the online database of Japanese folkore



Translation: onomatopoeic; the sound of its flapping wings
Alternate names: basabasa, inu hōō (“dog phoenix”)
Habitat: mountainous forests; found only on Shikoku
Diet: charred wood and embers

Appearance: Basan are rare birds found only on the island of Shikoku, in the mountains of Ehime. They are roughly the size of a turkey, and shaped like a chicken. Basan are easily recognized by their bright red comb and brilliantly colored plumage which appears like tongues of flame. Their most notable feature is their breath, which flows visibly from their mouth like a dragon’s fire. However, the flame gives off no heat, nor does it ignite combustible material.

Behavior: Basan are entirely nocturnal, and little is known about their behavior. They make their homes in remote bamboo groves, far from human activity. Charred wood and embers make up their diet, and they have been known to wander into remote villages at night to feast on the remains of bonfires or charcoal. When pleased or startled, basan beat their wings creating the distinctive rustling “basabasa” sound from which they get their name. People who have witnessed this report that the birds vanish into thin air when they realize they have been seen.

Alphabetical list of yōkai