It’s summer here in Japan, so that means I’m fighting a constant battle against almost supernaturally powerful mold. But did you know that there is an actual mold yokai? And a bunch of other sneaky creatures that could be crawling around your house, hiding in the walls and floorboards. Along with the even more terrifying rats and cockroaches of course. So keep reading to find out what seven yokai you should watch out for in your house!
Or, if you prefer watching videos, check out my YouTube video on the topic instead:
1. The Keukegen
The keukegen is basically the anthropomorfication of mold. This yokai’s name means fluffy hair appearance, but it’s a pun, because with different kanji, it can mean “a thing which is rarely seen”. I wish that was true for the mold in my house. The keukegen looks like a dog covered in long hair. But despite it’s cute appearance, it’s reportedly a kind of disease spirit, that lives in damp places and causes the inhabitants of the house to get sick. So basically, exactly like actual mold. The keukegen actually reminds me a lot of the kurokurosuke in My Neighbour Tototoro. I wonder if this yokai served as inspiration for them… What do you think?
2. The Akaname
The akaname is one of the most disgusting yokai you can find in your house. It’s name means filth licker and you’ll find out why in a second. It’s a small goblin like creature with a giant red tongue. It uses it to lick up the dirt in your bathroom. So if you let your bathroom get too dirty, you can expect a visit from this yokai, for an all you can eat filth feast. One second…. nope still no akaname in my shower room…
The akaname is one of the most disgusting yokai I know of. It’s name means filth licker and you’ll find out why in a second. It’s a small goblin like creature with a giant red tongue. It uses it to lick up the dirt in your bathroom. So if you let your bathroom get too dirty, you can expect a visit from this yokai, for an all you can eat filth feast. To learn more about this gross yokai, you can check out my article here!
3. The Zashiki-warashi
The Zashiki warashi is a yokai whose name means guest room child, after the zashiki, a kind of room found in traditional japanese houses. This yokai looks like a small child, with bobbed hair, traditional japanese clothing and a red face. It’s friendly towards humans, but mischievous, making its presence known through nighttime noises, or by leaving footprints behind.
For those families who are lucky enough to have a zashiki warashi in their home, it can be a protective spirit, if you treat the zashiki warashi well, it will bring you prosperity, if it’s unhappy, your family will fall sick. This yokai is pretty popular in Japanese media these days. Just this year there was a really cute anime called Zashiki Warashi no Tatami Chan, which I recommend you watch. There are also some traditional ryokan where this mischievous yet benevolent ghost can still be found. I would love to take you guys to visit one someday!
4. The Yanari
The shaking of furniture and houses for no reason was once believed to be caused by a creature called a yanari, whose name means house squeaker. This tiny yokai looks like a little oni. There are also some legends that say they are the cause of the squeaks and creaks you can hear at night in wooden houses. The funny thing is, those squeaks you hear in houses today are still called yanari. The yanari sounds are caused by the settling of the wood beams due to changes in humidity and temperature, especially common in new houses. But these yanari are also bad, as they can be a sign of a defective house! So if you experience a lot of either type of yanari, you should probably be worried.
5. The Sakabashira
The Sakabashira is the angry tree spirit of a trunk that was used to make a house pillar. Its name means upside-down pillar, because if the tree was placed opposite the direction it grew when it was alive, then it becomes full of rage. This can happen either as a mistake when building the house, or as a delberate curse on the family living there.
The sakabashira causes creaking and moaning sounds, just like the yanari. Some legends say that the leaf spirits of the trunk actually transform into yanari. Sometimes they also call out the phrase, my neck hurts. They cause misfortune on the inhabitants of the house, making them lose the family fortune, or fall ill.
Interestingly, some buildings actually install a beam in the wrong direction on purpose however, due to another folk belief that a small flaw in a building’s construction will ward off greater evil. The Toshogu shrine in nikko is an example of this, with its final pillar installed upside down, as is the imperial palace.
5. The Himamushi Nyudo – The anti-studying yokai
The himamushi nyudo is a yokai who lives in your floorboards. It looks like a small humanoid, but with a hairy body, sharp claws, a long neck and a bald head. It also has a long tongue which it would use to lick lamp oil, back when people used oil lamps. Himamushi nyūdō’s name contains a number of puns. The author Toriyama Sekien said that this yokai’s name was originally himamushiyo nyūdō (“monks who waste time at night”). Over the years, the pronunciation gradually morphed, and it became associated with hemamusho nyūdō—a popular Edo period word doodle in which a monk is drawn using the characters in its name: ヘマムショ入道.
I really like this one for its habit of scaring students who are studying too late into the night. It sucks up all their lamp oil, so their room is plunged into darkness. Honestly, back in college, I would have loved to be able to go to my professor and tell them I couldn’t do the assignment because a himamushi nyudo turned out all my lights.
7. The Nando-baba- The Shy Yokai
No, this yokai has no connection with the fast food chain, haha. She has the appearance of little old woman in ragged, dirty clothing. The Nando-baba lives in closets, sheds, or storerooms, dark, dirty places. She is very shy, and harmless to humans. If you find her, she will be as scared as you are, and run out of the room screaming, chasing people around the house. Just bop the poor Nando-baba on the head with a broom, and she’ll get confused and go to hide under the floorboards. The Nando-baba may have been a god once, a kind of household protector spirit, but as she was forgotten, she turned into shy, sad yokai instead.