Should you’re a fan of Japanese popular culture, anime, manga, or films, you then’ve most likely skilled Japanese folklore.
Folklore in Japan is usually an inspiration in a variety of media you see. Take, for instance, Naruto and the nine-tailed fox (referred to as 狐, kitsune) or Bleach’s Hollows that are a form of Japanese ghost referred to as youkai. Many legendary Pokemon are primarily based on Japanese folklore creatures, too.
Even Sailor Moon has unfastened inspirations from Kaguya-hime – a narrative you’ll find out about beneath!
Japanese folklore additionally has large cultural significance. A number of the tales inform how Japan got here into existence and why it’s the “Land of the Rising Solar.” Others inform the tales of how the Emperor was chosen by the heavens to rule, which is the place the identify 天皇 (tennou, “heavenly emperor”) comes from.
So what’s Japanese folklore referred to as? It’s referred to as 民間伝承, minkan denshou, in Japanese.
Inside these tales, you’ll study extra about Japanese tradition and mythology. Particularly concerning the function of 神, kami, the spirits and deities from Shinto beliefs.
There are some Japanese folklore characters and creatures that come up rather a lot in Japanese mythology. Just like the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot, these creatures have taken on a lifetime of their very own and seem in a variety of Japanese popular culture.
It’s robust to say what probably the most highly effective Japanese legendary creature is. However many will say the phoenix, referred to as houou (鳳凰) in Japanese, is one in every of them. (Sure, just like the legendary Pokemon.)
This folklore creature originated in China. It’s mentioned to have a physique lined in scales and a turtle shell on its again, and to be a mixture of a snake and goose.
The rationale it’s thought-about some of the highly effective Japanese folklore creatures is as a result of it’s the image for all issues good, immortal, and smart. As a kami, it represents constancy and longevity.
Kappa (河童 in kanji, or additionally written in hiragana as かっぱ) are humanoid reptilians that dwell in rivers. They’re typically small, inexperienced, and a bit turtle- and frog-like. They’re water spirits, and are sometimes thought-about each kami and youkai.
Kappa in Japanese folklore love cucumbers. (Previous-school Harvest Moon followers most likely know this!) They’re one of many few youkai who can communicate human languages, and so they’re very sensible and expert in medication and agriculture.
Kappa are identified for serving to convey luck to farming efforts and befriending lonely kids. Additionally they like to wrestle.
However kappa will also be violent in the event that they aren’t revered, and they are often crude. In folklore, some kappa are identified to harass, kidnap, or assault ladies, or to eat people alive. After they do that, they often go for… the butthole.
Yup. Like one other Japanese ghost story concerning the butthole eye, kappa are identified to like what’s referred to as 尻子玉, shirikodama, a flesh ball contained in the anus. They usually’ll do something to get it.
You’ve little doubt seen kitsune (狐), all over the place in Japan and popular culture! They’re Vulpix and Ninetails from Pokemon, the nine-tailed fox from Naruto that I discussed, and even video video games like Okami.
In Japanese folklore, kitsune are staples of Japanese tradition and mythology. However they’re a bit totally different from their anime depictions.
The tales go that kitsune can shapeshift into people (particularly, lovely ladies). They’re additionally thought-about messengers for the kami Inari. Should you go to Inari Shrine, you’ll see many fox statues.
The extra tails a fox has, the extra highly effective it’s. That is the place the nine-tailed fox legend is available in.
From China initially, the story tells of a strong fox spirit that shops the drive of nature, the solar, and moon, in its tails. As soon as it has 9, it turns into immortal.
Moreover the 2 sorts of foxes in Japanese folklore talked about right here – those who serve Inari and people which are highly effective fox spirits – there are additionally differing types. Its believed that there are 13 varieties of legendary kitsune, every representing a component or side of the forces of nature.
Otters in Japanese folklore are referred to as kawauso (獺). In folklore, otters love alcohol. They’re typically seen pretending to be or shapeshifting into people as a way to snag some sake.
These tales say these otters will disguise themselves with a giant straw hat and faux to be a beggar youngster. They like to mimic sounds they hear, and so they’re typically caught of their disguises as a result of when talked to, they will solely say no matter they final heard.
For probably the most half, otters are playful and pleasant. They only need booze.
Tanuki (狸) are most likely some of the recognizable folklore creatures. Should you’ve performed Animal Crossing, you understand this one as Tom Nook!
Tanuki are identified for his or her playful spirits. They’re tricksters, humorous, and light-hearted. They’re mentioned to have the ability to shapeshift.
