family crest
family crest
updated 4 May 2012

I'll be adding items of interest as I run across them, but the foundation document is the glossary at the end of my book Hanako Loves Monsters, which Yoshiko Ohmori also contributed to. Akiko (whose last name I forgot) did several drawings with explanations after I showed her my book. I think that was in 2010.

Akiko's love analysis
Akiko's analysis of love, ai, and koi

All rights reserved. Artwork either by Alfred Avila or Kat Avila, except where noted. Black-and-white illustrations copyright © 1987 by Alfred Avila. Hanako Loves Monsters copyright © 2008 Kat Avila.
bake-chochin Akuma (ah-koo-mah): Foreign devil or evil being, but not an oni (oh-nee, ogre-like demon). Related to this is koakuma ("little devil"), which is used to describe a seductive mysterious woman or a similar type of female.

Akiko's akuma
Akiko explains the differences between an akuma and an oni.

Ayakashi (ah-yah-kah-shee; related to ayashii, suspicious): A questionable creature or doubtful thing. What is blamed when you don't know the reason for an occurrence.

Bake-chōchin (bah-keh choh-cheen): Ghostly paper lantern.

Bakemono (bah-keh-moh-noh, transformed thing), or obake (oh-bah-keh): Supernatural monsters, goblins, or ghosts, including yōkai (yoh-kah-ee) and yūrei (yoo-reh-ee).

Bake-neko (bah-keh neh-koh): Monster cat.
bake-zori Bake-zōri (bah-keh zoh-ree, sandal spook): Spooky one-eyed straw sandal that has arms and legs.
Baku (bah-koo, tapir): Pig-like with an elephant snout, it will eat your nightmares if you command it to. Asian tapir, species tapirus indicus.

Botan ('BOH-tahn, peony): King of flowers.

Buta (boo-tah, pig): Japanese Wild Pig, species Sus leucomystax. Wild Boar, species Sus scrofa.
daruma Daruma (dah-roo-mah), or okiagari-koboshi daruma (oh-kee-ah-gah-ree koh-boh-shee, self-righting tumbler doll): Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, meditated for nine years uninterrupted, and his arms and legs withered away.

Bodhidharma Cave (or "Dharma Hole," from sign outside it, video source: Visiting Bodhidharma's Cave, Part 4), original Shaolin Temple, Mt. Song, Henan Province, China. It is about 1,000 stairsteps or one hour to reach the 10-foot wide x 12-foot high cave. An extracted section of the wall where Bodhidharma's figure was outlined by the sun from his long meditation can be viewed in the Shaolin Temple. (Sources: Bodhidharma's Cave on Mount Song in China, Place Shaolin.)

Eye-less, roly-poly papier-mâché dolls of him are purchased for luck. Eyes are painted in for each fortunate day, or the right eye is painted in with a request and when the wish is granted the left eye is added. Daruma dolls symbolize resilience, because when they are knocked over, they spring right back up.

Fūjin (foo-jeen, god of wind): Carries a billowing sack of wind over his shoulders.
hariko-inu Hariko-inu (hah-ree-koh ee-noo, papier-mâché dog; also inu-hariko): Guardian dog charm that protects babies from harm and keeps them from crying at night.

Heike Monogátari (heh-ee-keh moh-noh-GAH-tah-ree; The Tale of the Heike): An epic narrative about the conflict (1156-1185 A.D.) between the Taira clan (tah-ee-rah; aka Heike, red flag) and the Minamoto clan (mee-nah-moh-toh; aka Genji, white flag). (related Genpei War (1180-85 A.D.), name from combined first half of names of Heike and Genji)

Henge (hehn-geh, shape-shifter): Well-known shape-shifters are the tanuki (tah-noo-kee, raccoon dog) and kitsune (kee-tsoo-neh, fox).
hi-no-tama Hi-no-tama (hee noh tah-mah; aka hito-dama): Fireball or will-o’-the-wisp. They are thought to be the fiery bodiless souls of the dead. They can be seen over marshes and other wet areas where there is a lot of decaying matter. The rotting material creates a gas by-product of mostly methane, which is combustible at low concentrations of just 5-15%. Also referred to as kitsune-bi (kee-tsoo-neh bee, fox fire) where they might be lighting the way for a wedding procession of foxes, or oni-bi (oh-nee bee, oni fire).

