List of legendary creatures from Japan

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The following is a list of demons, ghosts, kami, obake, yōkai, yūrei and other legendary creatures that are notable in Japanese folklore and mythology.

A[edit]

Abumi-guchi
A furry creature formed from the stirrup of a mounted military commander who worked for Yamata no Orochi.
Abura-akago
An infant ghost who licks the oil out of andon lamps.
Abura-sumashi
A large-headed spirit who lives on a mountain pass in Kumamoto Prefecture.
Akabeko
A red cow involved in the construction of Enzō-ji in Yanaizu, Fukushima.
Akamanto
A ghost in a red mantle that offers either red or blue toilet paper rolls in bathrooms, then kills whoever answers based on their choice.
Akaname
A spirit who licks off filth in untidy bathrooms.
Akashita
A creature that looms in a black cloud over a floodgate.
Akateko
A red child's hand dangling out of a tree, accompanied by a hypnotically beautiful woman standing beneath the tree.
Akkorokamui
A giant Ainu monster resembling a fish or octopus.
Akurojin-no-hi
A ghostly fire from Mie Prefecture.
Akubōzu
A spirit that lives in the ashes of hearths from Akita Prefecture and Iwate Prefecture.
Akugyo
An enormous species of sea monster found in the waters around Japan.
Amabie
A Japanese mermaid yōkai.
Amaburakosagi
A ritual-disciplinary demon from Shikoku.
Amamehagi
A ritual-disciplinary demon from Hokuriku.
Amanojaku
A small demon that instigates people into wickedness.
Amanozako
A monstrous goddess mentioned in the Kujiki.
Amazake-babaa
An old woman who asks for sweet sake and brings disease to whoever answers, whether they give her any or not.
Amefurikozō
A little boy spirit who plays in the rain.
Amemasu
An Ainu creature resembling a giant fish or whale.
Ameonna
A rain-making female spirit.
Amikiri
A net-cutting, bird-headed, crustacean-armed, snake-bodied spirit.
Amorōnagu
A tennyo from the island of Amami Ōshima.
Amaterasu
The Shinto sun goddess.
Anmo
A ritual-disciplinary demon from Iwate Prefecture.
Aoandon
The demonic spirit which arises from an andon lamp at the end of a Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.
Aobōzu
A blue monk who kidnaps children.
Aonyōbō
A female ghost who lurks in an abandoned imperial palace.
Aosaginohi
A luminescent night heron.
Arikura-no-baba
An old woman with magical powers.
Ashimagari
A spirit which entangles the legs of travelers at night.
Ashinagatenaga
A pair of characters, one with long legs and the other with long arms.
Ayakashi
A maritime phenomenon considered to be the funayurei.
Azukiarai/Azukitogi
A spirit that washes azuki beans on a shoreline.

B[edit]

Bake-kujira
A ghostly whale skeleton that drifts along the coastline of Shimane Prefecture, accompanied by strange birds and fish.
Bakeneko
A shape-shifting cat spirit.
Bakezōri
A spirit inhabiting a straw sandal (zōri).
Baku
Supernatural beings that take the form of a tapir and devour dreams and nightmares.
Basan
A large fire-breathing chicken monster.
Bashōnosei
A banana tree spirit.
Betobeto-san
An invisible spirit which follows people at night, making the sound of footsteps.
Binbōgami
A spirit that brings poverty and other such misery.
Biwa-bokuboku
A biwa inhabited by a spirit.
Buruburu
A spirit which clings to people, inducing cowardice and shivering.
Byakko
The Japanese equivalent of the Chinese White Tiger.
Byōbunozoki
A tsukumogami that emerges from byōbu to spy on people.

C[edit]

Chōchinobake
A possessed chōchin lantern.
Chōchinbi
Demonic flames which appear in the footpaths between rice fields.

