Last weel’s hell theme is now officially over, I hope you enjoyed it! This week we’re starting a new theme. This has been a popular theme among my Patreon backers, and we even had a few “theme months” where people request more of this type of yokai. So let’s take a look at some of the rarer and weirder ones that you don’t see as often. This weeks theme is: aquatic yokai!
The vast majority of yokai live in the wilds, on the edges of civilization. In Japan, that usually means the uninhabitable forested mountains which cover 73% of the country. A lot of yokai really are like the creatures in Princess Mononoke—strange, scary things that live just out of the realm of civilized knowledge. This is natural; a common theme among folkloric monsters in every culture in the world is that they are creatures that we don’t know or understand. So what better place to come from that the dark and scary forests, where dangerous bears and wolves lurk? Who knows what else might be living in there, where humans cannot go?
Naturally, then, the ocean is a prime place to find monsters, for the same exact reason. Sea monsters are found just about in every culture. We can’t know for sure just what is in lakes, rivers, and the sea, so there might just be a monster there, right? In Japan, there is no shortage of aquatic yokai. There are a lot of giant sea monsters, like bakekujira, isonade, ayakashi, and koromodako. And there are a lot that have strange or silly stories, like wani and sazae oni.
Today we’re going to look at one in particular, the kōjin, aka samebito. One really cool fact about this yokai is that it is mostly known to the world thanks to the work of an Westerner, not a Japanese person. If you guessed Lafcadio Hearn you’re right! Hearn included this story in his book Shadowings, and attributes it to an old Japanese tale he discovered in another book, although his version is the main one that is known today. Kōjin are still quite well known in China as a variant of mermaids, but there are not many Japanese stories about them. Thanks to Hearn, this story became popular and wasn’t forgotten. Unfortunately, like in his story Mujina, he messed up the name a bit in his translation, so the incorrect reading of the name—samebito—is now more common than the actual reading—kōjin.
Click on the illustration below to read about kōjin, and join my Patreon project if you’d like to learn more about awesome aquatic yokai!