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Jinja hime

Jinjahime神社姫
じんじゃひめ

TRANSLATION: shrine princess
HABITAT: deep lakes and oceans
DIET: unknown

APPEARANCE: A jinja hime is a serpentine creature roughly six meters long. It has two horns on its head, a long tail, a dorsal fin, and flippers. Its face is that of a human woman. It resembles a ningyo, the Japanese mermaid.

BEHAVIOR: Jinja hime spend most of their lives underwater, and as a result rarely interact with humans. They are the servants of Ryūgū, the palace of the sea dragon king.

ORIGIN: Jinja hime was first sighted in Hizen Province (present-day Saga and Nagasaki Prefectures) in 1819 by the Edo period scholar Katō Ebian. He recorded the encounter in his book Waga koromo. According to Katō, he encountered a fish-like creature on a beach in Hizen. The creature spoke to him: “I am a messenger from Ryūgū, called jinja hime. For the next seven years there will be a bumper crop. After that, there will be an epidemic of cholera. However, those who see my picture will be able to avoid hardship, and instead will have long life.” After delivering her prophecy, the jinja hime disappeared into the sea. Katō printed an illustration of the jinja hime in Waga koromo so that all could see it and be protected.

The news of the jinja hime and her prognostication became so popular that it spawned numerous copycat stories across Japan. Not long after the sighting of jinja hime, stories about other yokai with foresight, such as kudan and amabie, began popping up all over Japan. Jinja hime is thought to be the basis for all of these stories.

The giant oarfish strongly resembles the size and description of jinja hime. Its name in Japanese is ryūgū no tsukai, which means “servant of Ryūgū.”

Shiranui

Shiranui不知火
しらぬい

TRANSLATION: unknown fire
HABITAT: along the shores of Kyūshū

APPEARANCE: Shiranui are a specific type of kaii known as a kaika, or mysterious fire. They appear in bodies of water around Kyūshū on dark, calm nights—particularly at the end of the 7th month according to the old lunar calendar. They are most visible during the strongest ebb tide, around 3 am, and appear roughly 8 to 12 kilometers off shore. They can be seen from elevated parts of the coast, but not from sea level.

BEHAVIOR: Shiranui begin with one or two distant fireballs, called oyabi, floating just above the surface of the sea. The oyabi sway left and right, splitting apart and multiplying until finally there are hundreds or thousands of fireballs swaying in the distance. This line of fireballs can stretch out for many kilometers.

ORIGIN: Shiranui were thought to be manifestations of the lanterns created by Ryūjin, the dragon god of the sea. On days that shiranui appeared, local villages were forbidden to catch fish in the same area as the kaika. Boats that tried approaching shiranui reported that no matter how long they sailed, the fireballs remained far away on the horizon.

Nurikabe

Nurikabe塗壁
ぬりかべ

TRANSLATION: painted wall
HABITAT: coastal areas; encountered on dark streets and alleys
DIET: unknown

APPEARANCE: Little is known about the true appearance of nurikabe because these yokai are usually said to be invisible. During the Edo period, however, artists began to illustrate this creature, giving it an appearance somewhere between a grotesque, fantastic beast and a flat, white wall. Modern representations of the nurikabe depict it as a plain, gray, bipedal wall with vague face-like features.

BEHAVIOR: Nurikabe appear mysteriously on roads late at night. As a traveler is walking, right before his or her eyes, an enormous, invisible wall materializes and blocks the way. There is no way to slip around this yokai; it extends itself as far as to the left and right as one might try to go. There is no way over it either, nor can it be knocked down. However, it is said that if one taps it near the ground with a stick, it will vanish, allowing the traveler to continue on his or her way.

ORIGIN: The true nature of the nurikabe is surrounded in mystery. Based on its name, it seems to be related to other household spirits known as tsukimogami. It has also been suggested that the nurikabe is simply another manifestation of a shape-shifting itachi or tanuki. Mischievous tanuki are said to enlarge their magical scrotums into an invisible wall in order to play pranks on unsuspecting humans.

