the online database of Japanese folkore

Yamanashi no kai

山梨の怪
やまなしのかい

Translation: wild pear spirit
Habitat: mountains
Diet: people

Appearance: Yamanashi no kai are eerie phenomena that take place late at night near wild pear trees deep in the mountains. They appear as collections of phantom sights and sounds surrounded by orbs of fire and accompanied by the sound of taiko drums.

Behavior: Yamanashi no kai start off in the distance and grow closer and closer to the trees they haunt. Phantom voices chant and bang drums, much like a traditional funeral procession. When the procession arrives at the tree, they dig a hole and bury a dead body in the ground.

Interactions: Any humans unfortunate enough to be in the mountains picking wild pears when night falls should take care to find shelter, as witnesses a yamanashi no kai can be deadly. If you happen to see a yamanashi no kai, it will try to catch and eat you.

Origin: Yamanashi no kai come from the folklore of Shibata, in northern Niigata Prefecture.

Legends: Long ago in a small village, there lived a husband, a wife, and a young boy. The wife was pregnant with a second child, and found herself suddenly overcome with a craving for wild pears. She picked up a large sack and hiked into the mountains to look for a pear tree.

The wife climbed deep into the mountains, and finally came upon a splendid pear tree. The ground was covered in ripe pears that had fallen from the tree. Delighted, she filled her sack up, slung it over her shoulder, and prepared for the return hike home. However, by then the sky had grown dark, and it was dangerous to make the trek home at night. She decided to tie the sack of pears to a branch, then climb up into the pear tree and wait until morning.

Before long, she heard the drums and cymbals of a funeral procession. A voice called out, “Where is the wild pear tree? Where is the wild pear tree?” The woman was terrified. A funeral procession at this hour must be an evil spirit.

The voice drew close and said, “Here it is! Here it is!” It came right below the pear tree, dug a hole in the earth, and buried a human corpse in it. The wife climbed higher up into the tree to get away, but the spirit heard her and said, “What have we here? I’m going to eat you!” A cold and slimy hand stretched up towards the wife. It grabbed her leg and knocked her out of the tree. She fell to the ground and was gobbled up.

Her husband and son searched and searched for her, but she never turned up. All they found was the sack of pears tied to the branch. They realized she must have been taken by an evil spirit.

Years later, when her son grew up, he decided to take revenge for his mother. He grabbed his rifle and climbed the mountains to the pear tree where she had disappeared. He waited until it grew dark. He heard the same strange funeral procession that his mother had heard so long ago. The same voice chanted, “Where is the wild pear tree? Where is the wild pear tree?”

The young man aimed his rifle and fired. An eerie laughter erupted from the direction he fired. He had missed. Then, a big, blue ball of flame floated towards him. A voice said, “What have we here? I’m going to eat you!”

This time the young man shot the flame. He heard a terrible scream and the flame was extinguished.

When morning came, the young man went to see what it was he had shot. He found the dead body of an enormous mujina—a badger. He carried it back to his home and held feast, inviting everyone in the village.

Alphabetical list of yōkai