D[edit]

Daidarabotchi
A giant responsible for creating the geographical features of Japan.
Daitengu
The most powerful tengu, each of whom lives on a separate mountain.
Danzaburou-danuki
A bake-danuki from Sado Island.
Datsue-ba
An old woman in the Underworld who removes the clothes (or skin, if unclothed) of the dead.
Dodomeki
A female demon with long arms covered in bird's eyes.
Dōnotsura
A headless humanoid yōkai with its face on its torso.
Dōsojin
The generic name for a type of Shinto guardian or spirit, considered to be the deities of borders and paths.

E[edit]

Enenra
A monster made of smoke and darkness.
Enkō
Kappa of Shikoku and western Honshū.

F[edit]

Fūjin
The Shinto wind god.
Fūri
A monkey-like yōkai.
Funayūrei
The angry ghosts of people who died at sea.
Furaribi
A creature engulfed in flames that flies aimlessly.
Furutsubaki-no-rei
A soul-sucking plant.
Furu-utsubo
A beloved quiver of slain archers.
Futakuchi-onna
A two-mouthed woman.

G[edit]

Gagoze
A demon known for having attacked young priests at Gangō-ji temple.
Gaki
The perpetually-starving ghosts of especially greedy people.
Gashadokuro
A giant skeleton that is the spirit of the unburied dead. Also known as Gaikotsu.
Genbu
The Japanese equivalent of the Chinese Black Tortoise.
Goryō
The vengeful spirits of dead nobles and martyrs.
Gozu and Mezu
Two notable guards of the Underworld.
Guhin
Another name for tengu.
Gyūki
Another name for Ushi-oni.

H[edit]

Hakanohi
A fire which sprouts from the base of graves.
Hakuja no Myojin[1]
A white serpent deity.
Hakutaku
A yak-like beast which handed down knowledge on harmful spirits.
Hanako-san
A spirit of a young World War II era girl who inhabits and haunts school restrooms.
Hannya
A noh mask representing a jealous female demon.
Haradashi
A creature with a giant face on its stomach.
Harionago
A woman with a thornlike barb on the tip of each strand of her hair.
Hashihime
A woman whose jealousy turned her into an evil spirit, associated with the bridge at Uji.
Heikegani
Crabs with human faces on their shells, said to be the spirits of the warriors killed in the Battle of Dan-no-ura.
Hibagon
The Japanese version of Bigfoot or the Yeti.
Hiderigami
Spirits said to bring droughts.
Hihi
A baboonlike Chinese yōkai.
Hikeshibaba
An old woman who extinguishes lanterns.
Hinode
The sunrise.
Hitodama
A fireball ghost that appears when someone dies, signifying the dead person's spirit.
Hitotsume-kozō
A one-eyed child spirit.
Hitotsume-nyūdō
A one-eyed monk spirit.
Hiyoribō
The spirit which stops rainfall.
Hoji
The wicked spirit of Tamamo-no-Mae.
Hone-onna
A skeleton woman who seeks love but brings death.
Hō-ō
The legendary Fenghuang bird of China.
Hoshi-no-Tama
A ball guarded by a kitsune (fox) which can give the one who obtains it power to force the kitsune to help them. It is said to hold some reserves of the kitsune's power.
Hōsōshi
A ritual exorcist.
Hotoke
A term used to denote a deceased person.
Hyakki Yakō
The demons' night parade.
Hyōsube
A kind of kappa covered in hair.

I[edit]

Ibaraki-doji
A particularly famous offspring of an oni.
Ichiren-Bozu
Animated prayer beads.
Ikiryō
Essentially a living ghost, as it is a living person's soul outside of their body.
Ikuchi
A sea serpent that travels over boats in an arc while dripping oil.
Inugami
A dog-spirit created, worshipped, and employed by a family via sorcery.
Inugami Gyoubu
A type of bake-danuki.
Isonade
A giant shark-like sea monster with a barb-covered tail.
Issie
A lake creature similar to the Loch Ness Monster.
Itsumade
A fire-breathing birdlike monster.
Ittan-momen
A possessed roll of cotton that attempts to smother people by wrapping itself around their faces.
Iyaya
A woman whose face is reflected as that of an old man.

