Yokai.com the online database of Japanese ghosts and monsters
Browsing all posts in: Saga



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.



TRANSLATION: water tiger
ALTERNATE NAMES: sometimes mistakenly referred to as kappa
HABITAT: rivers, lakes, ponds and waterways; found throughout Japan
DIET: omnivorous; prefers human blood and souls

APPEARANCE: Suiko are found in both China and Japan and are often confused with kappa, which they closely resemble. However, suiko are far more dangerous, violent, and hot-tempered than their kappa cousins. Suiko have the body of a small child and are covered in extremely tough scales like a pangolin’s. They have sharp, hook-like growths on their kneecaps which resemble a tiger’s claws. They live near riverbanks and in large bodies of water.

BEHAVIOR: Suiko rank above kappa in the hierarchy of water goblins, and as such are sometimes placed in charge of them, with one suiko placed in charge of 48 kappa. (They are sometimes called the oyabun, or yakuza bosses, of kappa.) In turn, suiko report to the Ryū-ō, the dragon king, who lives in his palace, Ryū-gū, at the bottom of the sea. The reason suiko kill humans is to look tougher among the other suiko and increase their standing with the dragon king. (Likewise, when kappa attack humans, it is to make them look tougher and increase their standing with their suiko boss.)

INTERACTIONS: Suiko who live in inhabited areas like to sneak out of the water at night to play pranks oh humans, knocking on doors and running away, or possessing people and making them do strange things. Like kappa and other water spirits, suiko enjoy using their superior strength to pull humans into water and drown them, although unlike kappa they have no concern for the shirikodama. Instead, suiko drain their victims of blood like vampires, then eat their souls (reikon) and return the dead, drained body to the surface.

It is possible to keep suiko at bay by leaning a sickle against the side of a house and sprinkling flax seeds or black-eyed peas on the ground outside. Suiko are afraid of these and will keep away.

There is one known method to kill a suiko. It involves the corpse of a person who has had their blood drained by a suiko. First, a small hut made of grass and straw is built in a field. Then the body, instead of being buried, it is laid on a wooden plank and placed in the hut. The suiko who sucked that person’s blood will be drawn to the hut, where it will start running around and around in circles. (Suiko have to ability to become invisible, so it is likely that it will only be heard rather than seen; or else only its footprints will be visible.) As the dead body gradually decays, so will the suiko. By the time the body has rotted completely, the suiko will have died, its magic will have ceased, and the decayed corpse of the suiko will be visible on the ground near the body.

Hyakki yagyō


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:




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.



TRANSLATION: onomatopoeic; written with characters connoting warfare
ALTERNATE NAMES: hyōsue, hyōsubo, hyōsunbo, hyōsunbe
HABITAT: rivers and streams; found primarily on Kyushu and in West Japan
DIET: omnivorous; prefers eggplants

APPEARANCE: Hyōsube are squat, hairy humanoids found mostly in the southern and western parts of Japan. They are cousins of kappa and garappa, but much more savage and belligerent. They are short, with bald scalps, sharp claws, and a mouth full of sharp teeth which are prominently visible due to the malicious smile they wear. They are covered with a pelt of thick, greasy hair which gathers dust, oil, and dirt, and constantly sheds wherever they go. Their name is said to come from the “hyo- hyo-” call that they make; however, when written in kanji, the characters used have a martial connotation.

BEHAVIOR: Hyōsube live near rivers, where they enjoy catching wild fish and generally keep away from humans. Their favorite food is the eggplant, and they are capable of devouring whole patches very quickly. They share a love of mischief and a hatred of horses with their cousins the kappa, though they are generally more violent and malicious. Also like their cousins, hyōsube retain a strong sense of honor despite their love of mischief and violence.

INTERACTIONS: Hyōsube are capricious, insolent, and extremely dangerous. A person who simply looks at a hyōsube may be struck with a terrible and highly contagious fever, which can quickly spread and turn into an epidemic. Hyōsube cackle with an evil laughter which is also quite contagious; an unlucky person who hears a hyōsube laugh, and who laughs himself, will be struck with a sudden fever and die within hours.

A hyōsube’s thick hair builds up a lot of dirt and grime, and they love nothing more than to sneak into houses at night and slip into the bathtub. When a hyōsube finds a bathtub it likes, it will often return every night, leaving a thick scum of greasy body hair and a horrible stench to be found in the morning. Once, the unlucky owner of such a house emptied the bathwater and threw out the hair and grease. This angered the hyōsube so much that it slaughtered the owner’s horse the next night. In another story, some hyōsube hairs dumped from a bathtub landed on a nearby horse, and the animal promptly dropped dead. In yet another tale, a woman spied on a hyōsube ravaging her eggplant garden; the next morning her entire body had turned purple, and she died soon after that.

Hyōsube are occasionally honored at local Shinto shrines, usually as gods of war, for some form of military service they performed for villagers in the past. Farmers living in areas inhabited by hyōsube often leave offerings of the first eggplants harvested in hopes that the hyōsube will spare their fields for the remainder of the year. Those who do not leave offerings occasionally find their fields trampled in anger.