A famous scene with hito-dama is from the story of Mimí-nashi Hōichi (Hōichi the Earless). The blind biwa player Hōichi is surrounded by numerous hito-dama in Amida-ji* (ah-mee-dah-jee, Amida Temple) cemetery where he unknowingly sits as he recites the tragic story of the Taira (aka Heike, red flag) clan at the Battle of Dan-no-ura (1185) against the Minamoto clan (aka Genji, white flag). *Amida-ji is present-day Akama-jingū (ah-kah-mah, Akama Shrine) in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

I saw a hi-no-tama going up the hill in Manoa Valley in Hawaii near the Chinese cemetery there. Not surprising if you know how much it rains there (slugs everywhere). A hi-no-tama was also seen by my mother as a young girl. One night she was sent to the store to buy her father a pack of cigarettes. The path went by a hillside cemetery next to a small dirty river where people dumped their garbage. As she was about to cross the bridge over the river, she noticed the area starting to get lighter. Thinking it was the moon, she turned around to see a long, crackling bluish green fireball floating just above her. Her body froze, but her head involuntarily followed the hi-no-tama. As soon as she could move, she ran home to a disbelieving father who thought she was being lazy and just didn't want to buy his cigarettes.
Hyakki yakō (hyah-kee yah-koh, aka hyakki yagyō): Night procession or parade of one hundred demons, monsters, and ghosts, a popular theme for artists. The e-maki (eh-mah-kee, picture narrative handscroll) is a perfect format for its depiction.

Hyakú monogátari (hyah-KOO moh-noh-GAH-tah-ree, one hundred stories or tales): Originating in the 19th-century Edo period, it is a summertime ghost storytelling circle that begins after the sun goes down. A hundred short candles (or wicks) are lit. A candle is extinguished after each brief story of just a few sentences is told. When the final candle is extinguished and it is completely dark, that's when the ghosts come out.

Jichinsai (jee-cheen-sah-ee): A Shintō ceremony conducted at a site before construction begins. It is designed to bless and purify the land and to appease the kami (gods or living spirits) in the area.
Jigoku (jee-goh-koo, Hell):

Contents of Yoshihide's Jigokuhen (Hell Screen) from Akutagawa's short story Hell Screen

"… [W]hen Yoshihide was engaged on a piece of work it was as though he had been betwitched by a fox. … And the proof of it was that if you went to his studio and peered at him unbeknownst you could see the ghostly foxes swarming all around him."
(Hell Screen, p. 30)

1) Ten Kings of the Underworld and their abodes
2) Forest of Swords encircled by smoking fires in which sinners are struggling and punished by nonhuman jailers with ox and horse heads.
3) Burning carriage in which a court lady is trapped.
4) Men bound in iron chains.
5) Men attacked by animals.
6) Nonhuman jailers including animal-headed jailers and demons with three faces and six arms.
Jizo Jizō (jee-zoh): Buddhist guardian of souls, and protector of children and travelers. He is often seen as a stone figure with a cloth baby’s cap and a red bib. In the afterworld, when demons show up to bully the souls of children, Jizō hides the children in his robes. Sometimes he is seen as a set of six statues, Roku-jizō (roh-koo jee-zoh), a Jizō for each realm of creation from Heaven to Hell. (aka Indian Kshitigarbha; Piggott, p. 16)

He carries a six-ring staff, which warns living things such as insects of his approach so he will not step on them.
Jūní-shi (joo-nee-shee, Chinese zodiac): The Chinese sixty-year lunar calendar has five twelve-year cycles, which are paired with the positively (yang +) and negatively (yin —) coded elements of metal, water, wood, fire, and earth (Lau, p. xiii).

The animals associated with the twelve years are: 1. Rat, 2. Ox (or Bull, Cow), 3. Tiger, 4. Hare (or Rabbit), 5. Dragon, 6. Snake (or Serpent), 7. Horse, 8. Sheep, 9. Monkey, 10. Rooster, 11. Dog, and 12. Wild Boar (or Pig). The order is based on the order they reached the deathbed of Lord Buddha upon his summons, with the Rat arriving on the Ox.

Kaeru (kah-eh-roo, frog): The word also means "to return." There are frog charms you can slip into your wallet to ensure good luck with money, that is, money will "return" or come back after you have spent it all.

Kagami (kah-gah-'mee, mirror): A sacred symbol in the indigenous Shintō religion. A mirror, or a body of water like a puddle, will give away a shape-shifter by showing its true reflection. A shape-shifter's shadow will also betray it.

Kagami mochi (kah-gah-'mee moh-chee) (mirror rice cake): A New Year's thanksgiving offering consisting of two rice cakes topped by a bitter-tasting daidai. Often a tangerine or mandarin orange is used. The rice cakes represent the previous year's harvest, while the daidai represents the family over the generations. The offering also symbolizes two of the three sacred treasures of Japan, the Sanshu-no-Jingi (Imperial Regalia of Japan; round mirror, magatama jewel [or the string of jewels], and sword).

