japanese-folklore

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.

In the folklore of the japanese island of Kyushu, the Nurikabe is the ‘wall poltergeist’. It appears as a large white wall in front of people who are out walking about late at night. If you try to pass the wall it will fall on you and crush you. If you turn and run from it it will reappear in front of you. The only way to escape is to hit the bottom of the wall with a stick, and it will disappear. 

ぬりかべ (Nurikabe)

Nurikabe is a yokai that manifests as a wall that impedes or misdirects walking travelers at night. Trying to go around is futile as it extends itself forever. Knocking on the lower part of the wall makes it disappear. It has been suggested that the legend was created to explain travelers losing their bearings on long journeys.

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

Kitsunebi, watercolour.

Kitsune (狐) is the Japanese word for fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Foremost among these is the ability to assume human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.
Kitsunebi (狐火) is a kaika (atmospheric ghost lights and fires of unknown origin similar to the will-o’-wisp) told about in legends all across Japan outside Okinawa Prefecture. As its name implies, it has a close relation to kitsune (foxes), and there are many theories stating that the glow of the sigh or long breaths of a fox, other than that it is also said that a fox is knocking together its tail and causing a fire, or that it is the glow from a ball that the fox possesses called the kitsunebi-dama (kitsunebi ball).

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© Nataša Ilinčić, please do not remove credits

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.

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.

THOSE WHO HAUNT THE EARTH: JORŌGUMO

The Jorōgumo is creature from Japanese folklore, depicted as a spider that can change its appearance into that of a beautiful woman. In this form, the Jorōgumo would entice men into a quiet location and begin to play a biwa, a type of Japanese lute. While he is distracted by the sound of the instrument, she binds her victim in silk threads and devours the unsuspecting individual. A Jorōgumo is also known as the mistress of the Jōren Falls in Izu, Shizuoka. In the legend, a man was resting at the foot of the waterfall when his feet were bound with a vast number of spider threads. To free himself, he cut the threads and tied them to a tree stump, which was pulled from the ground and drawn into the water. After this incident, the villagers became afraid and avoided the area. One day, a woodsman from out of town, unaware of the Jorōgumo, began cutting wood near the falls. After he dropped his axe into the water, a beautiful woman appeared between the rocks and returned it to him. The man falls in love with her and begins visiting the falls every day to see her, only to grow weaker after each visit. Although the woodsman eventually discovers the woman was the Jorōgumo, he cannot forget his love for her. While running back to the waterfall, he is caught by silk threads and finally falls into the water, never to surface again.

In Japan, the Tanabata festival is celebrated every 7th day of the 7th month (July 7).  But since our theme this month is all about Japanese legends and folklore (and love  ♥), here’s the story behind the popular tradition. (。・ω・。)ノ♡

♡ The Legend of the Tanabata ♡

むかしむかし, Orihime (the “Weaving Princess”), the daughter of the King of the Skies, helped her father in decorating the sky. While her father made and hung stars in the sky, she weaved a very fine, delicate and beautiful cloth-like material, which we now know as clouds. ꒰●꒡ ̫ ꒡●꒱

Orihime’s weaving was so skillful that the King of the Skies was so proud of her. She worked hard day and night, until one day, her father noticed that she looked ill. He let her rest for the day, and allowed her to do whatever she pleased.

Orihime was so happy with this! She went and played along the Heavenly River (the Milky Way), and she danced among the stars. Across the river, she saw Hikoboshi, the Cow-herder star (he took care of the Heavenly cows that help produce the Milky Way). In turn, he also caught sight of her.

The two approached each other by crossing the only bridge that stretched across the wide river. Upon meeting at the middle of the bridge, they greeted each other casually and warmly. Hikoboshi asked Orihime if she wanted to come with him so he could show her around. Orihime, who always wanted to explore life outside her weaving routine, immediately agreed. 

Orihime and Hikoboshi had so much fun exploring the skies. They became friends easily, and soon they felt that they were falling in love with each other. ♡(*´・ω・)(・ω・`*)♡

Orihime was so happy that she forgot to come home. The King of the Skies was so worried, that he sent some magpies to search for her and guide her back to him. When the magpies found her, she ignored them because she didn’t want to come home yet, she wanted to stay with Hikoboshi.

When the magpies returned to the King of the Skies with this news, he was outraged! He fetched Orihime himself, forced her to come home, then destroyed the only bridge on the Heavenly River. He also made the river deeper and wider that it already was. He forbade the two to ever meet again.

Orihime and Hikoboshi were distraught. Orihime understood that as the Weaving Princess, she had certain responsibilities, but she missed Hikoboshi so terribly. With tears in her eyes, she asked her father if they could somehow settle for an agreement. Her father could not bear to see tears in her precious daughter’s eyes, so he told her that if she works hard for a year, he will let her see Hikoboshi once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th month.

From then on, on every 7th day of the 7th month, a flock of magpies forms a bridge on the Heavenly river, allowing Orihime and Hikoboshi to be with each other. In return, Orihime worked hard in weaving clouds, mist and fog for the rest of the year, until the end of time.

The End ~ 

✩✩✩

So that’s the story of the Tanabata!  Hope you enjoyed it~ ♡^▽^♡

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Kuniyoshi (1797 - 1861), Japanese woodblock print; ‘Gama Sennin Instructing Yoshikado and Takiyasha’ (1845)

Gama Sennin (the Toad Immortal) instructing the young Taira no Yoshikado and his sister, Princess Takiyasha, in toad magic. Gama Sennin sits in front of an enormous toad forming the opening to a rocky cave, the rocks below and above all shaped like toads with glowing yellow eyes.

The spirit conjures up a beautiful young woman on his breath, which shoots across the scene in a stream of white mist, the beauty floating in the air at let. Below, Yoshikado and his sister watch with keen interest, a scroll with magic spells on it spread across the ground. The Japanese legend of Gama Sennin is based on a 10th century Chinese alchemist and immortal named Liu Hai.

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Kaibutsu Ehon (1881)

“The Kaibutsu Ehon (“Illustrated Book of Monsters”) features woodblock prints of yōkai, or creatures from Japanese folklore. Illustrated by painter Nabeta Gyokuei, the book is modeled after the influential works of Toriyama Sekien, an 18th-century scholar and ukiyo-e artist known for his attempt to catalog the many species of yōkai in Japan.”

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