In Japanese myth, kami are spirits of nature and/or the dead, both of positive and negative natures. Yokai are supernatural monsters again both good and bad. The variations and derivations of both classes of mythical entities are endless and possess great possibilities for story ideas as evidenced by the popularity of manga, anime and games that feature such creatures. I’ve incorporated both kami and yokai in my novel and in a few of my short stories. One aspect of both that is repeated in different creatures is the ability to shape-shift.
Of course, most of these spirits and monsters are impressive and scary. However, in researching my novel, THE SIXTH PRECEPT, I came across certain Japanese mythological creatures that sounded, well, ridiculous.
In my novel, dragons, spider demons (Jorogumo),corpse-eaters (Jikininki), giant centipedes (Ōmukade), ogre-demons (Oni), monkey-tiger-snakes (Nue) and other fearsome monsters strike terror and disgust into the hearts of my characters. However, some of the descriptions I came across in the huge lists of Japan’s mythical beasties were not what I expected. I admit, I was tempted to use some of them in the story but chickened out. They were just too weird and/or funny. Someday I’m going to have to look up how these crazy characters originated.
Akaname – The spirit who licks untidy bathrooms. Yum!
Furu-utsubo – Animated jar. I can’t even visualize this.
Ittan-momen – A possessed roll of cotton that attempts to smother people by wrapping itself around their faces. Seriously?
Kameosa – A possessed sake jar. See above.
Kasa-obake – A possessed paper umbrella monster. Why?
And my favorite– Uma-no-ashi – A horse’s leg which dangles from a tree and kicks passersby. Ouch! Now this lends itself to comedic possibilities although it may, in fact, be very dark and evil.
Kami and yokai are different from gods. The Japanese have at least a triple-threat pantheon of all kinds of supernatural beings. There’s even a matching cryptid to our own Bigfoot called a hibagon. I reference kami in THE SIXTH PRECEPT many times and have created yokai characters in the still-being-written sequel, WARRIORS OF THE LIGHT.
Now I swear I read somewhere (but can’t find the reference now) that there was a possessed wash rag included with these other creatures. A possessed wash rag. Remember that the next time you forget to clean out that old, moldy dish towel. You never know what could really be lurking there.