Hyakki yagyō

Hyakkiyagyou百鬼夜行
ひゃっきやぎょう

TRANSLATION: the night parade of one hundred demons
ALTERNATE NAMES: hyakki yakō
HABITAT: travels throughout Japan, appearing on auspicious nights each month

APPEARANCE: The hyakki yagyō is the dreaded night parade of one hundred demons – the night when all of the yokai, oni, ghosts, tsukumogami, and other supernatural creatures leave their homes and parade through the streets of Japan in one massive spectacle of utter pandemonium. Those foolish enough to go outside on these nights, or to peek out of their windows in hopes to catch a glimpse of the supernatural are either killed by the monsters, or spirited away by the monsters. The parade is said to be led by nurarihyon, nozuchi, and otoroshi.

LEGENDS: According to the Shūgaishō, a medieval Japanese encyclopedia, the only way to keep safe from the night parade should it come by your home is to stay inside on the specific nights associated with the Chinese zodiac, or else to chant the following magic spell:

KA-TA-SHI-HA-YA, E-KA-SE-NI-KU-RI-NI, TA-ME-RU-SA-KE,
TE-E-HI, A-SHI-E-HI, WA-RE-SHI-KO-NI-KE-RI

Kitsunebi

Kitsunebi狐火
きつねび

TRANSLATION: fox fire
HABITAT: originates from kitsune and only appears when they are nearby

APPEARANCE: Kitsunebi, or foxfire, is named for the magical kitsune who are said to create it. It appears in large numbers of floating orbs of light, usually only a few centimeters in diameter and less than a meter above the ground. The orbs are as bright as lanterns and in most cases red or orange, or some times blue-green, in color.

BEHAVIOR: Kitsunebi only appears at night, often as a long chain hundreds or thousands of meters long, as if there were lanterns being carried by invisible bearers. Often the kitsune responsible for the fireballs are standing right next to the flames, invisible.

Kitsunebi orbs are formed by foxes, which breath the ball of fire out from their mouths and use it to light their way at night. It is most often a sign that a large number of kitsune are nearby – often during yokai events such as the night parade of one hundred demons, yokai wedding ceremonies, and other processions or meetings.

INTERACTIONS: Kitsunebi is not directly dangerous to humans, however the foxes behind it may be. Sometimes it is used to trick humans off of their paths at night. Other times it is used to lure curious humans into the darkness towards a group of hungry yokai. Following kitsunebi usually leads a person to some place that he or she should not be. Additionally, because of its similarity to other dangerous hi-no-tama, it is generally not considered to be a good sign.

Isonade

Isonade磯撫で
いそなで

TRANSLATION: beach stroker
ALTERNATE NAMES: ō-kuchi-wani (giant mouthed sea monster)
HABITAT: shallow seas and coastal waters of West Japan
DIET: carnivorous

APPEARANCE: Isonade are mysterious shark-like sea monsters which scour the rocky coastlines searching for boats to scuttle and fishermen to snatch. Their bodies are enormous, and their fins are covered with countless tiny metallic barbs, like a grater. They use these to hook their prey, dragging it deep into the water to be eaten. They are said to appear when the north winds blow and the sea currents change.

BEHAVIOR: Despite their size, isonade are incredibly elusive. They move through the water with unparalleled grace. They can swim without creating so much as a splash, making them very difficult to notice. By the time most sailors have noticed that the winds have changed and a strange color is upon the sea, it is too late; a huge tail is already rising out of the water, above their heads. When isonade strike, they do not thrash about violently like a hungry shark, but instead hook their prey on their fins or tail with a gentle stroking motion, dragging them into the depths almost peacefully. They do this without a sound and without ever showing their bodies, making them all the more dangerous for their stealth.

Iso onna

Isoonna磯女
いそおんな

TRANSLATION: coast woman
HABITAT: coasts, particularly rocky ones; native to Kyushu
DIET: blood

APPEARANCE: Iso onna are dangerous vampires from Kyushu and Western Japan looking for fisherman and travelers to feed upon. They are closely related to nure onna, despite having no serpentine features at all. Iso onna wander rocky beaches, hunting for prey.

