigger than the ones living in the most of other places in Japan.


Uwan - The disenmobodied voice (Aomori prefecture)

Uwan may not be appeared, even if it had been imaginally painted in the Edo century, it is the voice crying "Uwan" (it has no meaning) that the people sometimes hear penetrating the old houses or dark temples. Some stories of 16th century tell that a man bought a deserted house and started to live with his wife, but they could not sleep all night long due to the screaming voice, "Uwan!"


Gaki - hungry goasts (Tokyo)

Creatures or spilits having human appearance living in the endless agony. The Gaki are small and they are looking for water or food to satisfy their hunger, yet never been succeeded. Because water or food are transformed into the fire in their hands. They can eat everything in the world even the dead bodies; they are in the Buddhist thinking, the reincarnation of misfortunes.


Satori - A monkey man in the mountains (Gifu)

The satori, big monkey man living in the mountains of Hida region which accuse the people travelling in the mountains.
However, another theory says that it is respectful of people working in the mountainous areas of Gifu. It is also said that it can read human thoughts.


Oomukade - the giant centipede (Hamamatsu - Kyoto)

We can cross its miniature version in Japan (Mukade), this centipede insect known in hot and humid regions is not very popular with locals and tourists; his sting being very painful and his appearance repulsive. In Japanese folklore, it is the size of a mountain, spitting its venom on people in its path. Only great warriors like Hidesato Fujiwara were able to defeat him - the giant centipede (Hamamatsu - Kyoto)


Gashadokuro - hungry skeleton (Hiroshima)

1000 years ago, after a terrible battle, the bodies of hundreds of soldiers are abandoned on the battlefield. It is at this moment that the Gashadokuro is formed, the bones of all fallen people assemble to form a gigantic skeleton which afterwards sneaks discreetly towards his victim to grind his head and feed on his blood. If you hear a buzz in your ears, Gashadokuro is not far away. 



Ushi oni - the demon cow (Ehime)

As it has bull's head and spider's legs, the Ushi oni nests at a beach and attacks and poisoning human walking by the beach... At Shikoku there is the festival Uwajima Ushi oni, where this creature is represented. It is said that Ushi oni is a tortise wagon to have been used for protecting Japanese armies during Japan's invasion of Korea in the 16th century.


Nurikabe - The impassable night wall (Fukuoka)

Although it is known to be invisible, it was often imagined and painted by artists of the Edo era. The Nurikabe appears at night, right in the front of a travelers, blocking their way. The travelers are impossible to elude it, because it can extend horizontally. It would be enough to hit him by a stick at his base to disappear.