12/09/2014 08:46 am ET Updated Dec 09, 2014

The Brilliant Japanese Folklore That Inspires Anime (NEW BOOK)

Shinonome Kijin

The following is an excerpt from The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore, a collection of illustrations and richly detailed stories about the mythological creatures that have long existed in Japan.

How do we explain occurrences that don’t easily fit our everyday understandings of the way things work? When we ask who or what turned on the television, we are intimating that there is a living being or animated force interacting with us even though we cannot see it. We may visualize this force as a monster or a spirit or a ghost or a shape-shifting animal. In Japan such a force, and the form it takes, is often called a yokai.

And yokai, notoriously, take many different forms. They are commonly associated with folklore, and with small villages or old cities or deserted mountain passes, but they have also long populated literature and visual imagery. Today they are found throughout Japanese anime, manga, video games, movies, and role-playing games. Particularly in these latter formats, they have crossed oceans and continents to become part of popular culture in countries far from Japan. So what is a yokai? For now, let us just say that a yokai is a weird or mysterious creature, a monster or fantastic being, a spirit or a sprite. As this book will show, however, yokai are ultimately more complicated and more interesting than these simple characterizations suggest. Yokai may emerge from questions such as who turned on the television when nobody was around, but from there they take us on a kaleidoscopic journey through history and culture. Check out 8 weird and wonderful yokai below:

Japanese Monsters