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Random Creepiest Japanese Monsters & Demons (and The Stories Behind Them)

    Ubume

    Ubume

    [ranking: 10]
    The Ubume is a parenting figure and is usually associated with the image of a mother bird. She is the incarnation of a woman who didn't make it through childbirth. She is known to steal children and raise them as her own. Since she is represented by both a bird and a woman, she is ambiguous by nature. Nevertheless, she is commonly known as the "birthing woman." 

    Datsue-ba

    Datsue-ba

    [ranking: 6]
    Datsue-ba is a demon that takes the form of an old hag, or, more specifically, the Old Hag of Hell. In Buddhist folklore, she rips the clothes off those entering the underworld. People who arrive without clothes have their skin ripped off instead.

    Gashadokuro

    Gashadokuro

    [ranking: 9]
    Gashadokuro are giant skeletons that rattle around the countryside in the darkest hour of the night, bones clacking together. The Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound these yokai make, "gachi gachi," is the origin of their name.
    Gashadokuro don't go looking for victims, but will kill whomever they find as they wander about. They crush victims with their giant hands, then bite off their heads. These yokai are formed when hundreds of unburied dead with grudges against the living fuse together into one monster. They usually form after large battles or famines. Fans of anime will recognize gashadokuro from various films, including Pom Poko.

    Mokumokuren

    Mokumokuren

    [ranking: 7]
    When sliding paper doors (sh??ji) get holes in them, mokumokuren show up. Mokumokuren are disembodied eyeballs that peer through these holes. They aren't particularly dangerous, but still super creepy. They can also indicate an infestation of a more dangerous yokai.

    Gaki

    Gaki

    [ranking: 16]
    The gaki are hungry ghosts, and have their origins in Buddhism. The realm of hungry ghosts is one of the Six Paths of Transmigration, depicted in the Gaki Zoshi, an ancient scroll and national treasure of Japan. The Six Paths of Transmigration, which goes by numerous other names, including Cycle of Suffering, Cycle of Samsara, Six Paths of Reincarnation, and Six Realms of Existence, is a Buddhist idea borrowed from Hinduism, and describes the cycle of reincarnation and the six realms into which one might be reborn. 
    The six realms vary from quite nice (basically, heaven), to very unpleasant (hell). A person who transgressed in life might be reborn as a hungry ghost, whose souls are cursed with insatiable hunger for something, usually something disgusting like dead bodies or poop. 

    Ky??kotsu

    Ky??kotsu

    [ranking: 2]
    Ky??kotsu is a yokai found in wells. When travelers approach the well, the ky??kotsu pops out and curses them. These ghostly spirits form when a body is thrown down a well, rather than properly disposed, or when someone dies accidentally or commits suicide by falling down a well. Sadako from The Ring (Ringu) is a famous example of a Ky??kotsu. They are pretty much just out for vengeance.

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Japanese lore is dense with yokai, supernatural beings that come in many forms. These creatures - call them demons - might be monsters, ghosts, or goblins. Their nature ranges from benign to mischievous to seriously scary. Also known as ayakashi, mononoke, or mamono, yokai arose from many sources, some a product of ancient folklore, others from the imaginations of artists and writers of the Edo period (1603 - 1868).

The word yokai is a combination of yo, meaning "attractive, bewitching, calamity," and kai, meaning "mystery, wonder." "Demon" or "monster" is a rough translation for a word that, like many Japanese words, have no direct English equivalent. Yokai are more diverse than any single English word for such creatures.

This list reflects the creepiest of the yokai. It isn't an exhaustive Japanese demons list, and it doesn't include those more akin to creatures (such as the kappa) than demons. Here you'll find the creepy, the dangerous, and the weird. Some of these demons are reincarnated people or ghosts. Some, personifications of fear itself. All of them are super creepy.

Knowing the nature and history of yokai provides insight into Japanese horror films. Many yokai make appearances in movies, but their significance can be lost on western audiences. The two most famous Japanese cinema ghosts, Sadako from The Ring and Kayako from The Grudge, are both classic yokai. Many yokai also appear in the films of beloved animator Hayao Miyazaki. 

Read on to learn more, and vote up the yokai that most give you the heebie jeebies. 

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