Information on Japanese YOKAI including History and Types




Do you know what Yokai is? This post introduces basic information on Japanese Yokai.



What is YOKAI?


Have you seen Yokai?

Do you know what it is?


Yokai is Japanese monster and it has supernatural power.


Ancient Japanese believed that something was responsible for whatever happening.

They needed reasons for all phenomena.


And when they couldn’t explain how things happened due to lack of knowledge and scientific explanation, they assumed Yokai did it.


For example, there is a supernatural phenomenon called “hitodama,” which literally means human soul.


Hitodama suddenly appears, floats in the air and disappears.


Old-time people had no idea how Hitodama was formed, so they thought it was the Yokai who made the Hitodama.

As science advanced, some scientists argue it’s due to plasma and there is no Yokai or ghost in real life.



History of YOKAI

According to Kojiki (古事記), the oldest written record in Japan, people believed existence of Yokai after 700.

Although there was no picture or drawing left in Kojiki, there was description of Yokai by words.


The folktale gradually changed in Edo Era (江戸時代).

The major record was based on written description before, but people also left drawing during Edo Era.


Some people created and exaggerated imaginary Yokai to entertain others.


Types of YOKAI




Yokai form various creature including human, animals and imaginary objects.

However, it doesn’t really look alike human.

For instance, some have a bigger nose, 3rd eye, or wings.

Those imaginary objects are shown by drawings and people believed that they existed.


List of YOKAI

There are a lot of Yokai and I’m going to briefly introduce 5 of them today.

Yuki Onna (雪女)



Yuki means snow and onna means a woman.

It is said that Yuki Onna usually kills men in winter.

She wears white gown (kimono), which is associated with death in Japan.

She sucks men’s power or blow cold air to freeze men to death.



Bakeneko is a cat that transforms into human or other animals.

Cats have long nails, they move and jump quickly and their eyes grow in dark.

Some say that is the reason why cats are considered as one of the Yokai.



Bakedanuki (化け狸)


Tanuki is a raccoon dog.

It looks like raccoon but its hands and colour are different from that of raccoon.


Baketanuki can change their appearance.

They could transform themselves into human or other animals and scare human being.



Kappa (河童)


Kappa is one of the most famous Yokai.

It’s small like children and body is usually red or green.


It has a small plate on top of head and the plate has to be wet all the time.

Or Kappa will die.


It lives in river or marsh and it is good at swimming.

It loves cucumber.


Tengu (天狗)


Tengu has two arms and legs just like humans.

The big differences are their long noses and wings.

They have wing so that they can fly.


Their skin is red and considered as demon spirit.

They like to make troubles and they are the enemy of Buddhism.




When I was a child, I was afraid of Yokai.

Now I’m not afraid of them because I’ve never seen them.

It is intriguing to learn about Yokai!


Have you seen any of these?



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