Japanese Mythical Creatures, Ghosts & Where to Find Them
Every culture is full of interesting stories and figures to teach and shape our Youngs. There are incredible and rather believable creatures and myths, stories that are often just made up to serve a noble goal. Children and adults can often find a teaching element that will help us become better people.
I love folklore because it opens up a culture’s heart to see how people used to or still think, what they fear(ed) and what they love. It is also fun to wonder whether any of these stories is based on a true event or just a creative mind made them up.
1| Shinigami – Atami and Izu
Let’s begin with one of the most famous mythical creatures in Japan and maybe around the world. Thanks to the successful manga, anime then a movie, Shinigami gained fame all around the world. The easiest to describe these dark, supernatural spirits is fallen angels or gods of death.
There are various ways of describing them, but the main element in every region’s beliefs is Shinigami inviting you to death.
In Shizuoka Prefecture, for instance, it would possess the dead to take them to places where people have died and shall not ascend till others pass away there. These creatures’ shape and look is impossible to determine as it is thought they never appear the same as before.
2| Kappa mummies in Kyuushuu & Osaka
Imagine finding body parts of Boogeyman… How scary is it to realize that some creatures you thought only existed to scare you off from breaking the rules actually walk on Earth?
A mythical creature seems to have been rather real thanks to numerous findings over the past decades in Japan. Kappa, according to Japanese folklore, is a water creature that mostly preyed on misbehaving children. You can now visit mummified remains of this scary creature on Kyuushuu island and in the Zuiryūji Temple, Osaka.
3| Yuki-onna – Hakkoda Mountains, Aomori
Travelers beware! Japan is breathtaking wintertime, however it is better to be cautious on the snowy peaks of the incredible Japanese hills and mountains. Yuki-onna, the snow woman is a beautiful but ruthless inhabitant of the cold parts of Japan.
She is thought to be feeding on lost travelers, although no one is safe on the mountain paths. The snow woman will suck your energy out and freeze you, so there is a very little chance of survival once coming across her.
The folklore of the killing beauty is estimated to be dating back to the 14th century, by a monk who personally encountered the humanlike creature. Depending on where the story is told, she may appear on New Year’s day or around the 15th January until the 1st of February.
4| Okiku Doll – Mannenji Temple, Hokkaido
This mysterious or creepy doll was purchased in Sapporo by 17-year old Ekichi Suzuki in 1918 as a present for his little sister Okiku. This 40cm tall doll dressed in traditional kimono was the little girl’s favorite in her short life.
She tragically passed away in 1919 at the age of three due to a high fever no one could help. Okiku’s beloved doll was supposed to be buried with her but somehow it was forgotten about so the Suzuki family kept it in the family altar to remember Okiku by.
At a point the parents noticed that the doll’s hair is longer than it used to be. Instead of shoulder length, its hair touched the doll’s waist. When moving, the family gave the doll to the Mannenji Temple, in Hokkaido (where it is still on display) as they feared that the doll was haunted by their daughter’s spirit. The priest at the temple confirmed the strange phenomenon to be true.
5| Jorōgumo – Kegon, Nachim, & Ryuzu falls
Young handsome men seeking love, you are not safe in Japan. Alright, do not be scared away from this amazing country. Still, better watch out as there are spider women (Jorogumo or woman-spider) lurking around to break your heart and eventually eat you up. Don’t let your guard down in forests, cities, rural areas and around caves, waterfalls.
To sum up; there is potential danger everywhere. According to the mythology, these otherwise beautiful women can shape shift into a spider, or the other way around, as you wish. There are various stories told of these spider women about stealing men’s heart to then weaken them to death.
6| Teke Teke – Muroran
It looks like women have a scary role in Japanese legends and folklore as Teke Teke is almost always a female creature as well. The name itself is an imitative pair of words of the sound of her crawling on her hands. The urban legend says this bone-chilling ghost, who is cut in half waist down will chase you down on dark roads and slices you in half to steal your legs. Don’t underestimate her, she is incredibly fast, so fast you are not safe in a car either.
The story says an office worker was raped by American military personnel after World War 2 in Muroran, Hokkaido. She then jumped under a train and got her legs cut off. She did not die instantly as the cold caused vessels to contract so she crawled to the station where an attendant just simply covered her with a plastic tarp to let her die slowly in terrible pain instead of helping her.
We apologize in advance, once you heard this story, Teke Teke will appear in three days to kill you. There is still hope; just answer her riddle correctly and she may let you live.
7| Nure onna – Kyushu, Niigata, & Fukushima
Vampires are commonly known in many cultures, however, these serpent women or Nure Onna (wet woman) are something to fear only in Japan. More precisely on the shores of Kyushu and up north at Niigata, maybe on the east on Fukushima. Despite imagined to be much stronger than humans, they tend to trick their prey so they are easier to drain their blood.
In case you are walking on a river bank or a fisher and see a serpent with a female head (some stories say they have humanlike hands as well) try to avoid doing favors for them, such as holding their baby for a while because you will quickly wind up dead.
Thank you for reading!