Kaiban Banashi (kah-ee-bahn bah-nah-shee, ghost tales): A storytelling genre.

Kaibutsu (kah-ee-boo-tsoo), or kaijū (kah-ee-joo): Modern-day monster. Godzilla is a good example.

Kaidan (kah-ee-dahn): Traditional ghost story. A well-known collection of translated Japanese ghost stories is Kwaidan*: Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio Hearn. *A variant spelling.

Kami (kah-mee, gods): Includes indigenous gods, nature deities, guardian spirits, and ancestral spirits. Grand trees, unusual rock formations, or otherwise sacredly regarded objects occupied by kami are called shintai ('SHIN-tah-ee, body) when permanent and yorishiro (yoh-ree-shee-roh) when intermittent, sudden environmental changes indicating their arrival or departure (Nute, 12, 61). A shimenawa (shee-meh-nah-wah) or a sacred rice-straw rope (often with white zigzag paper streamers hanging from it) marks such sites. Clan or community guardians are called ujigami (oo-jee-gah-mee; Ono, 9).

Kaminari (kah-mee-nah-ree, thunder): He releases rolling thunder and lightning by striking a set of drums. He is also called Raijin (rah-ee-jeen) or Raiden (rah-ee-dehn) and likes to snack on belly buttons. His son Raitaro (rah-ee-tah-roh) calls in rainclouds. Raijin’s partner is Fūjin (foo-jeen), the god of wind, who carries it in a billowing sack over his shoulders.

Because lightning bridges the heavens with earth, trees struck by lightning (kantoki no ki) (kahn-toh-kee noh kee) are sacred.

Kanashibari (kah-nah-shee-bah-ree): Temporary form of ghost-induced paralysis that occurs while the victim is in bed and is semi-awake.
kappa Kappa (kahp-pah, aka kawatarō, suiko): May be a contraction of kawa-pa (kah-wah pah, river kid). The kappa has frog limbs, a turtle body, and a water-filled saucer-like indentation (o-sara, oh-sah-rah; plate) on its head to keep its strength on land. One way to beat the kappa is to challenge it to a wrestling match. When bows are exchanged, the kappa will lose the water held in its o-sara. A rarer story says the kappa will melt down into a green puddle if the water spills out.

Where do these stories come from? My father preserved a now yellowed page about the kappa, which I'm guessing probably came from a '50s or '60s English-language magazine about Japan. The page quotes a Japanese encyclopedia that says the legend of the kappa started 150 years ago (now 200 years ago if you include the age of the page) when there were a large number of drownings in the vicinity of a river that served as a moat around a castle. When the moat was drained, they found medium-sized animals. Some of the quick-moving creatures were captured. The drownings of the children were blamed on the creatures.

In folk belief, when someone drowns, it is due to the mischief of the kappa. It likes to eat cucumbers and human livers. The liver is plucked out through the anus of its victim. The latter detail may have come from the general appearance of drowning victims in the early stages of death—floating face down, extremities down, butt up. In late stages of decomposition, the skin turns green.

As a drowning death can occur in as little as four minutes in freshwater lakes and rivers, tales about the kappa probably became popular as a way to keep children from straying too close to bodies of water without supervision.

Ryūnosuke Akutagawa wrote a satire titled Kappa about a lunatic who talks about falling down a pit into the world of the kappa.

The city of Hirado in Kyūshū has a summertime kappa festival; its events include making a 10-meter-long kappa maki sushi roll (with the kappa's favorite cucumbers) and praying for children's safekeeping when they go swimming.

A bowl haircut with bangs is called an o-kappa style.

"Kappa no kawa nagare" means "Even kappas get carried away by the river" (Even experts make mistakes). (from Sandor Benko's Japan Journal, "Kappa-ology," 15 December 2010)

Akiko's kappa
Akiko's kappa drawing with explanations

Mexican/Latino equivalent: La Llorona (lah yoh-roh-nah, The Weeping Woman): Fierce ghost who haunts the rivers of the world searching for the bones of her children. Like the story of the kappa, the cautionary tale is told to keep children away from the river.
karakasa-obake Karakasa-obake (kah-rah-kah-sah oh-bah-keh) is an umbrella ghost, part of a group of carelessly thrown-away household objects that come to life after 100 years.
Karashishi (kah-rah-shee-shee, Chinese lion) and koma-inu (koh-mah ee-noo, Korean dog) are a popular pair of shrine guardians, which are found on the arriving pilgrim’s right and left sides respectively. They represent breath in (open-mouthed “ah”) and breath out (closed-mouth “un”), the beginning and end of existence.

