10 Japanese Demons and Monsters from Japanese Mythology

10 Japanese Monsters that will kill you

Japanese mythology has a lot of weird and absurd monsters. The Japanese monsters are getting quite popular for the kappa to the kasa-obake. Behind the tales though lies quite monstrous and deathly beasts that have not been so much popular yet.


Yuki OnnaYuki Onna Japanese Demons Photo credit: Sawaki Suushi

In Japan, the monsters may have different personalities based on which part of the country they are from: The nice and kind one in one part maybe deathly and malicious in the other parts, similar to the description of ‘Yuki Onna’ or ‘Snow Woman”.

Though different tales about her, the common description of her is that she is white like snow, wears a white kimono and usually had black or white hair. Also, she is extremely beautiful.

The first record of the story of Yuki Onna, the 3 meter or 1 ft lady was that she vanished in the snow when someone approached to talk to her. Other say that she is a lady who asks for hot water or cold water. Cold water causes her to swell up and hot water melts her. Some even say she is a princess of the moon who got bored and came to earth but got stuck and couldn’t return back.

But all her tales are not kind and gentle. In one version she is a vampire lady who loves to freeze her victims and extract their soul. In another part she attacks those who reply back to her and in another she attacks those who don’t reply to her. The reason why she attacks is not fixed that is why it is interesting.




Yamato-no-Orochi was an eight headed monster with eight tails and body long enough to cover eight valleys. It also couldn’t count nine. The tale begins with the storm god, Susanoo, who was a bit mischievous probably because he was made from the snot of the creator god, Izanagi. He was thrown to earth for sometimes because he caused some problem in the heaven. When he was in earth and wondering what to do, he came across a woman and her daughter crying over the river. He knew that there was a monster that devoured the family’s daughter every year and this time he was take away the last remaining daughter. He agreed to save the daughter in exchange of the daughters hand in marriage.

The plan to defeat the monster was simple. The elderly would couple build a large fence with eight gates for each of the head of the monster and inside the gate was strong sake. In Japanese folklore, the monsters love sake.

When the dragon finally came to visit, he did drink the sake and got very drunk. When he was out of his sense, Susanoo cut the dragon into pieces. He was so happy with himself that he built a palace in Suga for him and his new wife to live in.




All monsters don’t have to be deathly. Even a pig can take your life away. The monster is one of the most swift and efficient in Japanese mythology. It takes the form of a pig or a piglet. What it does is, it finds a person walking alone. It does not have teeth or claws to attack but when it takes a dash towards the person and passes through its legs, it takes away the soul of the person too.

There aren’t many things to be told to warn but to know if it is the monster pig that’s taking the dash, notice that it doesn’t have an ear and does not cast a shadow.


The Gashadokuro

The Gashadokuro

Even though you are extra good or walk with oil cleaners, nothing can save you from the 27 meter (90 ft) skeleton. The Gashadokuro are not friendly. The big skeletal body of the gashadokuro (also known as an odokuro) is made up of the bones of people who have died either from starvation or warfare. If the deceased weren’t buried properly, their spirits are exactly what cause the problem. When 100 angry souls seek vengeance together over their corpses being left to rot on a battlefield, a gashadokuro is born.

The giant skeletons chase down stray humans with great persistence, catch them, and devour their skin, organs, and blood before sticking their bones onto it to become even bigger.

This time no riddle or tricks will save you. The only way to kill a gashadokuro is to make him run out of energy before he gets you. When all the vengeful energies that created him finishes, he’ll collapse.

But till that happens, you have a few ways to avoid his attack. The first is to make sure that he never sees you by listening for him. It is said by different accounts that you’ll hear ringing in your ears or the rattling of his bones when he is near you.

He comes only at night so hiding out until sunrise might be a way to be saved from him. Not going near a recent battlefield is also a god idea. But a thing to remember, a gashadokuro can partially disassemble itself to get into smaller places.


The Akkorokamui

The Akkorokamui Japanese Demons and Monsters

Like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, Japan has the Akkorokamui, which takes the form of a 110-meter-long (360 ft) octopus. But unlike the others it is a mean beast. The Ainu, an indigenous group of Japanese people, in early 1900’s claimed that the beast attacked three fishermen catching swordfish. It also released a nasty fluid that stank. That is why; the Ainu always carried weapons on their boats. Some people even today claim that the huge octopus is alive and well.

