Yokai (V): Japanese Supernatural Creatures

Yokai (V): Japanese Supernatural Creatures

In Japanese, yokai is a broad and vague term that covers almost all monsters, supernatural beings, ghosts, gods, possessed spirits, urban legends, and other strange phenomena. It encompasses a broad range: from animal-like yokai to human-like yokai, from creatures to spirits, from malicious to benevolent. In the Showa era (1926-1989), yokai were introduced through the manga and were widely known among the Japanese. With the development of mass media, yokai has become well-known worldwide because of its wide appearance in Japanese anime, games, and movies.



The Shuten-doji is one of the most notorious yokai in Japanese folklore. He is the leader of the Oni (demon). He is usually depicted as a demon with red skin and horns on his head. Unlike the previously introduced yokai, Shuten-doji is a purely evil creature. He is a powerful, fearsome, and alcoholic ogre.

Legend has it that Shuten-doji was not born as a demon. Initially, he was just a human boy. Because of his extraordinary strength and intelligence, people called him a demon boy. His parents abandoned him and his peers hated him. He was extremely anti-social and resentful, so he began to drink heavily. One night, the drunken Shuten-doji put on a ghost mask to play a prank in the temple. To his surprise, the mask fused with his face and he couldn’t take it off. He escaped to the mountains and stole food and alcohol from the villagers. His banditry eventually attracts a group of thieves and criminals. In the mountains, Shuten-doji mastered dark magic and taught it to his gang. As time went on, Shuten-doji and his gang gradually became Oni. They kidnapped virgins, drank their blood, and ate their entrails raw.

The sorcerer Haruaki Abe divined the location of Shuten-doji. Then, a group of warriors led by Minamoto no Yorimitsu attacked the palace of Shuten-doji. With the help of some magical poisons, Yorimitsu won this battle and cut off the head of the Shuten-doji. However, even with its head cut off, Shuten-doji continued to bite at Yorimitsu. Fortunately, the warrior survived with his helmet.

In modern times, Shuten-doji often appears in Japanese video games, usually as a powerful boss. He is sometimes depicted not as a scary and ugly demon but a handsome male with fire-red hair. In addition, many Japanese drinking places are named after his name which means “little drunkard” in Japanese.



Kuchisake-onna (slit-mouthed woman) is an evil spirit in Japanese folklore. She is the ghost of a woman who has been dismembered and has returned to take revenge. Her name comes from the deep bloody slit on her face, which she would cover with a cloth mask, fan, or handkerchief. Except for the scarred mouth, she is a beautiful woman with long, straight black hair, pale skin, and a slender figure.

She usually appears at night to lone travelers on the road with a pair of scissors in her hand. She asks her potential victims if they think she is pretty. If they answer “no,” she kills them with her scissors. If they say “yes,” she will reveal the mask to show her split-mouth, and then repeat her question. If the person answers “no,” keeps silent, or screams, she kills them. If they lie saying “yes,” she would cut their mouths to be like her own.



In Japanese, Jorogumo means entangling bride or woman spider. They are a kind of spider known for their bright and beautiful colors and large and strong webs. They are skilled tricksters and powerful shape-shifters, often transforming to beautiful young women. Jorogumo nest in caves, forests, and empty houses. They possess cunning intelligence and excellent predatory skills. They are skilled tricksters and powerful shape-shifters, often manifesting as beautiful young women. Jorogumo also can control smaller spiders.

When Jorogumo reach 400 years of age, they develop magical powers and begin to feed on humans rather than insects. Their favorite prey is handsome young men looking for love. They will lure the prey into their nest with the promise of love. Then, they catch the poor man with their spider webs and weaken him with venom. They love to torture their prey and watch them die slowly.

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