Friday, 30 October 2015

Top 10 Weird Japanese Monsters by Jason Rohan

Tomorrow night is Hallowe'en, the celebration of All Hallows' Eve, which has now become a great excuse for trick-or-treating, costume parties and macabre monsters - fun for children of all ages.

In honour of this, MGSB asked me to do a Hallowe'en special and I thought I'd go with, "Things that go どた* in the night.

Since there are hundreds of yokai - weird and wonderful Japanese monsters - but they remain relatively unknown on our shores, I thought I'd list some of the strangest ones. Perhaps these might give you inspiration, or just plain nightmares, ahead of tomorrow's ghoul-fest. Enjoy!


1. Rokuro-kubi - This is the ultimate rubber-necker, or Peeping Jane. Cursed in stories, the poor human afflicted with this stretchy neck is often unaware of their condition. Once they go to sleep, the head sets off on its own business, taking the neck with it. One explanation for a crick in the neck the next morning?

Wind your neck in, love!

2. Sagari - A dismembered horse's head that hangs from a tree and waits for an unsuspecting passer-by before letting out a frantic neigh. Supposedly, the ghost of a horse that died by the roadside and got caught up in the trees while leaving its body. Also featured in The Godfather.

They even made a statue out of it

3. Mouryou - Well before Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Japan had its own version of a killer rabbit. A type of ghoul, this child-sized bunny is able to walk on its hind legs and inhabits graveyards where it digs up corpses for a snack. Not the best choice for a petting zoo.

Hell bunny

4. Kurokamikiri - Literally, the "black hair cutter." In old Japan, women took pride in long, glossy black hair, so a creature that sneaks up on you, grabs you from behind and lops off your hair with its scissor hands was one to be feared. Quite what it does with all those shorn locks is anyone's guess.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

5. Karakasa obake - One of the better known yokai, this is a demonic paper umbrella. In Japanese folklore, an object which has reached its hundredth birthday can come to life and become sentient. Popularly depicted with one eye, one leg and a long tongue, this poor chap failed his audition for Disney.

A jolly brolly

6. Oari - If the previous yokai aren't weird enough for you, how about this one? Oari is the dead spirit of a giant ant. Who carries around a big, wooden hammer to bop you with.

Not quite Thor

7. Basan - Oriental dragons don't emit flame but if you are looking for a giant creature that haunts the mountains and breathes fire, then you're in luck, because instead of Smaug Japan has a giant chicken. Supposedly harmless, you can imagine Colonel Sanders getting excited at the prospect of a self-roasting bird.

Head in the clouds, this one

8. Nuppeppo - A useless, stinking lump of decaying flesh. No, not a politician or banker, this yokai guards sacred places and absorbs the flesh of evil-doers. Allegedly, eating the flesh of a nuppeppo can grant eternal youth but who wants to find out?

Humpty Dumpty on a bad day

9. Katakirauwa - As we get progressively weirder, this is a one-eyed, one-eared, three-legged pig on fire. It casts no shadow, in case you want to verify its monster status, and it will try and run between your legs in order to steal your soul.

They call me Mister Pig!

10. Atsuuikakura - And the winner for weirdest monster is this: a giant, flesh-eating sea cucumber that grows from a pair of discarded knickers! 

"Knickers out here? That's weird."

*どた - This reads as "dota" and is a Japanese equivalent of "bump". Onomatopoeia varies hugely from language to language and one man's "woof" is another's "wan."


If you liked this survey of Japanese monsters, be sure to check out Jason's Kuromori series which has even more weird creatures, plus action, humour and lots of tips on life in modern Japan.


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  2. I wonder if the Japanese think our monsters are just as weird? The only one of these monsters I've come across before was Rokuro-kubi from a movie.

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