J[edit]

Jami
A wicked mountain spirit.
Janjanbi
Drifting fireballs named for the sound they make.
Jibakurei
A spirit that protects a specific place.
Jikininki
Ghosts of evil people, that have been condemned to eat human corpses.
Jinmenju
A tree with human-faced fruits.
Jinmenken
A human-faced dog.
Jishin-namazu
A giant catfish dwelling beneath the earth, which causes earthquakes and tsunamis when it moves. It was blamed during the Ansei earthquake and tsunami.[citation needed]
Jorōgumo
A spider yōkai that shapeshifts into an attractive woman to lure men in as prey.
Jatai
An animated folding-screen cloth.
Jubokko
A vampiric tree that grows on old battlefields.

K[edit]

Kahaku (河伯)
Another name for a kappa.
Kakurezato
Villages hidden deep in the mountains, where the inhabitants live peacefully and without conflict. Only those especially good of heart may stumble upon kakurezato, but cannot revisit upon leaving.
Kamaitachi
The slashing sickle-clawed weasel that haunts the mountains and rides dust devils to travel.
Kamikiri
A yōkai that secretly cuts people's hair.
Kangiten
The elephant-headed god of Bliss, comparable to Ganesha.
Kambarinyūdō
A monk spirit that spies on people while they are using the toilet.
Kameosa
A possessed sake jar.
Kanedama
A spirit that carries money.
Kappa
A famous water monster with a water-filled head and a love of cucumbers.
Karasu-tengu
A type of crow demon.
Karura
An anthropomorphic eagle akin to the Hindu Garuda.
Kasa-obake
A possessed paper-umbrella monster.
Kasha
A cart-like demon that descends from the sky, or a cat-like demon, which carries away the corpses of evildoers.
Katawaguruma
A type of wanyudo, with an anguished woman instead of a monk's head in a burning wheel.
Kawauso
River otter spirits.
Kawaakago
A river spirit that pretends to be a crying baby.
Kechibi
Fireballs with human faces inside.
Keneō
An old man seated in the underworld who weighs the clothes given to him by Datsue-ba.
Keukegen
A small dog-like creature covered entirely in long hair.
Kijimuna
Tree sprites from Okinawa that resemble red-headed small children.
Kirin
The Japanese version of the Chinese qilin, which is part dragon and part deer with antlers, fish scales and an ox's tail. Said to be a protective creature and the guardian of the metal element.
Kitsune
A fox spirit.
Kitsunebi
Flames created by a kitsune.
Kitsune no yomeiri
A procession of ghost lights.
Kiyohime
A woman who transformed into a serpent demon out of the rage of unrequited love.
Kodama
Spirits that lives in trees, said to be the cause of echoes.
Kokakuchō
The ubume bird.
Komainu
A pair of lion-dogs that guard the entrances of temples.
Konaki-jiji
A yōkai that disguises itself as an abandoned baby and cries until someone picks it up, then crushes them.
Konoha-tengu
A bird-like tengu.
Koromodako
An octopus-like yōkai that lives in the waters bordering Kyoto and Fukui.
Koropokkuru
A little person from Ainu folklore.
Kosenjōbi
Fireballs that float over former battlefields.
Kosode-no-te
A possessed kosode.
Kotobuki
A Japanese chimera with the head of a rat, the ears of a rabbit, the horns of an ox, the comb of a rooster, the beard of a sheep, the neck of a dragon, the back of a boar, the shoulders and belly of a tiger, the arms of a monkey, the hindquarters of a dog, and the tail of a snake.
Kubikajiri
A headless beast that stinks of blood and eats the heads of its victims.
Kuchisake-onna
The slit-mouthed woman.
Kuda-gitsune
A small fox-like animal used in sorcery.
Kudan
A cow with a human face.
Kuzuryū
A nine-headed dragon.
Kyonshii
The Japanese version of the Chinese hopping vampire, known as jiangshi.
Kumo Yōkai
A Japanese spider demon.
Kunekune
A long, slender strip of paper that wiggles on rice or barley fields during hot summers.
Kyōkotsu
A skeletal figure that emerges from a well.
Kyōrinrin
Possessed scrolls or papers.

