Yokai - Tengu

Yokai, things that go bump in the night in Japan

Explore some Yokai myths with us

Halloween is almost upon us and in Japan they also celebrate Halloween. We keep the AnimeFanatika tradition by bringing you some Halloween creepiness. This time, we look at the Yokai. You have seen them in anime and if you did not know there are many different types of Yokai, then this article is for you.

Yokai is a broad category of monsters, ghosts and supernatural creatures that inhabit Japanese myths and legends. They can be good or evil, depending on the folklore. Their tales travelled from village to village for centuries. Somewhere invented by writers and playwrights. Now let us dive and have a look at some of the fearsome and freaky beings of myth!


Watching anime many of you might have heard the word ‘bakemono’! Subtitle writers usually translate this word into ‘monster’ but the word means ‘a thing that changes’ referring to shape changing. A bakemono’s true shape might be a fox (kitsune), a racoon dog (tanuki), badger (mujina), a cat creature (bakeneko) – even plants creatures like kodama exists and kami demons. There are many obake myths where demons shapeshift into beautiful women.



A nice anime that features these types of creatures is xxxHolic, which has a pipe-fox (Kuda-gitsune), a type of kitsune that lives in inanimate objects like smoking pipes and flutes. There are more Obake hidden in xxxHolic so it might be a nice anime to watch on Halloween.


Tengu (See the main picture) are a legendary goblin-type creature from Japanese myths. This yokai are by some to believe to be dog-like but most see them as a bird-like being, having human as well as avian characteristics. Imagine a goblin with a beak or long nose, well versed in martial arts and you have the Tengu.

Initially, in Buddhism these creatures were thought of as demons and harbingers of war. Later their reputation changed to beings that are protective mountain or forest spirits. They are now seen as complex beings with a good side. Tengu is often venerated at shrines and temples because they are seen as fierce protectors of mountains and forests.

In the cooking anime, Toriko the cook Tengu Branchi is a Tengu and in the 2013 version of the movie 47 Ronin the character that Keanu Reeves plays used to be an assassin trained by Tengu Monks.

There are many other monsters in Yokai in Japan to explore. Classic anime like xxxHolic, Yu Yu Hakusho, Inuyasha and Ghost Hunt will give you a great start if you want to chill this Halloween with some sugoi ‘spookiness’.

Here is a beautiful video with more information about the Kitsune. To watch, please follow the link: http://bit.ly/Kitsune_myth 

For any suggestions, opinions or requests please mail us at bentobox@animefanatika.co.za