Kasane (kah-sah-neh): Woman who was born grotesquely ugly and was married not for love but for her land. After being murdered by her husband, Kasane turned into a vengeful ghost who haunted her ex-husband’s wives to their deaths.

Kekkai (keh-kah-ee, barrier): Spiritual barrier that separates the wilderness, kami (kah-mee), and evil spirits from human beings.

Kimo-dameshi (kee-moh-dah-meh-shee, soul examination): A courage-testing game where after a ghost story is told a person has to go out into a graveyard or similarly spooky area to retrieve a previously hidden flag or other object, or has to walk a haunted gauntlet.
kirin Kirin (kee-reen): Has the head of a dragon, a horse-like body, and multicolored patterned fur. The appearance of this sacred beast is a sign of great fortune.
kitsune Kitsune (kee-tsoo-neh, fox): Crafty shape-shifter that often turns into a beautiful young woman and is capable of possessing humans. Possession by a fox is called kitsune-tsuki (kee-tsoo-neh tsoo-kee, fox madness). When a fox turns one hundred, it becomes a shapeshifter. When a fox is one thousand years old, its red fur turns white and it may have as many as nine tails. Fox weddings are associated with sunshowers.

Foxes are also associated with Inari, deity of rice cultivation, for whom they are shrine guardians and messengers. Fried tofu is among the food offerings to this deity, thus where the name of inari sushi comes from.

Red fox, species Vulpes vulpes; Japanese red fox, smaller Hondo-kitsune (Taketazu, p. 133), species V. v. japonica; Hokkaido fox, larger Kita-kitsune (Taketazu, p. 133), species V. v. schrencki. Senses of hearing and smell are highly developed; poor eyesight (Taketazu, p. 137). Dark brown fur at birth to reddish-brown as an adult.

Recommended Reading: Taketazu, Minoru, photographer and author. Trans. by Richard L. Gage. Fox Family: Four Seasons of Animal Life. New York: Weatherhill/Heibonsha, 1979. Taketazu's beautiful and charming photographs were selected from almost 70,000 photographs taken over a period of twelve years (p. 139).
Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), A.D. 712; Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan), A.D. 720. Written down from the memories of Hiyeda no Are (Piggott, p. 17).

Kokkuri-san (koh-koo-ree sahn): A fortune-telling Ouija-like board that schoolchildren can make by writing hiragana characters on a piece of paper and using a 10-yen coin [about 10 cents and the size of a quarter] as an indicator. Sometimes participants hold onto a pen or pencil and use that as a pointer. Kokkuri-san is the name of the fox spirit who possesses the participants and provides the answers: "Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san, if you're here...." The red torii (toh-ree, literally "bird perch") at the top of the board represents a typical gateway to a Shintō shrine where foxes are often guardians and messengers as they are associated with Inari, the deity of rice cultivation.

a translated version of a Kokkuri-san board

Kuchisaké On'ná (koo-chee-sah-KEH ohn-NAH, split-faced woman): This urban legend is so famous that Korean schoolchildren are familiar with this ghost. In Korea, she is known as the Red Mask Ghost (source: two Korean teenaged siblings I was tutoring). In their version, she wears a red surgical mask that covers the nose and mouth and she asks people, "Am I beautiful?" Then the ghost takes off the mask and shrieks, "Even like THIS?!" Beneath the mask there's a hideously long smile that stretches from one side of her face to the other, the unnatural length attributed to either botched plastic surgery or a jealous husband who slashed his wife across the face with a knife and killed her.

Anyone who sees her actual face dies. In one version, she is said to kill by stretching the victim's lips to match her own. One way to save yourself is by writing the character for "dog" in the palm of your hand and showing it to her as the Red Mask Ghost is afraid of dogs. The male version of the story is called the Blue Mask Ghost.

In the Japanese version, she wears a regular white surgical mask, which is actually a common sight in Asia as the mask is worn by people who have colds to avoid passing cold germs to other people.

Kuma (koo-mah, bear): Japanese Black Bear, species Selenarctos "moon bear" thibetanus japonicus. Has a V-shaped band on chest. Japanese Brown Bear, species Ursus arctos yesoensis, in Yezo.
maneki-neko Maneki-neko (mah-neh-kee neh-koh, beckoning cat): A higher-up avoided danger by stopping for a beckoning cat. Now a cat with an upraised paw and a gold coin is a symbol of welcome and prosperity.
mitsume-kozo Mitsume-kozō (mee-tsoo-meh koh-zoh): Three-eyed demon dressed in the garb of a novice monk.

Minogame (mee-noh-gah-meh): Ten-thousand-year-old turtle with a long trailing tail of hair that is a symbol of longevity.

