Yokai - Japanese Monsters
In the Edo period of sophisticated popular culture (1603-1868), much attention was devoted to Japan’s rich variety of traditional monsters and apparitions, known as yokai. The above yokai are from a work titled Hyakkai Zukan in 1737 by Sawaki Suushi, a relatively unknown artist who studied under master painter Hanabusa Itcho (1702-1772). Hyakkai Zukan's colorful depictions of Japan's most notorious creatures inspired and were copied by yokai artists for generations.
- Ushi-oni (“cow devil”) is a malevolent sea monster with the head of a bull and the body of a giant spider or crab. It is most often encountered in the coastal waters where it is feared for its vicious attacks on fishermen.
- Mikoshi-nyudo is a large, cross-eyed mendicant encountered on mountain passes or on lonely roads at night. He grows taller when you look up at him — and the higher you look, the taller he grows. Look up for too long and you will die, but say “mikoshita" ("I see higher") and he disappears.
- Ouni is a mountain hag with a mouth stretching from ear to ear and a thick coat of long, black hair covering her entire body. She can place raw hemp fiber into her mouth and pull out finished yarn.
- Nure-onna (“wet woman”) is a fast-swimming amphibious creature with the head of a human female and the body of a gigantic snake. She carries a small child, which she uses to attract potential victims. When a well-intentioned person offers to hold the baby, the child attaches itself to the victim’s hands and grows heavy, making it nearly impossible to flee. She uses her long, powerful tongue to suck all the blood from her victim’s body.
- Uwan is a disembodied voice that inhabits old, abandoned temples and homes. When a person enters a haunted building, the formless spirit belts out an ear-piercing “Uwan!” (hence the name).
- Kami-kiri (“hair-cutter”) are ghostly spirits known for sneaking up on people and cutting all their hair off when they are unknowingly engaged to marry another yokai posing as a human. These hair-cutting attacks are intended to delay or prevent weddings between humans and otherworldly beings, which are typically doomed to failure.