Yokai – Japan’s top 5 famous ghosts, monsters and creatures

  • Have you ever heard of Japanese ghosts or monsters? When thinking about monsters, most people think of Frankenstein, yetis or bigfoot. Japanese monsters are called yokai, ghosts would be obake. They are, of course, a bit different from their western counterparts. You might have encountered some of them in pop culture like video games or anime.
    Not all of them are malevolent to the mischief, some of them bring good luck to those who meet them.

    Here are the most famous 5:

    1. Kappa (河童)

    This turtle-like creature lives in the rivers and lakes, has a beak, a bowl-like cavity on the top of its head filled with water and is usually considered dangerous. It has been used to warn children of the dangers of rivers and lakes.
    Kappa’s favourite food is cucumber, that is why the sushi roll with cucumber is called kappa maki.

    2. Kasa obake or karakasakozou (からかさ小僧)

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    Having a traditional Japanese umbrella as its body, this monster is more into mischief than real danger. It belongs to tsukumogami, which is a special group of yokai, that are in connection with daily used items. Having its tongue stick out and one eye, it is usually depicted with one human leg wearing a Japanese sandal (gets). You might have seen them in the game Super Mario Land on the Game Boy.

    3. Tanuki (Raccoon) (狸)

    Tanukis are actually real animals. These racoon dogs (which are not really dogs) are believed to play all kinds of tricks on anyone who crosses their road. Some might remember one event in Zelda – Link’s Awakening (Game Boy), where Link has to use a magic mushroom, to get pass a tanuki, that behaves mischievously by confusing Link and makes him get lost in the woods.

    4. Tengu (天狗)

    This guy is just fabulous. Having a red face, this huge long nose, wings and wearing super high geta sandals. As gorgeous as he is, he can cause great tornado-like winds with his magical fan. You might have met him in Dead or Alive 2 on the PS2.

    5. Oni (鬼)

    These are Japanese devils. They either are red or blue, and are usually angry. Some places have annual activities to drive the oni away, especially in spring, during the Setsubun Festival on February 3rd.