Individual accounts of iso onna vary quite a bit when it comes to their appearance. In most cases, they appear as beautiful women who have just come out of the water, dripping wet. Their hair is long and matted, reaching almost all the way down to the sand. Their eyes are heavy with sultry, sexual energy, and their wet clothes stick, nearly transparent, to their skin. From the waist up, they appear like ordinary human women, albeit soaking wet, while from the waist down, they are slightly blurry and transparent, betraying their ghostly nature. In some regions, iso onna are said to have serpentine bodies like nure onna, while in other regions they are said to be large enough to crush ships out at sea, like umi-bōzu. They also have the ability to disguise themselves perfectly as large beach rocks when they don’t want to be seen.

INTERACTIONS: When Iso onna appear to humans on sandy beaches, they look like beautiful women, staring far out to sea. When somebody approaches and tries speak to them, they turn around and let out an ear-piercing shriek, which stuns their victim. Then they lashes out with their long hair and drag their prey into the sea, where they drains their victim’s blood with their hair.

On rocky coasts without sandy beaches, iso onna appear sitting on the cliffs and calling out to passersby in an eerie voice. Their victims are mesmerized into walking straight towards them, ignoring the dangers posed by the rocky cliffs. They walk off the cliffs and fall to their deaths, leaving the iso onna free to feed on their bodies.

Iso onna are occasionally encountered far out at sea, but they otherwise act the same as they do on land, capturing their human prey and draining their victims’ blood using their long hair.

Iso onna are most commonly encountered during the holiday seasons of Obon and New Years Eve, when the border between the realm of the living and the realm of the dead can be more easily crossed. They occasionally cooperate with ushi oni to catch their prey.

Mikoshi nyūdō

Mikoshinyuudou見越入道
みこしにゅうどう

TRANSLATION: anticipating priest
ALTERNATE NAMES: mikoshi, miage nyūdō, taka bōzu
HABITAT: bridges, roads, streets; especially at night
DIET: omnivorous; prefers travelers

APPEARANCE: Mikoshi nyūdō are fearsome yokai who appear to lone travelers on empty streets, intersections, or bridges, late at night. They appear to be harmless traveling priests or monks, no taller than an ordinary person, but in an instant they can become abnormally tall, with long claws and hair like a wild beast.

BEHAVIOR: As soon as a person raises his eyes to look upon a mikoshi nyūdō, the giant grows to an immense height – as tall whoever looks at him is able to raise his eyes, and just as fast. Often, this causes the person looks up so high and fast that they lose their balance and fall over backwards; then the mikoshi nyūdō lunges forward and bites their throat out with its teeth.

INTERACTIONS: Those who are unfortunate enough to meet this cruel yokai usually do not live to tell about it, although a lot depends on the person’s reaction. If they try to ignore and walk past the mikoshi nyūdō, the angry giant will pierce or crush them with bamboo spears and branches. The same fate is met by those who turn and try to run away. People stare at the mikoshi nyūdō frozen in fear will drop dead on the spot, overcome by its presence.

The only possible escape is to anticipate the mikoshi nyūdō (thus its name), meeting it face-to-face, eye-to-eye, showing no fear. Then, look from its head down to its feet, rather than starting at the feet and looking up. If this is done properly, the giant’s power to grow will be sapped. Telling the giant, “You lost! I anticipated your trick!” is said to cause it to vanish in anger, leaving the traveler to pass safely along.

OTHER FORMS: Mikoshi nyūdō is a popular form of some shape-shifting animals. In particular, itachi and tanuki transform into these giants in order to hunt humans. Kitsune and mujina are known to occasionally take this form as well, though much less often. When a mikoshi nyūdō is result of a transformation, it is often seen carrying a bucket, a lantern, or some other tool. This tool is where the shape-shifter’s body is stored, and if one can snatch it away from the giant before it attacks, the spell will end and the yokai will be at its captor’s mercy.