A-Yokai-A-Day: Okikumushi

Well, the Kickstarter blew up! In less than twenty four hours we passed 400% funding, and we are now approaching 500%! That’s much faster than my two previous Kickstarters. I think it goes to show that yokai are becoming more and more well known around the world, and that more and more people want to learn about and share this fantastic folklore!

Now, on to A-Yokai-A-Day!


Toriyama Sekien’s Sarakazoe

Today’s yokai is an interesting one because of its relation to a yokai we looked at recently as part of my Patreon project. In August, we looked at the Three Big Ghost Stories of Japan. One of these, Okiku, is so famous that she spawned a number of other yokai. While Okiku has appeared on A-Yokai-A-Day before, the new painting of her will appear in The Book of the Hakutaku, along with the other ghosts we looked at in the Patreon project.

Toriyama Sekien included a yokai based on Okiku in his book Konjaku gazu zoku hyakki: the sarakazoe, or “dish counter.” Sarakazoe doesn’t really differ much from the original tale of Okiku, so it may have just been Sekien’s attempt at “classifying” the type of ghost that Okiku became when she died, rather than calling it an “Okiku ghost” or something like that.

Okikumushi from Ehon hyaku monogatari

The other famous yokai derived from Okiku is the okikumushi, or “okiku worm.” This yokai appeared in the Ehon hyaku monogatari, published in 1841.

Okikumushi is sort of a post scriptum to Okiku’s story. In most versions of her story, her ghost is laid to rest when a priest shouts, “TEN!” after she counts her ninth plate and before she can unleash her death scream.

In the story of okikumushi, it is said that after her death, her spirit came back as a type of bug, which could be seen crawling around the well where she drowned. Apparently this bug had features that resembled her, and were spawned by whatever part of her grudge remained on this world.

Interestingly, the okikumushi is a real insect. It’s a nickname for Byasa alcinous, or the Chinese windmill. Apparently in the late 18th century this nickname caught on. The chrysalis of this insect was thought to look like a tied up woman’s body. Since legend has it that Okiku was tied up and thrown down the well of Himeji castle, and because these caterpillars were seen in large numbers around the castle’s well, the name stuck. For many years, these bugs were even sold as souvenirs to tourists at shrines near the castle!

Although it’s a bit of a weird tale, it’s not unprecedented. The idea of the souls of the dead having an effect on the shape of living animals was already well circulated. A famous species of crab—the Heikegani—was named for its shell which resembles like a scowling samurai’s helmet. Legend was that the spirits of the slain Heike soldiers turned into these crabs, giving them their remarkable appearance.

No doubt whoever came up with the idea of okikumushi was well aware of her tale’s popularity. Maybe he or she sought to cash in on that and came up with this unofficial sequel to her story. The tourists liked it so much that the name stuck, and okikumushi became an indelible part of yokai folklore!


Okikumushi – from The Book of the Hakutaku

If you liked this story, you’ll definitely want to join my Kickstarter! Not only can you get The Book of the Hakutaku in paperback, ebook, and hardcover collector’s editions, you can also get yokai postcards, bookmarks, and other awesome stretch goals. Don’t miss out!


Greetings yokai fans!

It’s been a busy day, but it’s not yet midnight on August 31st and I’ve finished the final ghost for this month. Phew!

I’m not sure why, but I really like Kasane. Maybe it’s the brutal nature of her exorcism, but it’s just a fun story.

The illustration is something that you don’t get to see in the main story: the ghost of Kasane going after the 6 wives of her bastard of a husband. She’s often depicted in ukiyoe as a hideous ghost carrying a bloody sickle. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish her from Oiwa, because they both have messed up faces, but you can usually tell it’s Kasane when you see either the bloody sickle, or a bridge in the background. I find it interesting that Japanese ghosts have these little symbols sort of in the same way that Christian saints do. It makes it helpful to tell them apart that’s for sure!

This is a long one, so be forewarned!



Kasane originally appeared on my Patreon page. Become a supporter and help me make more illustrations and translations of ghost stories!


Greetings yokai fans!

August is almost over, and 2 more ghosts to go! I guess I won’t be sleeping for the rest of this month… Today’s story is #3 of Japan’s Top 3 Ghost Stories. Technically, Botan doro is actually a Chinese story. It was adapted into Japanese, with the names, places, and time period reimagined (Kyoto during the Onin War) for its Japanese audience.

In the 19th century there were popular theatrical versions of this story made for rakugo and kabuki. The kabuki story is the most famous version, and the main one you’ll find on the internet and in books. I posted it on my blog years ago, Lafcadio Hearn translated that version for his books, and it pretty much dominates the story.

I decided to go back a little further for this version and tell the “original” Japanese remake. I feel like it is a little creepier; in the kabuki version it’s a love story that carries on after death. In the first Japanese version, it’s just a ghost who happens to catch a human. A subtle difference, I know, but I feel like it’s a little purer. It feels more like a folk tale rather than an elaborate drama.

