the online database of Japanese folklore

Chōchin obake


Translation: paper lantern ghost

Appearance: When a paper lantern, or a chōchin, reaches an advanced age, it may transform into a chōchin obake. The paper of the lantern splits along one of its wooden ribs, forming a gaping mouth with a wild, lolling tongue. One or two eyes pop out from the upper half of the lantern. Arms or legs may even sprout from its body as well, although this is rare.

Behavior: Like karakasa kozō, chōchin obake rarely cause physical harm, preferring simply to surprise and scare humans. They cackle and roll their huge tongues and big eyes at guests in the home. But you shouldn’t be too quick to laugh them off. Occasionally, powerful onryō disguise themselves as chōchin obake—a case of one of the most dangerous supernatural entities masquerading as one of the most harmless.

Alphabetical list of yōkai