the online database of Japanese folkore

Yamabiko

山彦
やまびこ

Translation: echo; written with characters meaning mountain boy
Habitat: forested mountains and valleys, inside camphor tress
Diet: unknown

Appearance: The wilds of Japan are full of strange phenomena, like echoes that bounce back with more delay than they should, or that come back slightly different from the original sound. When the false echo comes from the forest, it is usually attributed to a kodama. When it comes from the mountains, it is due to something called a yamabiko. They are small, appearing like a cross between a dog and a wild monkey.

Yamabiko are known almost exclusively by their voices. They are skilled at mimicking any sound, including natural sounds, human language, and trains and cars. They occasionally unleash terrible and mysterious screams deep in the forests that can carry for long distances.

Behavior: Little is known about these yōkai due to their rarity and elusiveness. They live deep in the mountains and make their homes in camphor trees, in close proximity to (and sharing a common ancestry with) other tree and mountain spirits. For many centuries, their calls were speculated to be a kind of rare bird, or other kinds of yōkai, or even natural phenomena. It wasn’t until the Edo period—when determined yōkai researchers like Sawaki Sūshi and Toriyama Sekien began making illustrated yokai bestiaries—that this creature’s form was decided.

Alphabetical list of yōkai