The Yōkai in Japan

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Far away in the remote mountains in Japan; are believed to be a class of supernatural monster spirits in Japanese folklore known as Yōkai. They are oddball in appearance, seen with eyes on the palms of their hands. They also seem to have long necks resembling that of a serpent. These roaming monsters have been part of the culture in Japan for centuries.


One of the better known Yōkai are called Kappa, they have a saucer depression on top of their heads with long flowing hair sometimes. They have been known to drag and drown children into the water sometimes, but usually are more mild mannered. The Yōkai are also believed to be inhabitants of household items including furniture, which has been thrown out. These haunted items are able to communicate to each other and plot their revenge upon their former owners in an act of vengeance.

The Yōkai word is made up for kanji; it means ‘otherworldly’ and ‘weird’. Known for their mischievous ways, they sometimes may bring a series of events to someone, which will help them in their fortunes in life. Often they will resemble animals with their various physical features. Examples are the Kappa, which are very similar to that of a turtle, or the Tengu which has wings like a bird. Yōkai that have the ability to shape-shift are called obake.

There have been numerous sketches of these monsters by different artists over time depicting them in many different incarnations. It is amusing to see some of them. The Yōkai are not necessarily ghosts, but more like spirits from nature inhibiting objects and manifesting themselves from shapes of animals. Ghosts usually are cursed or trapped between worlds plotting their revenge upon their wrong doers.


Numerous reports seem to come from the northern part of Japan regarding the Yōkai, they have been seen riding or surfing on top of an avalanche reminiscent to Yuki Jiji who resembles an old man, who rides down the mountainsides atop avalanches. Yōkai may appear in human-like forms as well such as an attractive young woman or a lost child. As mentioned previously, some of them are quite dangerous while others are more playful. There have been a number of board and video games created with the Yōkai. It seems this legend isn’t fading away anytime soon.


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