A couple things for today: first, here is today’s yokai! 😉 Secondly, stay tuned later today, for I will be posting instructions on how to submit your guesses for the Hyakki Yagyō poster contest! So check back here later in the day for details about that.
Tonight is the night of one of the annual local festivals near my wife’s parents’ home. We always go there, visit her extended family, and then head to the local shrine where there are food stalls, game stalls, and tons of taiko drumming. Mixed with the perfect October air, the smell of the fragrant kinmokusei trees, and the secluded, rural, mountain valley shrine atmosphere, this is one magical night. Today’s yokai was inspired by that festival. Hope you enjoy it!
Translation: monster cat, ghost cat
Habitat: towns and cities
Diet: carnivorous; fish, birds, small animals, and occasionally humans
Appearance: Cats, feral and domestic, are found all over Japan: in houses as pets, on farms as exterminators, and in cities and towns as strays. When cats live to an old age, they begin develop supernatural powers and transform into yokai. Bake-neko begin their supernatural life looking almost identical to an ordinary housecat. Soon they begin to walk about at on their hind legs. As they age and their powers increase, they can grow to be very large, sometimes as big as a full-grown human.
Behavior: Bake-neko possess great shape-shifting abilities and frequently disguise themselves as smaller cats or humans – sometimes even their own masters. While in disguise, they like to dress up as humans with a towel wrapped around their head and dance around merrily. Many learn to speak human languages. They can eat things that are much bigger than they are, and even poisonous things, without any difficulty at all. It is even possible for a bake-neko to eat its own master and then take his form, living on in his place. If they do not kill their owners, they often bring down great curses and misfortune upon them. They can summon ghostly fireballs and are known to accidentally start house fires, their tails acting like torches on any flammable materials in the house. They also have the disturbing ability to reanimate fresh corpses and use them like puppets for their own nefarious purposes. They are generally a menace to any house they live in or near.
Origin: Bake-neko can come into being as a result of a number of things, but the most common reasons are by living long-life (generally over 13 years), growing to a certain size (over 3.75 kilograms), by licking up large quantities of lamp oil. A telltale sign that a cat may be close to becoming a bake-neko is believed to be an exceptionally long tail. This superstition led to the custom of bobbing a cat’s tail at an early age to prevent it from growing supernaturally long and transforming into a yokai.
Interested in learning more about bake-neko and other yokai? Check out my book, The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, on Amazon.com and learn the story behind over one hundred other bizarre monsters!