M[edit]

Mekurabe
The multiplying skulls that menaced Taira no Kiyomori in his courtyard.
Menreiki
A spirit composed of gigaku masks.
Miage-nyūdō
A spirit that grows taller as fast as you can look up at it.
Mikaribaba
A one-eyed old woman.
Mikoshi-nyūdō
A bald goblin with an extending neck.
Misaki
A term for various high-ranking divine spirits.
Mizuchi
A dangerous water dragon.
Mokumokuren
A swarm of eyes that appear on a paper sliding door in an old building.
Momonjii
An old man who waits for travelers at every fork in the road.
Mononoke
Any mischievous and troublesome creature/entity of uncertain origin.
Morinji-no-kama
Another name for bunbuku chagama, the bake-danuki teakettle.
Mōryō
A general term for various water demons that eat corpses.
Mujina
A shapeshifting badger.
Myōbu
A title sometimes given to a fox.

N[edit]

Namahage
A ritual-disciplinary demon from the Oga Peninsula.
Namazu
A giant catfish dwelling beneath the earth, that causes earthquakes when it moves.
Nekomata
A malevolent cat yōkai with two tails.
Nikujin
A meat-person.
Ningen
An enormous white sea creature with humanoid features.
Ningyo
A fish person or mermaid.
Nobusuma
A flying squirrel-like monster (possibly inspired by the Indian giant flying squirrel).
Noderabō
Strange creatures that stand near a temple bell.
Noppera-bō
A faceless ghost that enjoys scaring people.
Nozuchi
A fat snake-like creature.
Nogitsune
A dangerous kitsune known to possess people.
Nue
A Japanese chimera with the head of a monkey, the body of a raccoon dog, the legs of a tiger, and a snake-headed tail. It plagued the emperor with nightmares in the Heike Monogatari.
Nukekubi
A vicious humanlike monster whose head detaches from its body, often confused with the rokurokubi, whose neck merely extends.
Nuppeppo
An animated lump of decaying human flesh.
Nure-onna
A snake-like monster with a woman's head, who appears on the seashore.
Nuribotoke
An animated corpse with blackened flesh and dangling eyeballs.
Nurikabe
A ghostly wall that traps travelers at night.
Nurarihyon
A strange character who sneaks into houses on busy evenings.
Nyūdō-bōzu
A yōkai that grows taller the further one looks up.
Nyūnaisuzume
Sparrows that flew from the mouth of exiled poet Fujiwara-no Sanekata.

O[edit]

Obake
Various shapeshifting spirits; also known as bakemono.
Obariyon
A yōkai which rides piggyback on a human victim and becomes unbearably heavy.
Oboroguruma
An oxen cart with a face in its carriage.
Oiwa
The ghost of a woman with a distorted face who was murdered by her husband. One of the most famous onryō.
Ōkaburo
A cross-dressing yōkai.
Ōgama
A giant toad which breathes rainbow-like smoke and wields a giant spear against whoever attacks it.
Ōkami
A powerful wolf spirit that either takes a person's life or protects it, depending on the actions one does in their life.
Okiku
The plate-counting ghost of a servant girl.
Ōkubi
The huge face of a woman which appears in the sky, either portending disaster or causing it.
Okuri-inu
A spectral dog which follows lone travelers, attacking them if they trip. Similar to the Black dog of English folklore.
Ōmagatoki
The moment of dusk when the spirit world and the material world overlap.
Ōmukade
A giant, human-eating centipede that lives in the mountains.
Oni
The classic Japanese demon. It is an ogre-like creature which often has horns.
Onibaba
The demonic hag of Adachigahara.
Onibi
A demonic flame which sucks out the life of those who come too close to it.
Onihitokuchi
A species of one-eyed oni that kill and eat humans.
Onikuma
A bipedal bear yōkai.
Onmoraki
A bird-demon created from the spirits of freshly dead corpses.
Ōnyūdō
Wastebasket taxon for all 'priestly' demons.
Onryō
A vengeful ghost formed from powerful feelings like rage or sorrow.
Otoroshi
A hairy creature that perches on torii gates to shrines and temples.
Onmyōji
A human who has powers like those of a yōkai.
Osakabehime
An old woman yōkai who resides in Himeji Castle and who can read and manipulate hearts.

