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Scariest Japanese Monsters to Haunt You

Japanese superstitions are deeply rooted in the history and culture of the people. Japan also has its fair share of creepy legends, ghost stories and local ghoulish monsters. Yokai (mythical spirits) and yurei (ghosts of the deceased) are part of local folklore for many centuries as far back as the 8th century in the Kojiki (“Records of Ancient Matters”), the earliest record of Japanese mythology that chronicles the creation of Japan. Check out some of the spine-chilling Japanese monsters to scare the living daylights out of you!



Kuchisake-onna – is a malevolent and malicious spirit or onryō in Japanese folklore. She has a face that is partially covered and carries a pair of scissors. This frightening spirit is said to have long straight, black hair, whitish skin, and beautiful except for the scar she bears. The legend of the kuchisake-onna tells us that she seeks out her potential victims and asks them if she is beautiful. If they respond with a “no”, she kills them with her infamous weapon. If her victim answers with a “yes”, she cuts the corners of their mouth to resemble her own disfigured scars. It is said that you can escape her wrath by describing her appearance as “average” or even by distracting her with candies or money.



Jorōgumo – literally meaning ‘woman-spider’ in English. It is a type of yokai that can shapeshift into a beautiful woman. The jorōgumo are said to appear to be seductive and cunning women who feed on men who fall for their trickery while trapping them in their webs and devouring their flesh. The legend of the jorōgumo is based on the real golden-orb weaver spider. When the spider reaches 400 years old, it will transform into a jorōgumo and begin praying on humans. Several folk tales are centered on it such as the Tonoigusa (Night Watchman’s Storybook), where a young warrior comes across a beautiful woman without realizing she is a yokai, he attacks her with a sword prompting her to flee to the attic where he finds a giant spider surrounded by rotting bodies.


Yamauba – or ‘mountain witch’ is the name of a yokai in Japanese folklore. They are depicted as old hags with bedraggled hair wearing grimy kimonos. They are known to offer shelter to exhausted travelers and killing them while they’re asleep. The yamauba are said to be normal women who ran away to the forest after being accused of crimes. Another story tells us that these yokai were abandoned by their families and left to die in the forest during times of hardship such as famine. They become angry and resentful, resulting in the practice of black magic and cannibalism.

Nuppeppo—an even more bizarre Japanese mythical creature is the nuppeppo, which appears to be an animated lump of human flesh and fats with a horrible body odor. This blob seems to have a face and some semblance of fingers and toes.

Nuppeppo are considered harmless and are thought to roam around empty streets at night, or in abandoned temples or cemeteries.



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Read all about Japanese immersion learning and studying abroad. Check out our eZasshi archives for more articles!