Hishaku & Hinoshu

Greetings yokai fans!

I hope you are all having a good holiday. New Years is just around the corner and I am preparing to head back to Japan to continue working on yokai!

Today I am posting the next set of microbial yokai. This posting covers two main types of these yokai, shu and shaku. We saw a kan no mushi last time and I talked a bit about that… Shu and shaku are hard to translate, so I ended up leaving their names as shu and shaku. The reason is because these are different types of bugs, and they are so tied in with Chinese magic that is becomes very hard to accurately translate them. I’ll try to do a bit of explanation here, before the posts.

Shaku have defined shapes and forms. They infect specific parts of the body each time, and are pin-pointable. Their illnesses are usually illness “of the blood” (a vague term in Chinese medicine, which I’m not advocating here, but just describing as the yokai are described in Edo-period textbooks!). The main idea behind this “theory” is that blood can become too hot or cold, or too slow, or too thin, and it causes various ailments. Shaku cause pain deep within the body. Shaku are tied to “in” (i.e. yin), the cosmic force of negativity and shadow.

Shu, on the other hand, do not have definite forms. They collect and dissipate, causing problems as they take various shapes. Shu cause pain on the surface of the body usually. Their ailments are not of the blood, but of the “ki” (another vague concept, called “chi” in Chinese, related to words like “reiki” — it basically means “energy”). Shu are related to “yo” (i.e. yang), the cosmic force of positivity and light.

If that’s a bit confusing, don’t worry, it is! If you read The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits you’ll be a little familiar with in and yo and the cosmic forces, but that’s such a deep and confusing subject that it would take a whole other Patreon project to delve into its meanings. For our purpses, we just care about the yokai 😉 but it helps a bit to get a basic explanation of the energies we’re going to be talking about with these “disease yokai.”

Anyway, on to the yokai!

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Haimushi, Hashaku, and Kiukan

Greetings yokai fans!

I hope the polar vortext is not making you too uncomfortable. It’s quite chilly here!

Of course in the cold weather, everyone seems to be catching colds, so it’s so appropriate that this month we’re looking at these “disease” yokai.

Our first three are ready. Hopefully you won’t catch one of them!

Haimushi http://yokai.com/haimushi/

Haishaku http://yokai.com/haishaku/

Kiukan http://yokai.com/gyuukan/

This post was made possible by the generous support from my Patreon backers. If you like yokai and want to learn more, please consider pledging $1 per month to support my work.

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Greetings, yokai fans!

Tonight I bring you the jikininki. I included a creepy little tale that I really like! It’s based on Lafcadio Hearn’s story about the jikininki as well as an old story from Ugetsu Monogatari. It’s got just the right amount of creepiness to it. I think you’ll like it!


This post was made possible by the generous support from my Patreon backers. If you like yokai and want to learn more, please consider pledging $1 per month to support my work.

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Greetings yokai fans! And happy Thanksgiving!

On Thanksgiving my mother always pull old decorations out of the attic, such as a cornucopia, a teddy bear riding a sled, and some cute little sewn mice wearing pilgrim hats, among other things. These are Thanksgiving staples, and have been in my family since as long as I can remember; probably even before I was born. But every year it’s a welcoming sight to see the same old decorations layed out for Thanksgiving.

If this were old Japan, some of those things would probably become tsukumogami. I can imagine those little mice running around, stabbing at wooden turkeys and plastic fruits with their miniature forks and knives…

Today’s yokai sort of fits that theme, with a little bit of added mischief (“Hey! Who moved this piece?! I know it was one of you…”). It’s not Thanksgiving-related itself, of course, but it has that same quality. As a kid I always wanted to play with those objects, but since they were old I was told they weren’t toys for me to play with. Just like the kaichigo would be told about the precious shells he is playing with. I think the colors are quite Thanksgiving-y as well, so it’s a good post to share today.

You can read the post on yokai.com too: http://yokai.com/kaichigo/

This post was made possible by the generous support from my Patreon backers. If you like yokai and want to learn more, please consider pledging $1 per month to support my work.

Become a Patron!

A-Yokai-A-Day 2016 Lineup

Well, A-Yokai-A-Day for 2016 is officially over.

I’d like to take this chance to one more time plug my Patreon project. If you enjoy A-Yokai-A-Day and want to get the same kind of thing year-round instead of just October, you will love my Patreon project. You can subscribe for as little as $1 a month, and it gets you access to my sketches and backstory for each yokai. At higher levels, I will mail you postcards with original yokai doodles on them each month, or even send you a new yokai print every month! And all backers get input on which yokai I paint next, so if you are impatiently waiting for me to complete your favorite yokai, this is how you get me to do it!


In case you missed any of the entries, here is a list of all the yokai featured on the site last month. Click below to read any of the entries you missed:


A-Yokai-A-Day 2016: Tatarimokke

Hello everyone! Tonight is the first of October, and for this site that means it’s time for A-Yokai-A-Day! Every day this month I will highlight a different yokai on this blog. Our first yokai comes as a request from my … Continue reading

Maneki neko

A-Yokai-A-Day: Maneki neko

While we had owls yesterday, today I want to showcase another Halloween staple: cats! Although this cat is not bad luck like a black cat, but instead is a symbol of very good luck. In fact, you’re probably already familiar … Continue reading


A-Yokai-A-Day: Abe no Seimei

Owls and cats are of course staples of Halloween lore, but what about the people who use them? That’s right, I’m talking about wizards, witches, and warlocks! This week I will be detailing the most famous Japanese wizard and some of … Continue reading

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A-Yokai-A-Day: Katashiro

Today we continue with our “wizard week” theme. While we saw Japan’s most famous wizard last night, for the rest of the week we will be looking at a number of magical spells. Today we’ll start with a common type … Continue reading


A-Yokai-A-Day: Wara ningyō

Another day, another yokai! Today we continue wizard week with another type of doll. While we looked at paper dolls yesterday, today’s is a straw doll called wara ningyō. Like other dolls, wara ningyō can be used as purification objects. They … Continue reading


A-Yokai-A-Day: Shikigami

What kind of witch or wizard would be complete without a familar—that little helper animal that is used and abused by the spellcaster and performs all kinds of tasks for its baster? Today on A-Yokai-A-Day we dive deeper into wizard … Continue reading


A-Yokai-A-Day: Ichijama

We’ve spent a lot of “wizard week” looking at the tools of the trade—paper dolls, stray dolls, familiar spirits—as well as the main man himself, Abe no Seimei. Now that you know all about what Japan’s sorcerers use, it’s time … Continue reading


A-Yokai-A-Day: Aka Manto

Happy Halloween! It’s my favorite day of the year, and also one of the reasons I ever got into yokai in the first place. A-Yokai-A-Day was started as a Halloween celebration, so it’s always a little bittersweet when I post the last yokai of the month. But I’m excited to share with you tonight’s awesome story!

Towards the end of the month, I like to focus on the scarier end of the yokai spectrum, which is why we’ve seen a few creepier entries over the past couple of days. Something that is requested a lot, and which I am always happy to cover, is urban legends—toshi densetsu in Japanese. I’m often asked if urban legends like Hanako-san and Kashima Reiko (and even urban legends with older roots, like Kuchisake onna) qualify as yokai. My answer is always a resounding YES! In fact, I think urban legends are the perfect analogy to yokai in the modern day.

Yokai started out as explanations for the unknown, and were gradually explained away by science—sort of a god-of-the-gaps (or in this case maybe ghost-of-the-gaps works better). Over time, though, they changed from being just-so-storie, morality tales, and genuine superstitions into stories made for entertainment. Certainly some superstition still existed; part of their attraction is that they have that air of believability. And isn’t that exactly what an urban legend is today? We shake our heads and laugh that you might wind up in a bathtub full of ice, missing a kidney, but there’s that nagging spot in the back of our minds that thinks, “Well… it’s not like it couldn’t happen…” That feeling right there is the source and essence of what it means for something to be “yokai.”

Urban legends and even creepypasta aren’t just like yokai. They are modern day yokai, moreso than anime or manga, video games, Pokemon, Yokai Watch, and any other pop culture property. Urban legends are true folklore, because they are adapted to fit every locale they pop up in, and they really can’t be traced to any one source, and even when there is historical precedent, the stories are larger than their humble origins. They are rumors that have grown a life of their own and spread beyond their original parameters, becoming something much bigger than they were. It’s the modern day expression of whatever part of human nature caused us to invent ghosts and goblins back in days of yore.

So on to today’s yokai. Along with the ones I listed above, Aka manto is one of the most well known and highly requested urban legend. It seems like every one has heard of it or a version of it from their own school, or at least from a friend’s or a cousin’s school, and so on like that. Even as a non-Japanese, it feels so familiar and so believable that it wouldn’t be out of place in an American elementary school. It might be the location (along with Hanako, there are a few other memorable yokai that live in bathrooms, like kanbari nyudo and kurote); it might be the fact that it relies on a riddle (and the riddle is different from version to version); it might be the fact that the true shape of the killer is unknown; but there is a special charm to the story that makes it universal and gives it real staying power.

Click below to read about this most famous of bathroom monsters:

Aka manto

Aka manto