Yuki Onna (snow woman) is a spirit or yōkai in Japanese folklore. She appears on snowy nights as a tall, beautiful woman with long black hair and blue lips. Her inhumanly pale or even transparent skin makes her blend into the snowy landscape. She sometimes wears a white kimono, but other legends describe her as nude, with only her face and hair standing out against the snow. Despite her inhuman beauty, her eyes can strike terror into mortals. She floats across the snow, leaving no footprints and she can transform into a cloud of mist or snow if threatened.
Shirime (“buttocks eye”) is a strange Japanese yōkai with an eye in the place of his anus.
The story goes as follows: Long ago, a Samurai was walking at night down the road to Kyōto, when he heard someone calling out for him to wait. “Who’s there?!” he asked nervously, only to turn around and find a man stripping off his clothes and pointing his bare buttocks at the flabbergasted traveler. A huge glittering eye then opened up where the strange man’s anus should have been.
A Seductress Ghost is a the spirit of a woman or man who initiates a post-death love affair with a living human as seen in Botan Dōrō—a Japanese ghost story that is both romantic and horrific. It involves sex with the dead and the consequences of loving a ghost.
On the first night of Obon, a beautiful woman and a young girl holding a peony lantern stroll by the house of the widowed samurai Ogiwara Shinnojo. Ogiwara is instantly smitten with the woman, named Otsuyu, and vows an eternal relationship. From that night onward, the woman and the girl visit at dusk, always leaving before dawn. An elderly neighbor, suspicious of the girl, peeks into his home and finds Ogiwara in bed with a skeleton. Consulting a Buddhist priest, Ogiwara finds that he is in danger unless he can resist the woman, and he places a protection charm on his house. The woman is then unable to enter his house, but calls him from outside. Finally, unable to resist, Ogiwara goes out to greet her, and is led back to her house, a grave in a temple. In the morning, Ogiwara’s dead body is found entwined with the woman’s skeleton.
THE STORY OF OKIKU (The Well Ghost)
Once there was a beautiful servant named Okiku. She worked for the samurai Aoyama Tessan. Okiku often refused his amorous advances, so he tricked her into believing that she had carelessly lost one of the family’s ten precious delft plates. Such a crime would normally result in her death. In a frenzy, she counted and recounted the nine plates many times. However, she could not find the tenth and went to Aoyama in guilty tears. The samurai offered to overlook the matter if she finally became his lover, but again she refused. Enraged, Aoyama threw her down a well to her death.
It is said that Okiku became a vengeful spirit who tormented her murderer by counting to nine and then making a terrible shriek to represent the missing tenth plate – or perhaps she had tormented herself and was still trying to find the tenth plate but cried out in agony when she never could. In some versions of the story, this torment continued until an exorcist or neighbor shouted “ten” in a loud voice at the end of her count. Her ghost, finally relieved that someone had found the plate for her, haunted the samurai no more.
Some Japanese also fear planting chrysanthemums in their garden as they think that that will be able to invoke the spirit of Okiku and she would then start haunting them!
Nukekubi are monsters found in Japanese folklore. By day, nukekubi appear to be normal human beings. By night, however, their heads detach at the neck smoothly from their bodies and fly about independently in search of human prey. These heads attack by screaming (to increase their victims’ fright), then closing in and biting.
While the head is detached, the body of a nukekubi becomes inanimate. In some legends, this serves as one of the creature’s few weaknesses; if a nukekubi’s head cannot locate and reattach to its body by sunrise, the creature dies. Legends often tell of would-be victims foiling the creatures by destroying or hiding their bodies while the heads are elsewhere.
By day, nukekubi often try to blend into human society. They sometimes live in groups, impersonating normal human families. The only way to tell a nukekubi from a normal human being is a line of red symbols around the base of the neck where the head detaches. Even this small detail is easily concealed beneath clothing or jewelry.
Illustration © goemonsama
Ningyo is known as the mermaid of Japan. Far from looking glamorous, these creatures have a mouth like a monkey’s, small teeth like a fish’s, shining golden scales, and a quiet voice like a skylark or a flute. Despite their strange appearance, they’re more or less harmless.
It is believed that anyone who eats the flesh of a ningyo will retain their youthful appearance for eternity and will live longer. However, if a fisherman happens to catch a Ningyo, they must toss it back to the sea or else calamities will strike their village. A ningyo washed onto the beach was an omen of war or calamity.
In Japanese folklore, Gashadokuro, also known as Odokuro, are giant skeletons, fifteen times taller than an average person. They can reach huge sizes (up to about 90 feet tall), and are constructed from the bones of people who have died from starvation. Their bones are collected into this giant skeleton creature which is filled with intense anger and a thirst for human blood. He wanders around at night, grinding his teeth and making a “gachi gachi” sound. The giant skeleton towers so high above the ground and walks so quietly that he can be almost invisible. The only warning you get when the giant skeleton is near is a strange and inexplicable ringing in your ears.
If the Gashadokuro finds you, he will reach down with his bony hand and snatch you off the ground. Then he will pluck your head off and suck the blood out of your headless body until his thirst is quenched.
“Ohaguro-bettari is a female yôkai (Japanese term for demons or monsters) who appears at twilight usually in a shrine or temple outside of a town. There are also stories of one appearing in one’s own house, though this is rare. She wears a beautiful kimono, and some say she wears a wedding outfit, but in either case she is turned away or concealing her face in her robe. From behind she appears to be a beautiful woman, so passersby might ask her what is wrong, either out of kindness or curiosity. Exclaiming “Gya!” she reveals her white face, the bottom half splitting open to reveal her teeth stained pitch black and cackles wildly. Faced with this, most men pass out from fear.”
Illustration © NorthernBanshee
Funayūrei (“marine spirit”) are ghosts of people who have died at sea. They are sometimes depicted as scaly fish-like humanoids and some may even have a form similar to that of a mermaid or merman. They approach people on boats and ask to borrow a Hishaku (a utensil for scooping up water). If they are given a ladle, they will pour sea water into the boat until it sinks.
Illustration © 船幽霊 | コウノ [pixiv]
Onryō is a mythological spirit from Japanese folklore who is able to return to the physical world in order to seek vengeance. While male onryō can be found, mainly in kabuki, the majority are women. Powerless in the physical world, they often suffer at the capricious whims of their male lovers. In death they become strong.
Illustration © ◆斬首された女 | 準 [pixiv]