Japan's folklore urban legend | Mysterious creatures

Japan is home to some of the strangest fictional creatures on earth. I’m not 100% sure why this is the case, but it’s irrefutable. The folklore is full of freaky friends and oddly specific spirits.

Did you know that there’s a critter that loves licking the filth in dirty bathrooms? or a sentient lump of rotten human flesh that exists mostly to stink? yokai and all of the associated oddities have been featured in just about every type of media imaginable, from ancient wall scrolls to videogames and webcomics.

There’s a monster for everyone to love, and different iterations of the most popular ones to ensure anyone can experience it! while a lot of them are sort of silly, others can be downright terrifying. And sometimes the goofiest ones are scream-inducing in their own special way.

The kamaitachi


the kamaitachi you like your limbs, right? you’d rather they didn’t fly off in the blink of an eye? well, then you’d be best to avoid these wind weasels as best you can. Also known as the sickle weasel, the kamaitachi usually roams around on whirlwinds in groups of three.

Sometimes they’re brothers, sometimes even triplets, but the trio aspect is pretty immovable. These little fuzzy flayers like to run around and cut people’s legs off. At the ankles or calves is the usual choice, but you never know! the method of slicing and dicing is pretty ubiquitous. The first weasel will knock the victim down.

The seconds will come through with a sickle and slice the leg off. Then, the third and final fellow will run through, sew up the wounds, and put some numbing medicine on the newly stupefied limbs. This all happens so fast, that most folks don’t even notice their legs are gone until they’re staring up at the clouds. Blink, and you’ll miss it.

At first, the numbing agent makes it so there’s no pain, but that will wear off eventually and then you get to deal with the pain of having your legs hacked off and sewn up by a tiny mammal.

Hyosube


This is an eggplant-stealing filth goblin. Doesn’t that sound just wonderful? these short, hairy, dirty humanoids run around like they own the place, and kill a whole lot of folks as a result. If you see one, you will die.

And they don’t do a very good job of staying out of sight. Hide and seek, this is not. They wander about, just waiting for an unfortunate soul to behold them. As they live out their terrible little lives, they also eat all the eggplants in your garden! All the aubergines get consumed, and they trample the fields for good measure.

Jerks. The only way to avoid accidentally seeing one is to leave out some prime eggplants for them, but even this is hit and miss. For some reason, eating your crops and ruining your fields isn’t enough, and hyosube also likes to use your bathtub. And like I mentioned earlier, they’re very dirty little creatures. They’re known for leaving behind ridiculous amounts of filth, like hair, dirt, and scum.

Tsuchigumo


Tsuchigumo monsters have been mashed for as long as we can remember. And it’s not always a graveyard smash, mind you. Sometimes it’s the combination of many real, living creatures to make something extra nightmarish. Manticores. Chimeras. Ligers. Maybe that last one is real. 

I bounce between napoleon dynamite and joe exotic for opinions on the mystical status of a lion-tiger crossbreed. Back to the tsuchigumo though. This is a beast with the body of a tiger, the limbs of a spider, and the face of a demon. Part real mammal, part real (albeit much smaller) arachnid, part mythical monster. Apparently, tsuchigumo was known for eating travelers as they made their way across the countryside. In the remote fields, no one can hear you scream.

One or two traveling morsels wasn’t enough, either. In one tale, a powerful warrior took one down and sliced it open. You know, to loot the body. Inside were 1990 skulls. Ten shies of two thousand. That is a prolific people eater.

Jorogumo


Jorogumo if you’ve ever seen the spookies, you’ll know that the best monster in the ridiculous mish-mash is a spider woman. Now, the monster who drains the puppeteer dry and the jorogumo aren’t identical, but they share the two major components of spider-women: the spider part, and the woman part.

The jorogumo is an ancient creature, with depictions dating back to the Edo period in Japan. Its upper half is that of a beautiful woman, while the lower half is hairy spider legs. We’ve all been there, right? it will lure men to a shack in the middle of nowhere, snare their prey in a web, and then eat them alive. Apparently, when a spider hits year 400, it gains magical transformative powers. In addition to some jorogumo using their feminine charm to trap men, some versions will manipulate good folks before devouring them.

These spider-women will show up with what seems to be a baby, begging for help. Soft-hearted people spring at the opportunity to help this poor mother and end up being torn apart by thousands of freshly hatched baby spiders.

Teke Teke

This is the tale of a girl who fell on the train tracks and was cut in half by a passing train. Somehow, she was left alive, and continued to survive even when her torso was completely separate from her legs. The upper half of this poor gal stalks the night, attacking commuters and dooming them to the same fate. Sometimes teke teke will cut the train-goers in half herself, using a sickle of some sort.

Other times, she’ll just force them onto the tracks so they can experience a train running them over too. One might wonder where the name teke teke comes from, and like in a lot of Japanese folklore, it originates with onomatopoeia. See, this half-person exposed spine scratches against the pavement and makes a very distinctive sound. And in Japan, that sound is characterized as teke teke.

Yeah, she’s named after bones being dragged across concrete. Hardcore. More than probably any of the other entries on this list, teke teke makes regular appearances in horror movies, manga, and anime. It really feels like a modern tale, too. Much more gruesome and human. Plus the method of disfigurement is based entirely on modern times.

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