A-Yokai-A-Day: Suiko

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Suiko (水虎, すいこ)

The suiko (“water tiger”) is found in both China and Japan, and is often confused with the kappa, another yokai which it closely resembles. However, the suiko is a different beast altogether and must not be confused with the kappa! Suiko are far more dangerous, violent, and hot-tempered than their meeker cousins.

Suiko are said to have the body of a small child, covered in extremely tough scales like a pangolin’s, and sharp hook-like protrusions on their kneecaps which resemble a tiger’s claws. They live near riverbanks and in large bodies of water. Like kappa, they enjoy using their superior strength to pull humans into water and drown them, although unlike kappa they have no concern for the shirikodama… (if you don’t know what the shirikodama is, you should read the kappa entry on yokai.com or this blog!). Instead, suiko drain their victims of blood, like vampires, and then eat their souls (reikon) and return the dead, drained body to the surface.

Suiko rank above kappa in the hierarchy of water goblins, and as such are sometimes placed in charge of them, acting like oyabun, or yakuza bosses, with one suiko placed in charge of 48 kappa. In turn, suiko report to the dragon king, who lives in a palace at the bottom of the sea and reigns over all sea creatures. It is said that the reason suiko kill humans is to increase their prestige and their standing with the dragon king. (Likewise it is said that when kappa attack humans, it is to make them look better and increase their standing with their boss suiko.)

Suiko who live in very large bodies of water like Lake Biwa and Chikugo River are said to sneak out of the water at night to play pranks, knocking on doors and running away, or possessing humans and making them do things.

To keep a suiko at bay, you can lean a sickle against the side of your house, and sprinkle flax seeds or black-eyed peas on the ground outside of your house. For some reason, suiko feel afraid of these and will keep away.

There is one known method to kill a suiko, and it is not pretty. It involves the corpse of a person who has had their blood drained by a suiko. First, you build a small hut out of grass and straw in a field. Then, instead of burying the body, you put it on a wooden plank and place it in the hut. The suiko who sucked that person’s blood will be drawn to the hut, where it will start running around and around in circles — however, suiko have to ability to become invisible, so it is likely you will only hear it rather than see it. Then, as the body gradually decays, so will the suiko. By the time the body has rotted to completion, the suiko will have died, and its magic will have failed, and the decayed corpse of the suiko will become visible on the ground near the body.


4 thoughts on “A-Yokai-A-Day: Suiko”

  1. It’s possible but not super likely. Giant salamanders were considered magical animals in their own right, like tanuki and itachi. Suiko more likely came from Chinese superstitions.

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