Mononoke(moh-noh-noh-keh,spirit of a thing): Every material object, both animate and inanimate, embodies a spirit energy (kami, kah-mee), which is how man-made objects can come alive when they are one hundred years old.

Mukashi-banashi (moo-kah-shee bah-nah-shee): Story or tale about long ago, or a folktale.

Ningyo (neen-gyoh, mermaid): Eating the flesh of a mermaid will make a person young again and immortal.

In Okinawa, a small northernmost population of dugong, species Dugong dugon, exist. Their senses of hearing and taste are highly developed, but they have poor eyesight. This long-lived marine animal inspired stories about mermaids.

Noppera-bō (nohp-peh-rah boh): Faceless ghost that looks like an ordinary human from the back. In Kwaidan, Lafcadio Hearn tells a story of a frightened man who has just seen a woman with no face. The man runs toward the safety of a street vendor’s soba cart and excitedly relates that he has seen a ghost. “Was her face like this?” the vendor asks as his face disappears and the cart’s lantern blows out.

I've seen a noppera-bō in Aldrich Park at University of California, Irvine. It was an early evening in 2008, and I was walking across the park toward the main library. Another path intersected the path I was walking on, and I glanced to the side to see a young student of likely Asian ancestry approaching me from the left. Her long black hair hanging in front of her fair face and the twilight darkness made it appear that she had no eyes, no nose, and no mouth. I hurried along after a few more furtive glances, startled by the illusion I had seen.

Nue (noo-eh): Mythological, horse-size night bird.

O-Bon Matsuri (oh-bohn mah-tsoo-ree): Summertime Festival of Lanterns (aka Festival of the Dead) usually held in mid-July (13th-15th, or 13th-16th) or mid-August depending on the region. It is a time to welcome back one’s ancestors for their annual visit home. Traditional folk dances are performed by the community to celebrate. Lanterns are floated down the river, out to the ocean, in a poignant good-bye to the ancestors on the last day of O-Bon.

O-Kiku (oh-kee-koo): In one version of the ghost story, Kiku was a young maidservant who was loyal to the lord of Himeji Castle, but her employer was a traitorous samurai who wished to be lord himself. When Kiku refused to cooperate, she was blamed for breaking a dish from a rare set of ten. She died of her injuries from being beaten, and her body was thrown down a well. Her sad voice counting the dishes could be heard at night. After she counted to nine, she would break into loud sobbing after that. The well is still there at Himeji Castle, and there is a signboard nearby that recounts the tragedy.

If you have seen the J-horror movie Ringu (American remake The Ring), Stevenson writes of the ghostly star that she is "'pure' Ghost of Okiku" (12).

Omamori (oh-mah-moh-ree): Amulets sold by shrines and temples for good luck in areas of life such as love, health, school exams, and business. The amulets are often in the form of a small rectangular brocade bag.

oni Oní (oh-'NEE, ogre-like demon): The demon of the Buddhist underworld keeps the wicked under control with a spiked kanabō (kah-nah-boh, iron club). It often has red or blue skin and wears a loincloth made from a tiger pelt.

Evil souls are sent to Ō-jigokú (oh-jee-goh-KOO), the underworld where they are judged by King Enma (ehm-mah) and sent to the proper hell, such as lake-of-boiling-blood hell, land-covered-with-sharp-needles hell, land-of-eternal-burning-fires hell, and other terrible hells.

During Setsubun (seh-tsoo-boon, changing of seasons) in early February (3rd or 4th) celebrating the arrival of spring, there is oní-yarai (oh-NEE), a ceremony where dried or roasted beans are thrown in four directions with the chant, Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi! Demons outside, good luck inside!” This is done at shrines, temples, and in the home.

Both good and bad oni can be found in children's folklore.

Akiko's oni
Akiko explains about the oni's loincloth and the "oni gate."

Oní-baba (oh-NEE bah-bah): Witch-like ogre. It is also an insulting term used to describe a mean and ugly old woman.

Onryō (ohn-ryoh): A fiercely vengeful ghost.

Rokuro-kubi (roh-koo-roh koo-bee, long-necked monster): Human-like monster with a long snake-like neck.
ryu Ryū (ryoo, dragon): The serpentine wingless dragon is a positive symbol and linked with rain, lakes, rivers, and the sea. A dragon flying up Mt. Fuji on clouds represents success. Japanese dragons are often pictured with three sharp claws, Chinese dragons four, and Imperial dragons five.
Ryūjin (ryoo-jeen): Dragon that rules the ocean. An old man cradling a ball-like tide jewel in his hands is one representation of the king (Pigott, 7). The father of the first emperor of Japan is said to have been born from the union of a sea dragon princess and a human prince.

