A-Yokai-A-Day: Kirin

I want to start off today’s post with a special thank you to my wife. Normally, I try my best to translate my major posts, like artwork updates, into bilingual posts for my Japanese readers. However, due to the long hours required by this project in addition to my normal work hours, I don’t have nearly enough time to do that. I’m a slow translator, and after 11 pm (which is usually around when I finish the day’s yokai) I get even slower. So my wonderful wife has been giving up her lunch breaks to do the translations for https://matthewmeyer.net/ja and doing a much more beautiful job at it than when I try to do it myself. Anyway, thank you!

On to today’s yokai!


Even people who know nothing about yokai probably know this very famous legendary beast — if for nothing else than for the popular beer which takes its name from the creature. The kirin is one of the most majestic, beautiful, and magical beasts in Japanese folklore. Indeed, in the ranks of supernatural beings, the kirin is regarded as the most powerful (unlike in China where it follows the dragon and the phoenix) and is often even referred to as a kami, or a god in its own right. Kirin can be found everywhere — not just on beer cans — from temple carvings (like the Baku earlier) to paintings, and even in popular culture you can still find kirin everywhere (if you do a Google image search you can even find some kirin pornography — you have been warned). My favorite anime, Princess Mononoke, also features a very kirin-like god.

So what exactly is this most powerful and regal of beasties? Well, like yesterday’s hou-ou, it comes originally from Chinese mythology, where it is known as the qilin. It is said to have antlers like a deer, scales like a dragon, hooves like an ox, and a tail like a lion. Its body is often covered in fire. It can move in utter silence and walks on grass without disturbing it at all. It can also walk on water. When it walks it takes great care not to tread on any living thing, and it spreads serenity wherever it goes. It looks fearsome and wields great power, but it only punishes the wicked. It is completely vegetarian (vegan even??) and it only appears in areas ruled by a wise and benevolent leader.

In depictions, the Japanese kirin differs quite a bit from the Chinese qilin. Japanese versions tend to look more deer-like, or even closer to a mix of the Western dragon and unicorn; while Chinese versions resemble tigers. Its face is always serene-looking, and it is often seen with flames trailing from its body.

Interestingly, the Japanese word for “giraffe” is also kirin. Like the tapir, the aligator, and other creatures, the giraffe took its name from a mythological beast.



And now, as promised… these first 8 yokai are now available on my Etsy store! Please go check it out!

All the prints are signed and matted in a beautiful protective black mat which looks amazing and really makes the bright colors pop! They are printed using a state-of-the-art 7-color printer with archival inks on heavy-duty, acid-free, archival fine art paper. They are ready-to-frame and look absolutely gorgeous! They make great Halloween gifts for others (or for yourself) and it’s a great way to support your favorite 😉 artist!

The link is osarusan.etsy.com!

Leave a Reply