In keeping with lore, should you hear a flute or drums in the course of the night time, it’s a tanuki.
In Japanese folklore, youkai are monsters, ghosts, and different unusual entities that trigger hurt or mischief. These Japanese monsters in folklore are sometimes depicted as evil, creepy, or dangerous, though not all youkai are dangerous.
For instance, Studio Ghibli’s movies are full of youkai of each selection, from cute and useful to creepy and evil. Suppose No Face in Spirited Away and Haku, the dragon primarily based on the story of Orochi.
Oni (鬼) are sometimes demons, orges, and different giant scary creatures. It’s mentioned that oni are evil people reborn or reworked, however not at all times. The Titans in Assault on Titan are one such instance. They’re typically murderous, and really evil.
Obake (お化け) or bakemono (化け物) are one sort of youkai which are shapeshifters. One well-known obake is jorogumo, or “girl spider.” Very like a black widow, they prey on males whom they seduce after which eat.
One well-known Japanese city legend a few youkai spirit is named Teke Teke. She’s mentioned to be the ghost of a lady who fell onto the subway tracks, her physique reduce into items by the subway, and died. Now, she haunts the subway as an onryou, a vengeful ghost. She drags herself round, making the sound “teke teke,” and if she catches you, she’ll reduce you in half too.
Despite the fact that she not has legs, she’s very quick. So don’t be fooled!
Yuki onna is one other standard youkai spirit. Often known as “snow ladies,” they’re lovely ladies with lengthy black hair and snow-white pores and skin. They wander round throughout snowstorms, luring males to their deaths.
Amikiri (網切) is a youkai that’s considerably like a scorpion with crab claws and a fowl beak. How massive is the Amikiri in Japanese folklore, you ask? Properly, it’s fairly small, like a shrimp. These youkai primarily similar to to chop fishing nets and break a fisherman’s day.
What are probably the most well-known Japanese folktales? These are some everybody is aware of in Japan, so it is best to know them too!
The Japanese have a ebook referred to as the Kojiki (古事記), which is the oldest acknowledged ebook in Japan. It paperwork oral tales and myths from early Japan, and far of Japanese mythology comes from it.
The Japanese have their very own gods and mythology. It goes that the god Izanagi and the goddess Izanami created the Japanese islands by means of their union. They’d a bunch of deity kids (very like Zeus in Greek mythology).
Izanami died in childbirth although, and Izanagi was distraught. After a harrowing journey to the underworld (referred to as Yomi) to convey her again unsuccessfully, he got here again to the floor and created much more deities, together with the solar goddess.
Izanagi, again from the Underworld, continued to have energy although and is the reason for dying.
In keeping with the Kojiki, the identify of the goddess of the solar is Amaterasu Ookami (天照大神).
She was born concurrently Tsukuyomi (月読), the god of the moon, and Susanoo (スサノオ), the god of the ocean and storms.
Amaterasu fights together with her brother Susanoo on a regular basis. Izanagi bought mad and banished Susanoo to the Yomi, so Susanoo went to the heavenly world to say goodbye to Amaterasu.
However Amaterasu didn’t imagine he got here in peace to simply say goodbye. They bought right into a battle, and Susanoo killed one in every of Amaterasu’s individuals.
Scared and upset, she fled to a cave the place she hid. This prompted all of heaven and earth to fall into darkness.
The opposite gods ultimately got here up with a plan to lure her out. Basically, they’d a enjoyable god occasion filled with laughter and nudity proper in entrance of her cave. Amaterasu grew to become curious and ultimately got here out. She shined her mild on the world once more.
Susanoo was banished from heaven, ended up within the Izumo Province, and had kids. Amaterasu’s kids would ultimately go on to turn into the royal household and emperor of Japan.
That is probably the most beloved Japanese folklore story! In the future, a lady discovered an enormous peach floating downstream. She took it house, and out got here a boy!
The boy instructed the lady and her husband that he had been despatched from heaven to be their son, as a result of they had been lonely and wished children however had none. They named him Momotarou (桃太郎). Momo (桃) means “peach” in Japanese.
He was variety, robust, and hard-working. In the future, he heard that oni had been hurting the individuals who lived within the countryside with him. He determined to go do one thing about it, and his mother and father despatched him with dumplings for his journey.
Alongside the best way, he met a monkey, a pheasant, and a canine. He provided every of them one in every of his scrumptious dumplings in the event that they joined him, in order that they did.
