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Yōkai are a class of supernatural monsters, spirits and demons from Japanese folklore. The word 'Yōkai' is made up of the kanji for "bewitching"; "attractive"; "calamity;" and "spectre"; "apparition"; "mystery"; "suspicious".

They can also be called ayakashi (妖), mononoke (物の怪), or mamono (魔物). Yōkai range eclectically from the malevolent to the mischievous, or occasionally bring good fortune to those who encounter them.

Types

There are a wide variety of yōkai in Japanese folklore. In general, yōkai is a broad term and can be used to encompass, virtually, all monsters and supernatural or spiritual beings, including creatures from European folklore on occasion.

Supernatural Animals

Many indigenous Japanese animals are thought to have magical qualities. Most of these are henge (変化?), which are shapeshifters that often appear in human form, mostly women. Some of the better known animal yōkai include the following:

  1. Tanuki (demonic raccoon dogs)
  2. Kitsune (demonic foxes)
  3. Hebi (demonic snakes)
  4. Mujina (demonic badgers)
  5. Bakeneko (demonic cats)

Objects Becoming Spirits

Tsukumogami are an entire class of yōkai and obake, comprising ordinary household items that have come to life on the one-hundredth anniversary of their birthday. There are virtually no limits on this type of Yokai.

Human Transformations

There are a large number of yōkai who were originally ordinary human beings, transformed into something horrific and grotesque usually during an extremely emotional state. Women suffering from intense jealousy, for example, were thought to transform into the female Oni represented by hannya masks.

In Popular Culture

Video Games

  • The Yo-Kai Watch franchise is about Yokai
  • Some Pokémon are inspired by Yokai
  • Nioh features many Yokai as enemies
  • Smite features a Kitsune and a Kappa, types of Yokai

Anime & Manga

  • In the anime/manga Inuyasha, there are lots of youkai.
  • In the anime/manga Nurarihyon no Mago, it is shown a entire yakuza clan formed by youkai. The leader is a Nurarihyon . 
  • In the anime/manga Yu Yu Hakusho, there are some youkai like the Yuki-onna and Kitsune.

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