But the monster is bright red and can be spotted from far away. So, if you want to spot the monster and turn legend into reality, talking a look at the waters of Funka Bay would be good.



The Ikuchi belongs to a special brand of demon called the ayakashi. This monster appears above the surface of the sea. It is important because Japanese demons like to reside on the borders of things, a place where one thing transforms into another, and ayakashi are believed to be the monsters that border the sea and the air.

The Ikuchi is several kilometers long and  is shaped like an eel. 18th-century scholar Toriyama Seiken, who tried to catalog the various species of yokai (“supernatural monsters in Japan’s folklore”), wrote: “When boats sail the seas of Western Japan, they encounter a beast [Ikuchi] so large it takes 2–3 days just to sail past.”

The Ikuchi drips oil from its body, covering the body of the boat. If the sailors can remove the oil, they will survive but if not the boat will sink and they will die.


Mikoshi- NyudoMikoshi-Nyudo

All the monsters don’t appear as a scary beast. Some also come in human form but people realize it far too late. The mikoshi-nyudo’s which translates as “anticipating priest” takes the form of a wandering priest that travels mostly at night. He usually travels on quiet areas, where he can have a human meal.

You’ll have some warning if you encounter a mikoshi-nyudo. His neck will grow abnormally after you look into his eyes. He wants you to follow his gaze so you start looking up and the higher you stare, the higher he gets. He will get so tall that that you’ll fall over backward as you look at him. At that point, he’ll attack with his teeth and claws. If you try to walk off, he’ll stab you with bamboo spears.

Fortunately, these monsters have one major flaw. They don’t like it when you turn the game. Some say that you simply make direct eye contact, and when the mikoshi-nyudo ‘s head begins to ascend, you look downward toward his feet. Others state that the way to defeat him is to say mikoshita (“I see higher“), which also causes him to vanish.


Ushi- OniUshi-Oni

When you’re walking on a beach of Japan you need to be careful of not only glass or beached jellyfish but also the infamous ‘cow demon’ that loves to terrorize fishermen. The ushi-oni or ‘cow demon’ or ‘ox demon’ was legendary monster of Japan that hunted with the local nure-ona monster which was a beast with a woman head and snake’s body whose favorite pastime is to haunt fishermen.

No one knows what it looks like though. Different people of different places give description that is not similar. Some say it looks like an ox with the head of a crab, others say it looks spiderlike.  The Negoro-ji Temple in Kagawa depicts the creature with tusks and wings like a flying squirrel, while people in the Ehime Prefecture believe that it looks more like a Chinese dragon. The Chinese dragon version of the ushi-oni can be seen on the Uwajima Ushi-Oni Matsuri Festival. During this festival, ushi-oni floats that are 6 meters (20 ft) high are carted through the town. There are also fireworks, dance displays, and bullfighting at the festival.



All beast who pounce on people and eat them alive is not evil like otoroshi, a demon use to scare children. The otoroshi (also known as the odoro-odoro or odoro-gami) liked to make its home within Japanese shrines. In the shrines, there is the torii, large wooden gates around the entrance that separate the mundane from the spiritual. These creatures, long and hairy with tusks, waited on top of these gates to pounce upon people to eat.

But they ate only bad people. The people who are visiting the shrine for good purpose was not eaten while the ones with bad in its heart were eaten.


Shuten DojiShuten Doji

According to legend in Kyoto, the great ogre Shuten Doji (“the drunken boy”) was luring women into his castle in the mountains so that he could imprison and devour them. No emperor would sit and keep quite at this and so the emperor hired a samurai called Minaomoto “Raiko” Yorimitsu and five retainers to take out the troublesome beast. To avoid suspicion, they disguised themselves as Buddhist monks to hide their weapons and armor.

The samurai’s were visited by God’s in human form by on the way to the ogre’s castle. They gifted Raiko an enchanted helmet and some sake that could induce heavy sleep. This was useful when the group fooled the beast with their disguises and infiltrated the ogre’s keep. Raiko offered some of the sake to the creature in hopes of slaying it while it slept.

Unfortunately, Shuten Doji would turn into a wicked red demon when served sake. Even if it was beheaded, the ogre would live on to seek revenge. Raiko defeated the demon protecting himself with the helmet he had just received and brought it back to Kyoto.

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