Yōkai (妖怪, Hengeyokai) are a class of supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons found in Japanese culture and folklore.
Varying in appearance and physical nature, with their only uniting factor seemingly being their land of origin (Japan), Yōkai can range from being beings of malevolent disposition to being mischievous or occasionally good natured and providers of good fortune depending on the nature of those who encounter them.
Culture[edit | edit source]
- According to human cultural knowledge in Japan, Yokai were divine spirits that had failed to achieve deification due to lack of sufficient veneration, or had lost their divinity following attrition of worshippers, and became stuck on the mortal plane.
- As defined in human folklore, Yokai can be divided into categories based on either;
- Their "true form": human, animal, plant, object, or natural phenomenon (elemental).
- Their source of mutation: this-world related, spiritual/mental related, reincarnation/next-world related, or material related.
- Their external appearance: human, animal, plant, artifact, structure/building, natural object or phenomenon, and miscellaneous.
- Their location or associated phenomenon: mountains, paths, trees, water, the sea, snow, sound, or animals.
- Every year Yōkai will march through the streets of Japanese cities on summer nights as a horde known as Hyakki Yagyō (百鬼夜行, "Night Parade of One Hundred Demons"). Sometimes an orderly procession, other times a riot, it refers to an uncontrolled horde of countless numbers of supernatural creatures known as oni and yōkai. It is said that anyone who comes across the procession would perish or be spirited away by the yōkai, unless protected by exorcism scrolls or similar wards.
- In contrast to the fate of liminals in western countries, Yokai live alongside humans in reasonable peace and were not actively hunted by humans unless they were given cause too (eg Yokai were actively murdering humans).
- There are many tales of Yōkai and humans being lovers, sometimes even becoming wives/husbands and parents. However, often times the Yōkai hides their true identity in complete secrecy in these relationships either due to fear of rejection or reprisal from the human or due to their own customs, and if their identity is discovered, they leave their lovers/families forever.
Subspecies[edit | edit source]
Bake-danuki[edit | edit source]
Bake-danuki (化け狸) are a demihuman race that appear in Japanese folklore. Reputed to be mischievous, jolly, and masters of disguise and shapeshifting, they are also reputed to be somewhat gullible and absent-minded.
Originally deified as governors of all things in nature until the arrival of Buddhism, where animals other than envoys of the gods (foxes, snakes, etc.) lost their divinity, Bake-danuki are reputed to have the ability to shapeshift into objects and people as well being able to possess human beings. And they were seen as symbols of luck in some areas.
Tatake is a Bake-danuki.
Hachishaku-sama[edit | edit source]
Hachishaku-sama (八尺様, lit. Ms. Eight-shaku-tall) (Hasshaku-sama) are a humanoid liminal species known for their considerable height (242.4cm), a distinctive laugh ("Po, po, po, po"), and a love for white clothing and sun hats.
According to Japanese urban legend, Hachishaku-sama are spiritual entities that are quite fond of male children between the ages of ages 9 and 17 and will stalk and abduct, or otherwise possess, them within the span of several days.
Paula is a Hachishaku-sama.
Inaba Hare[edit | edit source]
The myth goes that a hare god tricks some crocodiles into being used as a land bridge in order to travel from the Island of Oki to the mainland by challenging the reptiles to let him see if their clan was larger than his. Having the crocodiles lie in a row across the sea, the hare hopped across them, counting them as he went. Nearing the end but not yet on dry land, the hare began bragging that he had deceived the crocodiles in order to use them as a bridge and in retribution the last crocodile attacks him, ripping his fur from him.
Hakuto is a Inaba Hare.
Jorōgumo[edit | edit source]
Jorōgumo (絡新婦 lit. "binding bride"?) are a demi-human species of "spider-woman" originating from Japanese mythology. According to folklore, the species are said to be spiders that can change their appearances into that of beautiful women due to gaining magical powers after turning 400 years old.
Depicted as being skilled at entrapping their prey, Jorōgumo possess many of the same traits as an Arachne; such as possessing six eyes, a light exoskeleton and the ability to produced webs, however, while an Arachne has the upper body of a human and the full lower body of a spider, a Jorōgumo possesses a fully humanoid body with a spider abdomen extending from the base of their spine but no spider prosoma. Also, in addition to their humanoid arms being covered in an exoskeleton, they have six fully dexterous "spider legs" attached to their upper back which they can hide beneath their clothing should they choose.
Kamaitachi[edit | edit source]
Kamaitachi (鎌鼬) are a demihuman species with weasel-like attributes and two large sickle blades protruding from their forearms.
Prevalent in Japanese mythology, the species inhabits the inland mountain ranges of Japan (most notably Yamanashi, Nagano and Niigata) and are said to be able to "ride the mountain winds" in small tornadoes at such a speed that they are invisible to the human eye.
While within these tornadoes, Kamaitachi are said to attack humans by rushing them and slashing them with their sickle blades as they fly past.
Mai is a Kamaitachi.
Koro-pok-guru[edit | edit source]
Koro-pok-guru (コロポックル Koropokkuru) are a race of small people in folklore of the Ainu people of the northern Japanese islands. The Ainu believe that the koro-pok-guru were the people who lived in the Ainu's land before the Ainu themselves lived there. They were short of stature, agile, and skilled at fishing. They lived in pits in the ground with roofs made from butterbur leaves.
Long ago, the koro-pok-guru were on good terms with the Ainu, and would send them deer, fish, and other game and exchange goods with them. The little people hated to be seen, however, so they would stealthily make their deliveries under cover of night.
