Saturday, August 22, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
An Inugami (lit. “dog god”) is a familiar spirit that looks like a dog and acts as a protective guardian. Inugami are extremely powerful and loyal, and they are known to carry out acts of revenge on behalf of their “owners.” They can also exist independently, and under some circumstances they may turn against their owners. Inugami also have the ability to possess humans.
Kami-kiri (lit. “hair-cutter”) are ghostly spirits known for sneaking up on people and cutting all their hair off, particularly when they are unknowingly engaged to marry a yokai, spirit or other supernatural creature posing as a human. These hair-cutting attacks are intended to delay or prevent weddings between humans and otherworldly beings, which are typically doomed to failure.
Ouni is a mountain hag with a mouth stretching from ear to ear and a thick coat of long, black hair covering her entire body. According to an old Niigata prefecture legend, Ouni appeared one day to a group of women as they were spinning hemp into yarn. After accepting the hairy hag’s offer to help, the women watched in surprise as she repeatedly placed raw hemp fiber into her mouth and pulled out finished yarn. After quickly producing a large quantity in this way, Ouni stepped outside and suddenly disappeared. Legend has it that she left footprints in the nearby rocks, which can still be seen to this day.
In ancient Aomori prefecture legends, Uwan is a disembodied voice that inhabits old, abandoned temples and homes. When a person enters a haunted building, the formless spirit belts out an ear-piercing “Uwan!” (hence the name). The voice is only audible to people inside the building — those standing outside hear nothing. Uwan consists only of sound and poses no physical danger.
Ancient Japanese legends are rife with examples of formless yokai like Uwan, which consist of nothing but sound, light or other natural phenomena. In the Edo period, however, these yokai assumed physical bodies as artists incorporated them into their work.
Nure-onna (lit. “wet woman”) is a fast-swimming amphibious creature with the head of a human female and the body of a gigantic snake. Her appearance varies slightly from story to story, but she is usually described as having beady, snake-like eyes and long, sharp claws and fangs. Nure-onna is typically seen at the water’s edge, washing her long, flowing hair. In some stories, she carries a small child, which she uses to attract potential victims. When a well-intentioned person offers to hold the baby for Nure-onna, the child attaches itself to the victim’s hands and grows heavy, making it nearly impossible to flee. In some stories, Nure-onna uses her long, powerful tongue to suck all the blood from her victim’s body.
Ushi-oni (lit. “cow devil”) is a malevolent sea monster with the head of a bull and the body of a giant spider or crab. It is most often encountered in the coastal waters of western Japan, particularly in Shimane prefecture, where it is feared for its vicious attacks on fishermen.