A-Yokai-A-Day for the Month of October: Kawauso

Like yesterday’s yokai, today’s yokai is a magical animal with shape-changing abilities. These kinds of animal yokai, including foxes, cats, snakes, wolves, spiders, dogs, and badgers, are called hengeyokai. I did a small illustration of today’s yokai last year on one of the Hyakki Yako panels, but it’s such a cute one that I thought it was worth expanding. So here it is:


Kawauso is the Japanese word for a river otter. Like other hengeyokai, the kawauso is sometimes kind and playful, sometimes mischievous, and sometimes dangerous. One of the most common depictions of the kawauso in Japan is as a young boy, or in otter form but dressed as a young boy. Apparently they like to shape shift into cute, poor children in beggar’s clothes and sneak into sake store to try to buy liquor. When asked its name or where it came from, the yokai just replies in grunts or squeaks — that’s how you know it’s really a kawauso and not a boy.

While they’re usually nonviolent, in other stories, kawauso have been known to dress up in ladies’ clothing and hide in a castle moat. When young men come to court the ladies in the castle, the kawauso lures the unsuspecting gentlemen over to “her” and then “she” eats them up. So keep that in mind and be careful of strange ladies hanging around moats…



Matted prints will be available on my Etsy store pretty soon, so please check back again later this week. If you’re interested in buying the original, please send me an email via my contact form.

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