Yokai Street is a site for learning about and celebrating yokai, as well as their stories. Here, I collect Japanese folklore on yokai, write articles about the yokai I’m researching, and post my own stories inspired by yokai. However, the street that inspired this site’s creation is real, and it’s in Kyoto!
The real Yokai Street lies at the northernmost edge of the old capital of Kyoto. The street’s actual name is Ichijo Dori, which translates literally to “first street”. The entire shopping district is also known as the Taishogun Shopping Street. Here is the official site: http://kyoto-taisyogun.com
The Origins of the Real Yokai Street
As the northernmost street of the old capital, the street was home to a legend, recorded in the Tsukumogami Chronicle. According to the legend, during the Koho Period, there was a massive cleaning of Kyoto. The old tools thrown away were angered, so they transformed into yokai. They then paraded through the night in the Hyakki Yagyo, or the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. The location of this parade? Ichijo Dori, or Yokai Street!
To find out more, there is an article on yokai legends in Kyoto here.
In the modern era, as a traditional shopping street Ichijo Dori was having difficulty competing with modern shopping malls. The street’s shops were going out of business. Thus, to fight back, at Ichijo Dori they embraced their yokai lore, changing their name to “Ichijo Yokai Street”.
What to do there?
Ichijo Yokai Street is full of hidden statues of yokai. Flute music plays from hidden speakers, filling the street with a mysterious atmosphere. Each shop has created their own yokai mascots. You can even eat black “yokai ramen” at the local noodle restaurant, coloured by squid ink.
The street is even home to a small yokai museum. There, you can visit a haunted house, learn about the different types of demons and even draw your own.
On weekends there is a yokai themed market, where you can buy yokai goods. And, every year in October, they host their own Yokai Night Parade, when everyone dresses up like yokai and parades down the street! (see my article on the Yokai Parade)
How to get there?
Yokai Street, or Taishogun Shopping Street, does not actually run the whole length of Ichijo Dori. Its location is marked rather vaguely on Google Maps, but most of the yokai themed shops and statues can be found between the crossroads of Ichijo Dori and Nakadachiuri Dori, running all the way up until its intersection with Nishioji Dori.
As with most places in Kyoto, the easiest way to get there is using public transportation. The closest station is Kitanohakubaicho on the Randen line, a three minute walk to the street. You can also go to Emmachi Staion on the San-in line, which is a bit further, more like a 15 minute walk (this is what we did). The closest bus stop is Kitanotenmangumae, which may be more convenient for access from different locations around Kyoto, as the bus network in Kyoto is more developed than the train system.
Since Yokai Street, or Ichijo Dori, as it will appear on street signs, is the first street to the north of old Kyoto, it is quite near Nijo castle, so the two could be combined in a single sight-seeing day. (You may have noticed the street numbering system of old Kyoto, which is still in use, Ichijo translates to “first street”, while the Nijo, of Nijo castle refers to the “second street”, as counting from north to south.)