Sanbiki Saru (sahm-bee-kee sah-roo, three monkeys): Mizaru (mee-zah-roo) sees no evil, Kikazaru (kee-kah-zah-roo) hears no evil, and Iwazaru (ee-wah-zah-roo) speaks no evil. Saru, the word for monkey, is a homophone for “to go away or expel.” Thus, monkeys came to be viewed as protectors against demons.

Saru (sah-roo, monkey): Japanese Macaque, species Lyssodes fuscata, in Yakushima. Its red face is naked and not covered with fur.

Shachihoko (shah-chee-hoh-koh): Pair of dolphin-shaped castle roof ornaments that are charms against fire.

Shichi Fukujin (shee-jeen foo-koo-jeen, Seven Gods of Good Fortune): Ebisu, Daikoku, Bishamon (right hand holds a spear and left has a miniature pagoda), Benten (goddess of the sea, as well as goddess of the arts), Jurojin, Fukurokuju, Hotei.

Shíjin ('SHEE-jeen): The Guardians of the Realm and Four Directions are: Northern Palace: Genbu (gehm-boo) the armored Black Turtle of Winter; Eastern Palace: Seiryū (seh-ee-ryoo) the scaly Blue-Green Dragon of Spring; Southern Palace: Suzaku (soo-zah-koo) the feathered Red Phoenix of Summer (may have been a reddish sparrow); Western Palace: Byakko (byahk-koh) the furry White Tiger of Autumn (may have been a snow leopard). The fifth Central Palace houses Polaris, Ursa Major (Great Bear), and other fixed stars. Each directional Palace houses seven lunar mansions for a total of twenty-eight, representing one complete orbit of the moon around the Earth. Each lunar mansion is associated with an animal, planet, day of the week, element (water, wood, fire, metal, earth), and different degrees of good or bad luck.

Shio (shee-'OH, salt): Across world cultures, salt has been viewed as a symbol of purity and preservation. It is a folk custom after returning from a funeral to cleanse away death by throwing salt across one's body before entering the home.

Shishi ('SHEE-shee, Chinese lion): King of the animals.

Shōgatsu; (shoh-ga-'tsu, New Year's Day): Bells at Buddhist temples are rung 108 times to keep away the 108 sins people can commit.
tanuki Tanuki ('TAH-noo-kee, raccoon dog): Practical joker that can assume other forms, such as a teakettle or a Buddhist monk. The animal beats on its potbelly (or enormous scrotum) like a drum when the full moon is out. (Scrotum as drum? Interestingly enough, the testicles have a resemblance to the Buddhist mokugyo [moh-koo-gyoh, wooden fish] drum used for meditation and chanting.)

Raccoon dog, species Nyctereutes procyonoides; Japanese raccoon dog, species N. p. viverrinus. Member of the same family that includes wolves and foxes. Dark mask-like patches make it resemble a racoon.

Teke-teke (teh-keh teh-keh): From Peter Payne's J-List newsletter (May 28, 2008), Teke-teke is the upper half of a woman who crawls all over Japan looking for her lower half after it was severed in a train accident in Hokkaido. Payne goes on to say that anyone who hears the story will bump into the woman's lower half within three days after hearing it.
tengu Tengu (tehn-goo, heavenly dog): They live in the deepest mountain forests and can travel through the trees at incredible speeds. The greater, human-looking Ō-tengu, dai-tengu, or konoha (koh-noh-hah) tengu dresses like a yámabushi (yah-MAH-boo-shee, mountain ascetic of the Shugen-dō sect), but has an unusually long nose and a fan of large feathers that can produce hurricane winds. The lesser kárasu (KAH-rah-soo, crow) tengu has a bird’s beak and wings.

The legendary general Yoshitsune (yoh-shee-tsoo-neh) of the Minamoto (mee-nah-moh-toh) clan is said to have learned swordmanship from tengu on Mt. Kurama (koo-rah-mah) near Kyoto. The leader of the tengu was Sōjōbo.

Tengu may have evolved from tales of aboriginal survivors or shipwrecked foreigners (long noses and sunburnt faces resembling human-like tengu) who retreated to the safety of the mountains. Another source suggests that tengu came from China (Akutagawa, Hell Screen, p. 25).
teruteru-bozu Teruteru-bōzu (teh-roo-teh-roo-boh-zoo, shiny-shiny bald monk): A ghost-like doll made from facial tissue, string, and a black marker. It is then hung by the window with a prayer for good weather.

Ichikawa, Takuji. Art by Sai Kawashima. Script by Yoko Iino. Be With You. Manga. Yuji Aio (boy) makes teruteru-bōzu, but he hangs them UPSIDE DOWN and prays for rain.