Unfortunately, one day, a young Ainu man decided he wanted to see a koro-pok-guru for himself, so he waited in ambush by the window where their gifts were usually left. When a koro-pok-guru came to place something there, the young man grabbed it by the hand and dragged it inside. It turned out to be a beautiful koro-pok-guru woman, who was so enraged at the young man's rudeness that her people have not been seen since.
Shinotcha is a Koro-pok-guru.
Kyubi no Kitsune[edit | edit source]
Kyubi no Kitsune (lit. Nine-tailed Foxes) are a pseudohuman race that appear in Japanese folklore as intelligent beings that possess magical abilities to shape shift. A variation of the Werefox species, while some folktales speak of kitsune of wildly different moralities employing this ability to trick others, other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives. It is unknown if male Kitsune exist (as Kitsune can use both genders in their shapeshifting abilities) or if they are a single gendered race.
It is said that the more tails a kitsune has (they may have as many as nine) the older, wiser, and more powerful they are. Because of their potential power and influence, some people make offerings to them as deities.
Many Shinto Shrines posses statues of foxes as homages to Kitsune and the fox god Inari Ōkami. One kitsune, Ils Nineta, works at a Shinto shrine as a shrine maiden. Another kitsune, Youko, is an exchange student in the cultural exchange program.
Oni[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Ogre
Oni are a humanoid subspecies of Ogre that appear in Japanese folklore as a type of devil or ogre.
Aside from their colorful skin ranging from red to blue, Oni are no different from standard Ogres. Standing only two meters tall, they are slightly smaller than Ogres, making them the smallest of the Ogre subspecies. Though they are still larger than humans. Red Oni are thought to be crybabies and Blue Oni are considered self-sacrificing, but it is unclear whether or not there is any truth to these claims. It is customary for Oni to dress in tiger-striped clothes.
Otter[edit | edit source]
Otter ("kawauso" (獺、川獺)) are a pseudeo-human liminal species from Japan that resemble river otters. Jovial and friendly shapeshifting beings, Otters mostly take on human form to play tricks and buy booze. Like their animal cousins, Otters prefer to stay near brooks, streams, seaside and rivers.
Araya is a Otter.
Rokurokubi[edit | edit source]
The Rokurokubi (ろくろ首, 轆轤首) is a type of Japanese yōkai (apparition). They look almost completely like humans, with one major difference. There are two types of Rokurokubi: one whose necks stretch, and one whose heads come off and fly around freely (nukekubi). The Rokurokubi appear in classical kaidan (spirit tales) and in yōkai works. It has been suggested, however, that the idea of rokurokubi may have been created purely for entertainment purposes rather than originating from any folk beliefs or legends.
Nana is a Rokurokubi.
Tengu[edit | edit source]
Tengu are a demihuman liminal species with black bird-like wings, elfin ears and the avian characteristics of crows.
Considered a mythical creature in Japan, they were historically thought to be troublesome demons but are now respected as highly skilled swordsmen and protectors of sacred forests and mountains.
Shizuka is a Tengu.
Werefox[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Werewolf
Werefoxes are a pseudohuman species of beings who are spoken in myth of possessing the ability to shapeshift between the form of a human and the form of a fox.
Also known in Japan as belonging to the "Yokai" subspecies group, for some reason, many werefoxes take up positions as miko shrine maidens. A variation of this subspecies possess nine tails and are called Kitsune; these individuals are said to possess rudimentary transformation powers.
Yatagarasu[edit | edit source]
A Yatagarasu (八咫烏) is a demihuman liminal species very similar in appearance to Harpies. Possessing crow-like traits, Yatagarasu appear prominently in Japanese mythology as supernatural guides and symbols of divine rebirth and rejuvenation. Known to be the guide of the 1st Japanese Emperor Jimmu when he conquers all of Japan.
Omnivorous, Yatagarasu prefer habitats that have sunlight and demonstrate the same "air-headed" behavior as Harpies. As such, not much is known at precisely how closely related the Harpy race are to the Yatagarasu.
Misaki is a Yatagarasu.
Yuki-onna[edit | edit source]
A Yuki-onna (雪女) is a pseudohuman that appears in Japanese folklore as a snow spirit of inhuman beauty that appears before travelers trapped in snowstorms with the purpose of killing them.
While the Yuki-onna race is not inherently malevolent, their stoic demeanor and their natural environment being hazardous to humans, may have given rise to myths that they intentionally cause deaths.
While possessing elemental control over ice and snow, Yuki-onna can not live in high temperate environments without assistance.
Zashiki Warashi[edit | edit source]
Zashiki Warashi (座敷童 or 座敷童子) are spiritual beings that reside in a house or settlement. Old folktales believe that Zashiki Warashi brought good luck to the abode they are residing in currently, and commonly materialize themselves as a little girl in a kimono and bobbed black hair. They have the ability to either bring good luck or misfortune upon a person or a household.
Sasami is a Zashiki Warashi.
Members[edit | edit source]
Gallery[edit | edit source]
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- Although typically referred to as Dragons, Yamata no Orochi are sometimes referred to as Yōkai due to their association in Japanese mythology.
- Yōkai play a role in attracting tourism to revitalize local regions, like Tono, Iwate, Iwate Prefecture and the Tottori Prefecture.
- In Kyoto, there is a store called Yōkaido, which is a renovated machiya (traditional Kyoto-style house), and the owner gives a guided yōkai tour of Kyoto.