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The Most Bizarre Creatures From Japanese Lore

By Edited Jul 5, 2016 2 1

The Japanese are known for being a little bizarre. Everything from their games to their traditions can be a little stranger than what the rest of the world is used to. The Japanese have picture up the stereotype on the internet for being the land that is obsessed with tentacles.

Perhaps you would better understand why they focus on such strange imagery and habits if you better knew some of the creatures from their ancient folk lore. the creatures from their legends are even a little more strange than legends from around the world. Perhaps being isolated on that island for all those years gave the Japanese a permanently unique outlook on everything.



The akaname is essentially Japan's bizarre version of the boogeyman. Where the boogeyman is a legend to scare kid into going to bed on time and not sit under their sheets playing video games, the akaname is something to scare obedient Japanese children into cleaning the bathroom.

Though the akaname's tactic does not seem as effective as it should be. Akaname is best translated to 'filth licker', as you can see from the picture above it is named that way for good reason.

The akaname's only claim to fame is that it comes down into dirty bathrooms and licks them clean with poisonous spit. It is thought that this was an invention by parents to get children to clean the bathroom. I do not see how that works. It licks the bathroom clean, so the bathroom gets clean. So what if it leaves poisonous spit everywhere, right? You would think the poisonous spit would deter anyone from cleaning the bathroom anyway.



The makura gaeshi is bizarre simply because it exists. You know how when you go to sleep and you wake up and the pillows are all over? Under your back, on the floor, down at the foot of your bed. The makura gaeshi is the one responsible for moving those pillows.

Yeah, the Japanese seem to have a mischievous spirit for everything these days.

The makura gaeshi is said to do other things too. It has been rumored to take a person's soul while they are sleeping and drag it to hell, but surprisingly, the pillow moving thing is the most recognized tale about these little fellows. You would think that having a little mischievous demon grab your soul and take you to hell would inspire a little more fear. You would think that fear would overtake something so trivial as, you know, moving around pillows and wrecking utter havoc.



The heikegani are not just interesting little creatures in Japanese folklore, they are also real creatures. The Heikegani crabs are native to the island of Japan and the Japanese have been eating them for just about forever. In Japanese folk lore, the Heikegani crabs represent the souls of Heiki samurai who died at the battle of Dan-no-ura. This battle was a naval battle between the Genji (more famously known as the Miyamoto clan) Clan and the Heiki clan, so thus the samurai who died fell into the sea.

This folk lore most likely sprang up because the Heikigani crabs look remarkably like they have human faces. Famed author and multi-scientist Carl Sagan suggested that the Japanese, perhaps without even meaning to, only ate the Heikigani crabs that did not have what appeared to human faces. Thus over time, the human faces in these crabs because extremely dominant.

Today in Japan, the Heikigani crabs are not eaten so often due to their small size. They do not taste bad, but neither do they taste fantastic either. Other crab that can be fished off the Alaskian shores are much more prefered and make a much more filling meal than these small little guys. Maybe the Japanese just really want to protect these historical little spirits.



Wanyudo are a popular demon in Japanese folk lore. The wanyudo is basically a wagon wheel with the face of a monk on it. People like to say that this face belongs to a cruel Japanese lord, conveniently nameless, that liked to torture people by tying them to the wagon wheel and setting it to roll.

The wanyudo is a form of karmic justice for that cruel loard. He now has the not all together horrible job of guarding the gates of hell. The wanyudo also roams between the spirit world and the mortal world to drag souls that have escape hell during his watch (presumably because he does not have arms to catch them) and drag them back (presumably by rolling over them repeatedly until they give up).



The nuppeppo, which is essentially translated into 'blob' is such a disturbing and strange little being. If you ever hang out in Japan, you can supposedly run into these if you hang out by old cemeteries and other such creepy places.

The nuppeppo are walking, wiggling blobs of human flesh that have sprouted funny little legs and arms and began to walk around. From underneight the fat fold of the fleshy mouth little eyes and mouthes appear so it can look right into your soul and really creepy you out with a happier smile than a lump of reanimated flesh should have. Sort of like the Frosty the Snowman of grooooossss. As you would expect from lumps of moving flesh, they are apparently extremely pungent.

If you are hanging around cemeteries, chances are you are probably a sociopathic serial killer anyway, so this is unlikely to phase you. Perhaps this is why Japanese folk lore made the nuppeppo look so cute, to warm the heart of cold blooded murders everywhere.

Then creepy out normal people and make them dry heave.

But wait! There is more!

If you want eternal youth and have a constitution made of diamond, you can eat these wiggly wobbly cut and stinky little thing and become eternally young. I guess being so stinky and, you know...a walking lump of flesh was just a defense mechanism folk lore gave it to prevent it from being eaten.



Dec 21, 2012 7:33am
Interesting article. I love your work.
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