the online database of Japanese folklore



Translation: lantern fire
Alternate names: tanukibi, kōemonbi
Habitat: rural farmlands

Appearance: Chōchinbi are strange orbs of fire which appear on the footpaths separating rice paddies in rural Japanese farmlands. They appear at about the same brightness and height as a handheld paper lantern, or chōchin, which they are named after. The presence of chōchinbi signals that other yōkai may be close by.

Behavior: Chōchinbi float about in the air a few feet above the paths formed along the borders of paddies. They drift about lazily, but if a human gets too close to them they vanish. They often appear in long rows of dozens of chōchinbi one after another, resembling a string of lanterns.

Origin: Chōchinbi is most frequently said to be the work of kitsune, although it is sometimes attributed to other magical animals. In many places, chōchinbi is said to be the work of tanuki. Occasionally other yōkai are said to use magical fire to light their way in the dark. While chōchinbi is more or less identical to other types of magical fireballs, its distinguishing feature is that it is used as a light source by other spirits.

Alphabetical list of yōkai