Collectively together with his new pals, robust Momotarou went to the island the oni lived on and defeated them. In return for letting them dwell, Momotarou acquired treasures to convey house and made them promise to by no means damage the people once more.
A superb and sort outdated man and his spouse lived in a village. They discovered a pet who had been abused by his proprietor wandering towards them, in order that they took him in. They beloved the pet a lot, and the pet grew deeply hooked up to them too.
In the future, the canine helped the outdated man dig a gap, and so they discovered a bunch of gold. Jealous, his former proprietor took the canine and instructed him to search out him gold too. When the canine couldn’t do it and solely discovered bones, the person grew to become enraged and killed him.
The outdated couple had been devastated. They buried the canine of their yard.
The outdated man noticed the canine once more in a dream. The canine instructed him to construct a mortar the place he had been buried. When the outdated man did so and added steamed rice desserts as an providing, the rice turned to gold.
The neighbor, jealous once more, took the mortar and tried it himself. However it didn’t work, and he burned it in rage.
The outdated man took the ashes again house. His canine visited him once more and instructed him to sprinkle the ashes on cherry blossom bushes. When the outdated man did so, the bushes bloomed superbly. The daimyou (feudal lord) was so happy by the attractive bushes, he despatched the outdated man a number of presents.
The jealous neighbor tried it himself, and as an alternative he bought ashes within the daimyou’s eyes. He was thrown in jail, then thrown out of city, and was by no means capable of finding a spot to dwell once more for his evil methods.
Just like the story of Momotarou, a pair wished for a son, however couldn’t have one. In the future, they had been blessed by a toddler, however he was solely about 1 inch tall – which, again in historical Japan, was referred to as a solar.
So that they named him Issun Boushi (一寸法師), or “One-solar (-inch) Boy.”
In the future, the boy went to work for a wealthy household, and their daughter was kidnapped by oni. So the boy tried to save lots of her.
The oni ate the boy, however he was sensible and he stabbed the oni with a needle he used as a sword. The oni cried out in ache and spat the boy again out.
The oni had a magic hammer – and when the boy touched it, he grew to be six toes tall!
In the long run, the boy married the daughter he rescued and wielded the hammer as his weapon.
This one is a well-liked kids’s folklore story. In the future, an outdated man was out working and stopped to eat the lunch his spouse made for him up on a hill. His spouse had made him onigiri (おにぎり), or rice balls.
The person unintentionally dropped the rice ball, and it rolled and rolled down the hill right into a gap. The “rolling” sound of one thing small like that is the Japanese onomatopoeia korokoro (ころころ).
When the person went to get his rice ball, he heard voices from inside the outlet singing, “The rice ball got here rolling, rolling, rolling, rolling.”
The outdated man thought this was unusual and amusing. So he rolled one other rice ball into the outlet. Once more, he heard the music. However this time, when he leaned in to hear, he fell into the outlet.
Inside had been a bunch of mice, overjoyed by the meals. So that they provided to offer him a reward of gold cash.
Their neighbor (yep, that darn neighbor once more!) bought jealous. He went to the outlet pretending to be a cat to scare the mice so he might steal their gold. As a substitute, the mice beat him up and despatched him on his manner – and he was by no means so grasping after that once more.
Tanabata (七夕) is a summer time competition in Japan celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month. That is the in the future a yr when Orihime and Hikoboshi, two starcrossed lovers, can see one another.
The story goes that Princess Orihime (the Vega star) was organized by her kami father to fulfill with Prince Hikoboshi (the Altair star). They fell head over heels in love, however so consumed by their love, they uncared for their duties.
Orihime’s father grew to become enraged. He separated the 2 with the Milky Manner and solely allowed them to see one another annually.
And that day is Tanabata. In actuality, it’s when the 2 stars are closest to one another within the sky!
Kaguya-hime (かぐや姫) is the story of a kid mysteriously discovered by a childless man. Kaguya-hime was discovered by a woodcutter amongst bamboo, and he adopted her.
Kaguya-hime introduced wealth and luck to her father as a result of he typically discovered gold within the spot the place she had been found. Kaguya-hime was additionally very lovely, and everybody wished to marry her. She refused to marry, although.
Then in the future, she introduced she was really the princess of the moon and can be returning house. She disappeared with barely a hint.
Did you get pleasure from studying about Japanese mythology and folklore tales? Which one is your favourite?
If Japanese folklore is your factor, I wrote an entire article on Japanese ghost tales to study much more. There are additionally some actually cool books about it, akin to The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore.