Japanese folklore is a treasure trove of beasts, demons, ghosts and ghoulies. The collective term for these beings is ‘yokai’. Ranging from the terrifying to the adorable, the sheer range is a testament to human creativity. Some of these yokai offer an imaginative, supernatural answer for some of life’s happenings, and sometimes the strangest thing about them is the very specific nature of their activities.


Unknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When walking the pathways and backalleys of Japan at night, watch out for nurikabe. Basically a moving wall, these apparitions appear out of nowhere to block random human’s paths. Although said to be invisible, Japanese artists through history have made a few guesses as to what kind of form such a yokai would take.


The makuragaeshi is a mischievous spirit who gets his kicks from sneaking into people’s rooms in the dead of night while they’re asleep, and moving their pillow. In some tellings, they simply turn the pillow over, but in others it is claimed they will take the pillow out from under your head and place it all the way at the foot of the bed. How annoying!


Utagawa Yoshikazu (歌川芳員, Japanese) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This monster licks all the grime and filth off bathtubs and bathrooms. Actually, having a resident akaname sounds quite useful, but it is said the legend of the monster was created to encourage children to keep the bathroom clean.


Toriyama Sekien (鳥山石燕) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bathrooms aren’t the only things that yokai like to lick. Tenjoname (ceiling licker) has a penchant for tonguing your ceiling while you sleep, and he’s most likely to turn up during a cold, dark winter night. His licking can cause a stain on the ceiling which looks like a monster or human face. The appearance of these terrifying stains can cause the onlooker to go mad.


Utagawa Yoshikazu (歌川芳員, Japanese) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Do you own a really old umbrella? If so, after 100 years of it laying around you can look forward to your very own kasa-obake! An umbrella monster who is often depicted with one eye and one foot. There was a belief that as any household item gets older, they gain the ability to become an apparition. The kasa-obake is one of the most popularised of these household item yokai, often appearing in manga, ghost houses and other spooky entertainment.


Utagawa Kuniteru III [Public domain]

Possibly the most specific of all, this yokai takes the form of a gigantic, hairy, dirty foot and it only has one goal. It smashes through your ceiling accompanied by a booming voice demanding that you clean the foot. Do what the yokai says and it will be on its way. Refuse and the stinking foot will go on a rampage, destroying your house. It’s your choice.

By - Jess.