Yokai

Umibozu is a sea monster yokai who creates storms and breaks ships. Often appearing at night, the yokai will sometimes request a barrel from sailors, who would give a bottomless barrel so it wouldn’t drown them. In some regions, fishers sacrificed their first catch to the gods to prevent Umibozu’s appearance. Images: Bakemono no e, 18th Century & The sailor Tokuso and the sea monster by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1845

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Ubume is a yokai that’s a ghost of a pregnant woman. She appears as a woman carrying a baby who hands the child off before vanishing. The recipient soon finds the baby is actually a heavy rock or bundle of leaves. To prevent women from becoming Ubume, their unborn child was removed and placed beside them in their grave. From Bakemono No E

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Uwan is a yokai who loudly says its own name (like a pokemon) with a disembodied voice, causing people to lose sleep. Teeth blackening was popular among noblemen and the warrior class in medieval Japan, so his black teeth may signify that he was originally one of them. From: Bakemono No E, 18th century

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Here’s one yokai you don’t want to help with your spring cleaning: the Akaname is goblin-sized creature, with slimy black hair, from Japanese folklore whose tongue is twice as long as its height—that it uses to lick toilets. Image: Edo shokoku hyaku monogatari, 17th Century

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Nure-onna (“wet woman”) is a yokai found in rivers and the ocean. It helps a fellow water monster, the ushi-oni, to hunt humans. It hands the victim a baby that turns into a heavy rock, pulling them into the water where the ushi-oni devours them. Image: Toriyama Sekien, 1776 & Sawaki Suushi, 1737

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A nuppeppo is a wrinkly, featureless yokai with powder-white skin that smells of rotting flesh. It’s a harmless, solitary creature that can be found in deserted towns, graveyards, and temples. Some say eating a nuppeppo will grant eternal youth. Image: Hyakkai Zukkan

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Hyosube is a Japanese yokai, that’s a cousin to the kappa. This child-sized river monster comes out at night and loves to gorge himself on eggplants, sometimes ravaging an entire field. If Hyosube laughs, and you join him, you will die. Image: Bakemono no e

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The Ushi-Oni is a spider-like, ox-headed yokai (supernatural creature) from Japanese folklore who appears on beaches, mountains, forests, swamps, and lakes. They’re savage beasts who spit poison and love to kill and eat humans and livestock. Image: Hyakkai-Zukan

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