Anyway, here is the tale of Otsuyu, from Botan Doro.



Eager for more ghost stories? Join my Patreon project to help support me in creating these translations and illustrations!


Greetings yokai fans!

I hope you’re enjoying your final month of summer! Just now as the nights are starting to hint at slightly cooler weather on the horizon, I really feel in the mood for ghost stories.
Oiwa is the ghost from Yotsuya Kaidan, Japan’s most famous ghost story. It’s the godfather of all Japanese ghost stories, because even though it’s by no means the oldest, it is the most influential. Many of the tropes you see in present-day Japanese horror were established with this kabuki play.

Yotsuya Kaidan is a pretty long and twisted story, so in this post I tried to focus primarily on Oiwa herself, with her story being the focus (insomuch as her story revolves around her terrible husband). So the side plots are not included. Maybe one day I’ll have a chance to do a comic version of the whole of Yotsuya Kaidan…

Anyway that’s all I’ll say for now. Her story is pretty tragic so I’ll let it do the talking.



This post originally appeared on my Patreon page. Show your support for yokai and yurei by becoming a supporter!


Greetings yokai (and yurei) fans!Tonight I bring you Okiku, an amazing ghost story, and one of the most well known ghost stories in Japan. If you’re a fan of Japanese ghost movies, you can’t help but notice the similarities between this and modern ghost movies like The Ring. The influence of this story lives on strong today. I hope you enjoy it!

I’ll be in the UK for summer vacation for one week starting tomorrow, so there will be a brief pause between this post and the next one. But once I get back I’ll bring you the next ghost story right away! Until then, here is Okiku:



This post was originally featured on Patreon. If you like ghost stories and want to hear more, please consider joining my Patreon project to help support my illustrations and translations.

August Yokai Plans

Greetings yokai fans!

August is here! August is of course the month of Obon, which is when the spirits of the dead return to the living world to be with their families. It’s the season when ghost stories play on late night TV, and when new horror movies come out. It’s the season of hyakumonogatari kaidankai!

Although I hate the heat, I love the mood. And I hope I can share some of that mood with you guys.

This month, instead of typical yokai, I am going to focus on yurei, or ghosts. I’ve done a few ghost stories in the past, and I actually did some of this month’s ghosts long ago on my blog, but it’s time for a refresher (and I’d also like to put them into this format, for inclusion in my next book).

This month we’ll be looking at four famous ghosts. The first three make up “The Three Great Ghosts of Japan”: Oiwa, Okiku, and Otsuyu. The final ghost, Kasane, is part of the “The Three Great Ghosts of the Edo Period,” which also includes Oiwa and Okiku, but leaves out Otsuyu (her story originally comes from China).

Kickstarter Plans

As of July, my Patreon project has produced 74 yokai! That’s amazing! This is all thanks to you guys and your generous support. At the end of this month, we’ll be at 78. I have said that once we reach 100 yokai, I plan on launching a Kickstarter to put them into a printed book, so now I am starting to make plans for that.

I’ll be launching a Kickstarter in October to raise the funds to cover printing costs, just like I did with my first two books. Since October is A-Yokai-A-Day month, it makes sense to use the extra attention my blog gets at that time to promote the Kickstarter.

The title of this book is going to be “The Book of the Hakutaku.” Each book so far has been based off of a yokai event or concept which I think is cool, and also hints at the idea of a book choc full o’ yokai. The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, of course, does that, and The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits does too, while also implying a darker, scarier tone. The Book of the Hakutaku was a list of all the yokai in the world, given by a hakutaku to the emperor of China long ago. I think that matches very well with the collection of yokai I’ve covered in the Patreon project. We’ve looked at a lot of yokai from India, China, even all the way from Zanzibar! in addition to native Japanese yokai. So just as the original Book of the Hakutaku contained yokai from all around the world, the Patreon project has covered yokai from all over. A fitting name, I think.

I’ll be putting the Kickstarter project together later this month and tweaking it throughout September to prepare for the October launch. Stay tuned to my blog, social media, and especially my Patreon page for more info on the project launch!

Yonaki baba

Greetings yokai fans!

It’s the end of the month, and I bring you the final yokai of this month: yonaki baba. She’s a pretty simple and straightforward yokai, which makes it much easier to translate. 🙂

I was first attracted to this yokai because of the outrageously silly illustration of it as it appears in the Buson youkai emaki (incidentally this scroll also gave us the outrageously silly shirime).

I used that as my model, as I like to stick to the source material as much as possible, but I did try to make her a bit more sad looking. The Buson nakibaba looks so happy, and I wanted to make it a bit more ambiguous as to whether she is mocking or genuinely sad for those she haunts, because the folklore doesn’t agree on whether it’s one or the other.

Anyway, here she is!

Yonaki babā

nakibabaaThis post originally appeared on Patreon.com. You can share in my joy and her sadness by becoming a Patreon supporter. Help support my yokai work for only $1 per month!