R[edit]

Raijin
The god of thunder.
Raijū
A doglike beast that falls to earth in a lightning bolt.
Rōjinbi
A ghostly fire that appears with an old person.
Rokurokubi
A person, usually female, whose neck can stretch indefinitely.
Ryuu
The Japanese dragon.

S[edit]

Sa Gojō
The water monster Sha Wujing from Journey to the West, often interpreted in Japan as a kappa.
Samebito
A shark-man from the undersea Dragon Palace.
Sankai
An amorphous afterbirth spirit that takes the place of a baby if a pregnant mother is not properly cared for.
Sansei
A humanoid with a single leg twisted backwards.
Sarakazoe
A type of onibi that appears as a counting plate.
Satori
An ape-like creature that can read one's thoughts.
Sazae-oni
A turban snail of great age, which has gained the ability to turn into a woman.
Sesshō-seki
The poisonous "killing stones" which Tamamo-no-Mae's spirit transformed into.
Seiryū
Japanese version of the Chinese Azure Dragon.
Shachihoko
A tiger-headed fish whose image is often used in architecture.
Shibaemon-tanuki
A bake-danuki from Awaji Island.
Shichinin misaki
A group of seven ghosts who sicken the living, seeking to ascend to Heaven by forcing their victims to take their place.
Shidaidaka
A size-changing humanoid yōkai that appears above roads.
Shikigami
A spirit summoned to do the bidding of an onmyōji.
Shikome
Wild women sent by Izanami to harm Izanagi.
Shinigami
The Japanese version of the Grim Reaper.
Shiranui
A mysterious flame seen over the seas in Kumamoto Prefecture.
Shirime
An apparition in the shape of a man having an eye in the place of his anus.
Shirōneri
Possessed mosquito nettings or dust clothes.
Shiryō
The souls of the dead, the opposite of ikiryo.
Shisa
The Okinawan version of the shishi.
Shishi
The paired lion-dogs that guard the entrances of temples.
Shōjō
Red-haired sea sprites who love alcohol.
Shōkera
A creature which peeks in through the skylight of old houses.
Sōjōbō
The famous daitengu of Mount Kurama.
Suiko
Another name for the kappa.
Son Gokū
The monkey king Sun Wukong from Journey to the West.
Sunakake Baba
An old woman who throws sand in people's faces.
Sunekosuri
A dog-like yōkai that rubs up against people's legs when it is raining.
Shuten-doji
A particularly powerful oni lord.
Suzaku
The Japanese version of the Chinese Vermilion Bird.
Suzuri-no-tamashii
An inkstone spirit.

T[edit]

