Most Westerners grew up with chilling tales of graveyard ghouls and mysterious beasts that go bump in the night. But what about evil spirits that haunt the bathroom or skeletal whales that patrol the coast? Japanese culture is full of strange tales about bizarre creatures and supernatural beings. Here are 11 of the strangest.
The Skeletal Whale
The bakekujira, or “ghost whale,” (above) is a mythical beast said to live near the Western coast of Japan. The ghostly creature has no flesh, but is instead a massive whale skeleton that haunts the sea and frightens coastal residents. Unknown fish and birds accompany the bakekujira, and attempts to kill the beast prove fruitless.
The Toilet Paper Monster
As if using an unfamiliar toilet wasn’t unpleasant enough, folks in Japan have to worry about aka manto, a murderous spirit that lurks in public facilities. The red-caped aka manto places his hand under a stall (usually the last one) and asks the occupant if they prefer red or blue toilet paper. If the person chooses red, aka manto will slice their skin until their clothes turn red. Choosing blue will result in strangulation. Occupants who select a different color will be dragged the Netherworld, never to be seen again. The only way to avoid a terrifying death at the hands of aka manto is to say “no paper.”
The Filth Licker
Unlike the aka manto, the akaname is a useful bathroom-dwelling creature. Akanames creep out at night to lick the filth that accumulates in bathrooms!
The Monster Cat
Do you own a cat that is over 10 years old or at least 8.25 pounds? What about a cat with a long tail? If so, you just might have a bakeneko on your hands. A bakeneko, or monster cat, starts life as a normal feline but eventually transforms into a wicked creature capable of flying, talking, and walking about on its hind legs. Bakenekos also have the ability to create ghostly fireballs, shape shift, and even reanimate human corpses.
The Wind-Riding Weasel Brothers
Kamaitachi refers to a trio of weasel brothers that ride the wind and cut people’s legs with their razor-sharp claws. One of the weasels applies medication to the victims’ wounds, leaving affected men and women with nothing more than painful wounds and an uneasy feeling.
The One-Legged Umbrella
After months or years of service, an old umbrella might transform into kasa-obake, a self-aware umbrella with one eye, one leg, and a long tongue. However, don’t confuse kasa-obake with yūreigasa, a one-eyed, one-legged umbrella that hurls people into the sky on windy days.
The Watching Eyes
Mokumokuren are groups of eyes that stare down from paper sliding walls or tatami floor mats. In some stories, people who sleep beneath the watching eyes will awake to find their own eyes gone. In other tales, industrious Japanese remove the eyes and sell them to local surgeons.
The Animated Lump of Decaying Flesh
The nuppeppō is a smelly blob of rotting flesh that roams around deserted village streets at night. The animated lump of flesh has vague facial features and may even possess fingers and toes. Sound tasty? Legend has it that men and women who eat a nuppeppō will enjoy enteral youth.
The Long Necks
According to Japanese legend, rokurokubi are seemingly-normal looking humans with ability to stretch their necks to astounding lengths. Most rokurokubi attempt to hide their power, though some don’t even know about their supernatural stretching abilities.
The Man with an Eye in Place of His Anus
The shirime, a man with an eye in place of his anus, is perhaps the strangest supernatural creature on this list. Legend has it a samurai was walking down the street late one night when a man in a kimono asked for a moment of his time. The samurai was startled, but his surprise changed to terror when the man stripped down and bent over to show a large, glittering eye where his anus should have been.
The Possessed Objects
Tsukumogami is the idea that virtually any object, however mundane, can become self-aware once it is 100 years old or more. An animated tea caddy named tsukumogami reportedly helped one Japanese leader broker peace with an enemy, and several types of possessed objects have their own name. For example bakezōri is a possessed pair of straw zori sandals, boroboro-ton is a possessed comforter, kameosa is a possessed sake jar, and yamaoroshi is a haunted vegetable grater.