The zashikiwarashi is a Japanese child spirit that’s supposed to bring good luck, and it’s supposedly been caught on video!
We’ve been telling our fine readers for literally years now about Yo-kai Watch, the Pokémon-esque game/manga/anime series that’s full of adorable yet mischievous collectible yokai monsters. And now that the series has been newly localised and adapted for the West, you’re finally going to see for yourselves what’s been driving Japanese kids to ritually torch bonfires of old Pokémon goods in favour of worshipping the new yokai overlords. Okay, we’re exaggerating, but only a little bit.
Of course, the success of any Japanese import into the Western market hinges on a heartfelt and thorough localisation process. It happened to Pokémon—Satoshi became Ash Ketchum, and many Pokémon were entirely renamed—and now it’s happening to Yo-kai Watch, too.
But is the very Japanese charm of the new franchise about to be seriously lost in translation?
The spirit world is highly revered in Japan. From sacred sites to encounters with shape-shifting animals, there are hundreds of tales involving other-worldly beings that hover around the shrines, temples and natural formations that dot the country.
This sense of mystery manifests itself in yokai; strange apparitions or supernatural monsters that exist in folklore and can often be seen in traditional woodblock prints. Ghoulish animals appear quite frequently, which has inspired one Japanese artist to create her own collection featuring mischievous cats, illustrating them as they get up to strange antics and perform magical stunts.
Cats in the yokai world are definitely still cute—just in a strange, creepy way!
With all the headlines Youkai Watch is grabbing these days, it’s easy to forget that these distinctly Japanese spirits can actually be pretty scary or, at the very least, pretty badass. But these legendary creatures have been around in myths and tales for quite some time, and there’s no doubt that they are nothing short of awesome, in one form or another.
And to help us remember just how cool youkai can be, one anonymous Internet user posted 19 ink illustrations online for the world to see. And once you do see them, we have no doubt you’ll be wishing for me, just like us!
In the mid-nineteenth century, a showman named P. T. Barnum exhibited an oddity named the Fiji mermaid. Barnum’s mummified mermaid, one of the most famous hoaxes of all time, is widely believed to have been the body of a young monkey sewn onto a fish tail, and had been bought from Japanese sailors for $6,000.
Ningyo (Japanese mermaids – the word literally means “person-fish”) have a long and interesting history, but they aren’t the only ancient fake taxidermy on show in Japan. Across the country are all kinds of other fascinating specimens: “mummies” of tengu, kappa and even dragons.
Some days, it seems like everything’s cuter in Japan. After all, this is the country where some construction crews feel if they have to shut down part of the street, the best barricades are the ones shaped like a procession of purple and pink kimono-wearing princesses.
There’s an exception to this rule, though, and it’s mermaids. In the West, they’re portrayed as enchanting beauties of the deep. In Japan, though, they were traditionally treated like yokai, ghostly monsters, as this collection of Japanese mermaid paintings has a few that would be better stars for horror movies than kid-friendly animated musicals.
Japan’s history has such a huge influence on its current trends. In fact, what is old is cool in Japan. Samurai, geisha and ninja are all perfect examples of how Japan loves to romanticize their history and how the past continues to play a role in present day culture. It’s surprising that entertainment in Japan isn’t constantly just remaking old stuff into new stuff! (Oh wait, they are?)
One of the most popular things in Japan right now is Yo-Kai Watch, which combines the thrill of Pokemon with monsters of Japanese folklore. But aren’t the monsters of Japan too scary for a children’s Pokémon-like game? If you haven’t figured it out yet…Japanese folklore is a weird and wonderful place.
Tokyo. Japan’s capital and home to roughly 12,790,000 people, making it the world’s most populous metropolis.
Running through this great city is one of the world’s most extensive urban rail networks, composed of surface trains and subways that carry some 40 million passengers daily. Cheap, safe and efficient, trains are undoubtedly the most convenient form of transportation in this concrete labyrinth—if you know how and when to use them.
Depending on what lines you take and when you take them, boarding a train in Tokyo can easily feel like voluntarily walking through the gates of hell.
This is especially true of the crowded cars of the morning and evening commuter rush and many people therefore try to avoid these trains when possible. This is not only because they are packed shoulder-to-shoulder with passengers, oh no. Even more unpleasant are the bizarre and unnatural creatures that lurk exclusively on these trains.