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Yōkai

Yōkai (妖怪, ghost, phantom, strange apparition) are a class of supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons in Japanese folklore. The word yōkai is made up of the kanji for "bewitching; attractive; calamity"; and "spectre; apparition; mystery; suspicious". They can also be called ayakashi (あやかし), mononoke (物の怪), or mamono (魔物). Yōkai range diversely from the malevolent to the mischievous, or occasionally bring good fortune to those who encounter them. Often they possess animal features (such as the kappa, which is similar to a turtle, or the tengu which has wings), other times they can appear mostly human, some look like inanimate objects and others have no discernible shape. Yōkai usually have spiritual or supernatural power, with shapeshifting being one of the most common. Yōkai that have the ability to shapeshift are called bakemono (化物) / obake (お化け).

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The leader of the oni, considered one of the "three great evil youkai." He is said to have lived in a palace on Mt. Ooe. There are various legends about his birth, one of the most prominent being that he is the son of a wealthy man's daughter and Yamata no Orochi. He supposedly rampaged through Kyoto with his deputy, Ibaraki-doji, and was said to have been defeated by Minamoto no Yorimitsu after the famous onmyouji Abe no Seimei divined his whereabouts.

Contributed by Elena Heinrich

Renowned as the most powerful youkai, he is sometimes called the "supreme commander of youkai" and is said to lead the night parade of one hundred demons. He appears as an old man with a gourd-shaped head, dressed in elegant clothes. He is said to sneak into people's houses while they are away, and then proceeds to help himself to their food, tea, and tobacco. While he is there, any onlookers will mistake him for the owners of the home. He is one of the main characters of the anime series Nurarihyon no Mago.

Contributed by Elena Heinrich

A Japanese mythical creature with origins in Chinese folklore. It is a chimerical creature, said to be made of the parts left over from when the gods created the animals. It has the tusks and trunk of an elephant, the eyes of a rhinoceros, the tail of a cow, and the paws of a tiger; however, it has been depicted as a tapir since the 1980s. The baku is revered as a sort of god, and is said to have the power to eat nightmares and turn them into good luck. However, there are some stories where a baku that is too hungry will eat more than just nightmares- hopes, dreams, aspirations- and leave an empty shell of a person behind. However, these stories are extremely rare.

Contributed by Elena Heinrich

Also called Hari-Onago. She hails from Ehime prefecture on the island of Shikoku, where she hunts for young male prey. When she finds someone she likes, she appears to him, usually at the side of a road or in an alley. She then grabs his attention by laughing, and when he laughs back, she uses her prehensile hair, tipped with sharp barbs, to tear him apart. A Hone-Onna appears in the anime/manga series Nurarihyon no Mago as one of the antagonists in the Shikoku arc.

Contributed by Elena Heinrich

This guy knows a lot about youkai, and he even sells a book version of his youkai-related blog posts. It's a good book, too, and it has a wide variety of different kinds of youkai, a well as an illustration for each one. (I have the paperback and the Kindle version.)

Contributed by Elena Heinrich

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