Toire no Hanako-san (Hanako-san of the toilet stall): A school ghost story, Hanako was a girl who committed suicide after being bullied by her classmates and now haunts school toilet stalls.

Tora (toh-rah, tiger): Tiger, species Panthera tigris.

Tsuchí-gumo (tsoo-CHEE goo-moh, earth spider): Ground spider that in legends is a giant monster that attacks people.

Tsuchí-no-ko (tsoo-CHEE noh koh, earth child; aka tsuchi-hebi, bachi-hebi): A snake-like or lizard-like creature with a swollen belly that is able to leap great distances or move very quickly. It is said to have the ability to talk to people. Sightings of the tsuchi-no-ko are like sightings of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster.

Tsuru (tsoo-roo, crane): It is a folk belief that cranes live at least one thousand years. A thousand paper cranes (semba-zuru, sem-bah zoo-roo) are often folded for good health, peace, and prosperity and left as offerings at religious sites. Japanese crane, species Grus japonensis.

Ubume (oo-boo-meh): Pregnant woman spirit who finds a home for newborns whose mothers died during childbirth.

Umi-bōzu (oo-mee boh-zoo, sea monk): Huge, ghostly sea monster that sinks boats.

Usagi (oo-sah-guee, rabbit): Moon Rabbit keeps himself busy making mochi (moh-chee, rice cakes). Sometimes Moon Rabbit is pictured with an old man and a frog.

Yōkai (yoh-kah-ee, nature spirit): Supernatural phantoms, monsters, and demons. Sometimes translated as goblins. Kappa and tengu are considered to be yōkai.

Yomi no Kuni (Land of the Dead): Hades. The Underworld.

Yonaki-ishi (yoh-nah-kee ee-shee, night-crying rock)

Yukí On’ná (yoo-KEE ohn-NAH, snow woman): Beautiful, ghostly winter spirit who appears to men in snowstorms and freezes them to death with her icy breath.
yurei Yūrei (YOO-reh-ee, ghost): Human ghosts whose feet dwindle into invisibility, the artistic trend toward depicting footless ghosts traced to painter Ōkyo Maruyama, who inspired another famous ghost painter Taiso Yoshitoshi to draw a scene where Ōkyo draws a yūrei so real that she springs out at him. Yūrei are usually pictured as females with long disheveled hair in a white burial kimono, their hands dangling from their arms in a stance like that of a praying mantis. Hito-dama often surround yūrei.

A summary of Mamoru Takada's article "Changes in the 'Image' of Ghosts," translated by Martha J. McClintock, notes the major types:
"The ghosts of the Edo period came in a variety of forms. This essay examines this diversity of forms and images among ghosts, basing its observations on the illustrations for a collection of mysterious stories published in the latter half of the 17th century. Ghost forms gradually were standardized, and the article enumerates the forms and traces their transformation. Ghost types are noted in the following order:

1) ghosts who appear in their original living forms,

2) ghosts who have the form of a dead person who has been revived (clad in their white shrouds),

3) ghosts who appear as women holding or near a freshly severed head,

4) often women, ghosts who appear in fearsome, malevolent forms such as demons or serpents,

5) ghosts who are raising children, and

6) ghostly 'ubume,' women who have died in childbirth (they are soaked from the hips down in blood)."


Addiss, Stephen, ed. Japanese Ghosts and Demons: Art of the Supernatural. New York: George Braziller, in association with Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, 1985.

Akutagawa, Ryūnosuke (Given name lit. "dragon-helper," "…because he was born at the dragon hour on a dragon day in the dragon month of a dragon year," from Hell Screen "Introduction," p. 1). Trans. Seiichi Shiojiri. Kappa, rev. ed. Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1949.

Akutagawa, Ryūnosuke. Translated by W. H. H. Norman. Hell Screen (Jigoku Hen) and Other Stories. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1971, orig. pub. Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1948. "Jigokuhen no byōbu" (Hell Screen), a serialized short story written in 1918, is set during the Heian Era (794-1185) and is about an obsessed artist and a commissioned screen painting of the various Buddhist hells where souls are sent and punished for bad deeds.

Bodkin, Odds, retold by. The Crane Wife. Illustrated by Gennady Spirin. San Diego: Gulliver Books / Harcourt Brace & Co., 1998. 398.20952
Bush, Lewis. Japanalia, 2nd ed. Tokyo: Seihei Okuyama, 1956.
Garis, Frederic de. We Japanese: Being descriptions of many of the customs, manners, ceremonies, festivals, arts and crafts of the Japanese, besides numerous other subjects. Written for H.S.K. Yamaguchi. Yokohama: Yamagata Press, 1934.

