| Youkai, as you would know if you're a regular visitor to this site or its links, is a blanket term for literally
thousands of supernatural creatures from japanese folklore that take on a mind-boggling array of forms.
From impish little creatures whose purpose in life is leaving stains on your ceiling to monstrous centipedes
whose power and fierceness rival that of western dragons, Japan in the mythological world seems to have
been swarming with so many goblins and phantoms that it's amazing there was any room for humans at all.
There are many popular Youkai that appear again and again in videogames and anime. They include the
Tanuki, Kappa, Kitsune and Tengu, among others, but with so many legends, there are a great deal of
lesser-known, including five of my personal favorites that you'll be learning all about today!
Another spirit born from a precise turn of events, and a strange one even by Youkai standards. A Sagari
is the ghost of a horse that has died beneath a tree, and is now bound to it. Appearing as a disembodied
horse's head, it dangles from branches by either its ambulatory mane or a single humanoid arm, depending
on the story. Kind-hearted humans have the power to release these spirits, but not all Sagari are interested
in passing on, preferring the comfort of their tree to whatever awaits horses in the afterlife. Though eerie,
they are not known to attack people.
The interesting thing about many youkai are the unusually specific circumstances under which they are
created, which are often reflected by their equally specific behavior. Take for example the Dorotabou; the
angry spirit of an elderly farmer whose rice fields were sold after his death.
Dorotabou are known to some as mud-spirits or mud-zombies, as their physical form is that of a ghastly,
dripping humanoid torso formed almost entirely of mud and soil. Other distinguishing features are their
three-fingered hands, protruding teeth and a single large eyeball. Harmless to everything but sanity, they
make an appearance only to wail about their neglected land and demand its return.
Spiderlike forms are common among youkai, but generally lean toward your traditional buick-sized
tarantula, terrorizing humans from its web-lined cave. There is one breed of spider-demon, however, with a
more elegant and complicated nature; The "prostitute spider", which takes on the form of a beautiful woman
to seduce human men.
While sometimes portrayed as diabolical vampiric killers, there are plenty of more civilized spider-women
who want only to be left in peace, and have been known to protect human families for generations.
Regardless, the prostitute-spider is a devious and powerful creature to contend with. Sometimes portrayed
with the body of an entire large spider growing from her back, Jyorogumo can at the very least sprout
spider-legs at will, spin webs, breathe fire, charm human men, and control all normal spiders as though an
extension of her very being. Often concealing thousands of the arachnids under her clothing or even inside
her body, this entity can teach a grisly lesson to those who take advantage of women.
As comical as it is gruesome, the Nuribotoke is an animate corpse said to take great pleasure in its
mockery of mortal life (don't we all?) and is often portrayed as a mockery of Buddha. It is characterized
by dangling eyeballs, oozing black skin, and an extremely bloated stomach; symptoms of the swelling and
rupturing that can occur during decomposition.
In addition to its striking physical resemblance, the Nuribotoke sometimes poses as a messenger of
Buddha to manipulate particularly foolish practitioners with false prophecies. Otherwise, this lighthearted
ghoul devotes its spare time to joyous dancing, especially during the "Hyakki Yako Zu" or "Parade of a
Hundred Demons", said to occur one night every summer. It is sometimes depicted with the tail of a catfish.
|All artwork by Adam Smith exclusively for use here or however he sees fit. Written by myself. Special
thanks to Tonguespout for lots of helpful clarification and translating!
One of the only mythological molluscs this side of a Kraken the Sazaeoni is a particular favorite of mine
and one that has made several obscure appearances in Japanese animation.
Legend has is that when a promiscuous woman drowns to death as sea, her spirit is transformed into a
turban-shell snail. After thirty years or more in this form, the woman/snail undergoes metamorphosis into a
most peculiar monster frequently portrayed as a colossal humanoid phantom with a snail's shell for a head.
Dwelling deep beneath the waves, the Sazaeoni rarely surfaces, but can sometimes walk the land in human
form. It is said that if this woman is allowed into a home to stay the night, the master of the household will
be dead or missing by morning.
In the most famous story (CAUTION: ANCIENT FOLKLORE MAY CONTAIN ADULT
SITUATIONS!!!), a pirate ship rescues a drowning maiden who is really a Sazaeoni in disguise. The
entire crew falls in love with her, and they turn against one another for her attention. She agrees to sleep
with all of them if they will stop fighting, but the following morning they find that their genitalia have
vanished. The Sazaeoni restores them only in exchange for all the treasure on their ship, and disappears
with it into the sea.