The ghosts and creatures that I will be dealing with are mentioned in chapter 10: Of Ghosts and Goblins from Hearns book entitles "Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan"  this book can be found online at

This section will simply be an index of some of the ghostly figures and goblins that are mentioned in this chapter.

Tanuki-Bozu:  In Japanese folklore,badger disguised as a Buddhist monk. He is believed to bring luck and wealth and is often enshrined in Japanese stores,though he may also take on various forms to waylay,deceive, annoy, or lead travelers to their destruction.
The Facts On File Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend:Anthony S. Mercantante
In Japanese folklore the Tanuki has physical strength far above normal and great supernatural powers. It can change shape at will. The Tanuki is a peculiarly mischievous creature taking all sorts of disguises to waylay travelers. In a priestly disguise, the Tanuki wraps itself in lotus leaves, with a lotus flower doing duty as hat. In present day Japan, a statue of a Tanuki is often stationed outside of a shop or restaurant, beckoning to customers to visit the establishment.

     - The fact that this creature is no longer something to be feared, and in fact was not believed in very strongly at the time this book was written shows the extent of Western influence on Japanese Culture.

Three Eyed Friar (Mitsu-me-Nyudo): This creature has much the same purpse as the Tanuki-Bozu.  It watched for unwary travelers at night.  One major difference is that it has a hideous eye at the top of its head.

Yama Uba (Mountain Nurse): This creature has a much more complex history than is hinted at in Hearns book.  Yama-uba usually appears as an old woman,with unkempt long and golden white hair, dressed in filthy and tattered kimono (usually red). Her mouth is sometimes said to stretch the entire width of her face, and some depictions give her a second mouth at the top of her head. She is able to change her appearance, though, and she uses this tactic to great success in capturing her victims.

Yama-uba preys on travelers who have become lost in her wooded lair. Her exact tactics vary from story to story. Sometimes, she changes her appearance to that of a beautiful woman or possibly one of her victim's loved ones. Other times, she retains her hag-like form and plays the part of a helpless old woman. Once she has gained her quarry's trust, she often closes and eats them then and there. She is able to animate her hair (or turn it to snakes in some legends) and use it to pull the prey into the maw atop her head. She may also offer to "help" the lost soul and then lead him to a dangerous area of the mountain where he falls to his death and allows her to feed.

Alternately, she may offer to lodge the victim in her hut. Once the luckless traveler is sufficiently fattened up, she pounces. In addition to killing adults, Yama-uba is often blamed for missing children, and parents use her as a sort of bogie man.

Despite her predatory nature, Yama-uba has a benevolent side. For example, she raised the orphan hero Kintaro, who became the famous warrior Sakata no Kintoki, a relationship that forms the basis for the noh drama Yama-uba. In this story, Yama-uba is portrayed as a loving mother, which has influenced some more modern tales to depict her as a matronly figure. Some even make her a representation of love. Other storytellers hold that she is simply a solitary wanderer who represents harmony with nature. A common thread in many stories is that yama-uba almost never turn away a good meal.

Legends of Yama-uba have existed since at least the Heian period. At this time, a village named Sabane built the Nenbutsu Toge bypass around a cave that was thought to house the witch. Some scholars place Yama-uba's origin in stories about times when great famine caused Japanese villagers to cast their elderly out into the woods for lack of food (others say they cannibalised the elderly). Yama-uba would thus be born out of the psychological undercurrent from such actions.

Yama-uba's legend is still very much alive in Japan. A late 1990s fashion trend called "Yamanba" took its name from Yama-uba, since those who followed it were said to look like a staple Noh mask, based on the mountain crone. 

Emma Dai-O -or- Great King Yama: He is often referred to as the ruler of the underworld in Buddhist mythology.  In both ancient and modern times, Emma is portrayed as a large man with a scowling red face, bulging eyes and a long beard. He wears traditional robes and a crown on his head that usually bears the Kanji ?, which stands for "king."  Yama was understood by Buddhists as a Death deity, supervising the various Buddhist "hells".

Jizo: One of the most beloved of all Japanese divinities, Jizo works to ease the suffering and shorten the sentence of those serving time in hell. Jizo can appear in many different forms to alleviate suffering. In modern Japan, Jizo is popularly known as the guardian of unborn, aborted, miscarried, and stillborn babies.  These roles were not assigned to Jizo in earlier Buddhist traditions from mainland Asia; they are instead modern adaptations unique to Japan. At the same time, Jizo serves his customary and traditional roles as patron saint of expectant mothers, children, firemen, travelers, pilgrims, and the protector of all beings caught in the six realms of reincarnation.

     -This diety has an extremly complicated history and is a very important aspect of Japanese culture.  In order not to take up too much space I condensed the information.  I suggest you do your own outside reasearch to really get a handle on the importance of this diety.

Continue on to Images of Japan to see different representations of some of these creatures.


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