Taka-onna
A female monster that can stretch its waist to peer inside buildings.
Tamamo-no-Mae
A wicked nine-tailed fox who appears as a courtesan.
Tanuki
The Japanese raccoon dog. In folklore, tanuki have the ability to shape-shift.
Teke Teke
The vengeful spirit of a schoolgirl, with a half upper-torso body, who goes around killing people by slicing them in half with a scythe, mimicking her own disfigurement.
Ten
A mischievous shapeshifting weasel.
Tengu
A wise demon with two variants: a red-skinned man with a long nose, or a bird-like demon.
Tenjōkudari
A female yōkai that crawls on the ceiling.
Tenka
A type of ghost lights.
Tenko
An elderly fox spirit that has reached the full extent of its power.
Tennin
The Japanese version of angels.
Te-no-me
A ghostly blind man with his eyes on his palms.
Teratsutsuki
The onryō of a man who lived in the 6th century.
Tesso
A priest who was snubbed by the emperor and became a swarm of rats which laid waste to a rival temple.
Tōfu-kozō
A yōkai that appears as a young boy carrying a plate of tofu.
Tsuchigumo
A clan of spider-like yōkai.
Tsuchinoko
A legendary serpentine monster. It is now a cryptid resembling a fat snake.
Tsukinowaguma
A legendary bear.[2]
Tsukuyomi
The moon god.
Tsukumogami
An animated tea caddy that Matsunaga Hisahide used to bargain a peace with Oda Nobunaga. It is now understood to mean any 100-year-old inanimate object that has come to life.
Tsurube-otoshi
A monster that drops out of the tops of trees to attack and eat those who pass beneath the tree.

U[edit]

Ubume
The spirit of a woman who died in childbirth, lingering to protect the child she left behind.
Uma-no-ashi
A disembodied horse's leg which dangles from a tree and kicks passersby.
Umibōzu
A giant monster appearing on the surface of the sea.
Umi-nyōbō
A female sea monster who steals fish.
Ungaikyō
A possessed mirror that distorts all reflections into monstrous images.
Ushi-no-tokimairi
A curse cast at the ox hour (between 1 and 3 in the morning) by a black magic user, with various effects.
Ushi-oni
The name given to an assortment of ox-headed monsters.
Ushi-onna
A kimono-clad woman with a cow's head.
Ushirogami
A one-eyed, footless spirit.
Uwan
A spirit named for the sound it makes when surprising people.

W[edit]

Waira
A large beast that lurks in the mountains, about which little is known.
Wani
A water monster comparable to an alligator or crocodile. A related word has been applied to the saltwater crocodile.
Wanyūdō
A flaming wheel with a man's head in the center, that sucks out the soul of anyone who sees it.

Y[edit]

Yadōkai
Monks who have turned to mischief.
Yama-biko
Small mountain-dwelling creatures that create echoes.
Yamajijii
An old man spirit with one eye and one leg.
Yamako
An ape-like occasionally-cannibalistic creature that can read minds.
Yamaoroshi
A possessed vegetable grater, almost porcupine-like in appearance.
Yamata no Orochi
The eight-headed dragon/serpent monster slain by the god Susanoo.
Yama-inu
A dog-like mountain spirit that may appear to travelers on mountain roads. It may be friendly, or may attack and kill the traveler, depending on the tale (also see the Japanese wolf).
Yama-uba
A crone-like yōkai.
Yashima no Hage-tanuki
A bake-danuki that protects the Taira clan.
Yatagarasu
The three-legged crow of Amaterasu.
Yato-no-kami
Deadly snake spirits which infest fields.
Yobuko
A mountain-dwelling spirit that is said to be the reason echoes occur.
Yofune-nushi
A sea serpent that terrorized one of the Oki Islands and demanded virgin sacrifices.
Yōkai
A class of supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons in Japanese folklore. They can also be called ayakashi (妖怪), mononoke (物の怪), or mamono.
Yomotsu-shikome
The hags of the underworld.
Yonakinoishi
A stone from Shizuoka prefecture that is said to cry at night.
Yōsei
The Japanese word for "fairy".
Yosuzume
A mysterious bird that sings at night, sometimes indicating that the okuri-inu is near.
Yubaba
A witch who can shapeshift and use telekinesis.
Yuki-onna
The snow woman.
Yurei
Ghosts in a more Western sense.

Z[edit]

Zashiki-warashi
A protective childlike house spirit.
Zennyo Ryūō
A rain-making dragon.
Zorigami
An animated clock.
Zuijin
The tutelary spirit.
Zunbera-bō
Another name for the noppera-bō.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Oriental Economic Review". Oriental Information Agency. 14 July 2018 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women who Run with the Wolves (1996), Ch. 12.

External links[edit]