the online database of Japanese folkore

Kaijin

海人
かいじん

Translation: sea person
Habitat: underwater
Diet: unknown

Appearance: Kaijin are humanoid, aquatic yōkai who live in the sea. They’re overall appearance is very human-like. They have hair on their heads, eyebrows, and chins. However, their hands and feet are shaped like flippers. They also have spotted skin which hangs from their bodies in layered flaps, covering their lower halves like a skirt.

Behavior: Very little is known about kaijin, as they live in the sea and can not spend long away from it. They are able to come up onto land, but can not survive for long away from the water.

Interactions: Because they live underwater, kaijin and humans rarely come into contact with each other. They appear to have a human level of intelligence, however those who encountered kaijin have reported no success in communicating with them.

A kaijin came to shore in Nagasaki during the Edo period, however nobody could understand its language, and the kaijin could not understand the humans. When the kaijin was offered food and drink, it refused to touch them. The kaijin died after a few days.

Origin: Kaijin are documented in two Edo period encyclopedias: Yamato honzō (1709) and Nagasaki bunken roku (1800). Both of these works describe kaijin as an intelligent, very human-like species that can not survive for long out of the water, and with which all attempts at communication failed.

Alphabetical list of yōkai