In Japanese folklore, a class of supernatural spirits and monsters is called “yokai.” It can also be called mononoke or mamono in other terms. These are often seen in the form of animals as well as humans or as inanimate objects with no specific shape. Most of these are dangerous but some are thought to bring good luck which is why some shops and areas in Kyoto’s Ichijo-dori Street are guarded by yokai. Thus, the street has also been labeled as “Yokai Street”.
Japanese folklore has it that monsters strolled the street many centuries ago. This story appears in some publications of the ancient and middle ages in Japan. There was even a statement in the Shoku Nihongi, a Japanese history text, stating that shinto purification was often done due to yokai’s frequent appearance. It was only in the Edo period when people started questioning the existence of yokai. Were they real or were they not? This is a question which is still hard to answer for those who believe in the legend.
Yokai Street has 30 spooky monster statues that will greet you once you hit the shops. Also, they’ve been created by the shop owners of the places they are guarding and come in different designs with some being fully sculpted while others haphazardly done.
There are also some events for visitors to check out such as the Monster Market (Mononoke Ichi) which is a monster flea art market where you can find lots of yokai art works being sold by people around the country. This is held 5 times a year on an irregular basis.
There is also a monster parade every year where you will see many people dressed as demons strolling around the streets.
Yokai Street is an unforgettable place to visit in Kyoto. Besides its oddity and creepiness, it will give you a lot of background on Japanese folklore so be brave and check it out!