Hearn, Lafcadio. In Ghostly Japan. Boston: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1971. First published 1899 by Little, Brown, and Co.
Hearn, Lafcadio. Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2006. First published 1904 by Houghton, Mifflin, and Co.
Kendall, Carol. Haunting Tales from Japan. Lawrence, KS: Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, 1985.
Lau, Theodora. The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes. 5th ed. New York: HarperResource/HarperCollins, 2005.
Martin, Rafe. Mysterious Tales of Japan. Illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1996. 398.20952
Nakano, Yoshihito. 100 Demons of Horiyoshi III. Printed in Japan, 1998.
Nute, Kevin. Place, Time and Being in Japanese Architecture. London: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2004.
Ono, Sokyo. Shinto: The Kami Way. Rutland, VT and Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle, 1962.
Piggott, Juliet. Japanese Mythology. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1969, 1982. 299.56113
Ross, Catrien. Supernatural and Mysterious Japan: Spirits, Hauntings and Paranormal Phenomena. Tokyo: Yenbooks, 1996. The only book I have that talks about contemporary paranormal phenomena in Japan.
Sakade, Florence, ed. Japanese Children's Favorite Stories. Illustrated by Yoshisuke Kurosaki. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1958. (First edition 1953.) 398.21
Sakai, Atsuharu. Japan in a Nutshell, Vol. I (1949) and Vol. II (1952) Yokohama: Yamagata Printing Co.

Stevenson, John. Yoshitoshi's Thirty-Six Ghosts. With introduction by Donald Richie. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1983; New York: Weatherhill/Blue Tiger, 1983. The artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, whose ghostly woodblock prints are featured in this book, actually had two real-life experiences with ghosts. One was the ghost of a girl who had committed suicide in a room he slept overnight in, and the other was of his wife when he moved into a new home. 769.924

Stevenson, John. Yoshitoshi's Strange Tales. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Hotei Publishing, 2005.

Taketazu, Minoru, photographer and author. Translated by Richard L. Gage. Fox Family: Four Seasons of Animal Life. New York: Weatherhill/Heibonsha, 1979. Taketazu's beautiful and charming photographs were selected from almost 70,000 photographs taken over a period of twelve years (p. 139).

Tiernan, Roxsane. Celebrate Japan. Illustrated by Kuniko Iyama. Vancouver, Canada: Maple Leaf Publishing, 1990. 394.26952. Iyama's watercolors are a nice touch.

Tsuji, Nobuo, ed. Japanese Ghost Paintings: The Sanyūtei Enchō Collection at Zenshō at Zenshō-an. Tokyo: Perikansha Publishing, 1995.
Walters, Derek. Chinese Astrology: Interpreting the Revelations of the Celestial Messengers. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: Aquarian Press, 1987. 133.50951
Watkins, Yoko Kawashima. Tales from The Bamboo Grove. Illustrated by Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng. New York: Bradbury Press / MacMillan Publishing Co., 1992. 398.20952

Kinoshita, Sakura, and Kazuko Higashiyama. Tactics series. MAG Garden Corporation, 2002-? Houston: ADV Manga/A.D. Vision, 2005-?
Midorikawa, Yuki. Natsume Yūjin-chō (Natsume's Book of Friends) series. Tokyo: Hakusensha, 2005-2012.
Films and Animation

Kurosawa, Akira. Red Beard. Toho Co., 1965. The Criterion Collection, 2002.
Mutoh, Yuji, director. Haunted Junction. Based on Nemu Mukudori's manga, published by MediaWorks, 1996-2001. DVD-ROM. Cypress, CA: Bandai Entertainment, 2000.
Nakata, Hideo, director. Screenplay by Hiroshi Takahashi. Ringu. Based on Koji Suzuki's novel Ringu (Ring), 1991. The Ring/The Spiral Production Group, 1998. DVD-ROM. Universal City, CA: DreamWorks, 2003.
Shimizu, Takashi, director and writer. Ju-on: The Grudge. DVD-ROM. Lion's Gate Home Entertainment, 2004.
Takahata, Isao, director and writer. Pom Poko. Studio Ghibli/Hatake Jimusho, 1994. DVD-ROM. Burbank, CA: Buena Vista Home Entertainment (distributor).


"Ghosts, Demons & Spirits in Japanese Lore" by Norman Rubin
Ghosts and Goblins: A Peek into the World of Korea's Supernatural Creatures
Have you heard the one about? Japanese urban legends
Japanese Buddhist Statuary: Gods, Goddesses, Shinto Kami, Creatures & Demons
"Japanese Ghosts" by Tim Screech
"Japanese Ghosts & Spirits" by Charla White
Japanese Ghosts class websites
Japanese Studies Yōkai Database (in Japanese only)
The Obakemono Project