the online database of Japanese folkore



Translation: none; based on the Chinese name for the same creature
Habitat: coasts, islands, and shallow waters; found throughout Japan
Diet: omnivorous; extremely fond of sake

Appearance: Along the mountainous coasts of Japan lives a race of intelligent sea spirits known as shōjō. They look like man-sized apes, with long, shaggy red hair. Their faces are also reddish and blushed as if drunk. Shōjō are bipedal like humans, and occasionally wear clothes or skirts made of seaweed.

Behavior: Shōjō spend their lives drinking large quantities of alcohol and playing in the sea and sand of secluded beaches. They revel in drunken silliness, singing, dancing, and enjoying life. Despite their silly appearance and demeanor, they are said to be wise. Extremely fond of sake and other types of alcohol, they are excellent brewers themselves and can distil a powerful brine wine from seawater. The taste of the wine varies depending on the imbiber. If he is a good person, the wine will be delicious. However, if he is a wicked person it will taste like a foul poison. The wine may even kill him if he does not change his evil ways. ways.

Interactions: Shōjō can understand human languages and even parrot a number of words. They are curious and gentle towards friendly humans. Generally peaceful, shōjō keep to themselves, preferring to remain apart from the world of mankind. Occasionally there have been stories of groups of shōjō harassing sailors and ships which stray too close to their homes. These stories are rarely violent; usually the shōjō flee into the water after stealing a few barrels of sake.

Origin: The name shōjō is the Japanese version of the Chinese name for these ape-like spirit, xīng xīng. The name connotes liveliness, a fitting match for the personality of this creature. Due to the orangutan’s physical resemblance to this yōkai, the name shōjō is applied to that species of great ape in both Japan and China. Additionally, shōjō can be used to refer to a person who is a heavy drinker. The famous artist and yōkai painter Kawanabe Kyōsai jokingly referred to himself as a shōjō in this way.

Alphabetical list of yōkai