Japanese Folk Lore – Ghost of the Violet Well

In the wild province of Yamato, or very near to its borders, is a beautiful mountain known as Yoshino yama. It is not only known for its abundance of cherry blossom in the spring, but it is also celebrated in relation to more than one bloody battle. In fact, Yoshino might be called the staging-place […]

Hannya – 般若 -はんにゃ

In Japanese folklore the female demon (oni) Hannya figures prominently. Often depicted in traditional Noh and Bunraku plays using a wooden mask of a fierce and grimacing horned demon, this malicious entity may be Japan’s most well-known demon. You may even recognize this mask as being the symbol of darkest moral depravity in Onibaba. An ancient legend recalls how the female Hannya persecuted all […]

The Vampire Cat of Nabeshima – Old Tales of Japan

Just when you thought it was safe to pet the kitty!! Here’s a classic Japanese tale dating back to the Hizen daimyo of the Sengoku Era (1568-1615). It presents a Shinto perspective of the spiritual dimension of Nature itself, here depicted in the form of a large cat who not only consumes humans, but then supernaturally changes […]

Kwaidan – Yuki-Onna (Snow Woman)

The sad and haunting tale of Yuki Onna consists of all the requisite elements of a truly classic traditional ghost story. The ferocity of the Yuki Onna who can be both horrific and deadly at will, also displays a deep compassion and sadness. In this way she is depicted not only as a mountain ghoul but as wholly feminine […]

Kaidan: Traditional Japanese Ghost Tales and Japanese Horror Film

This article was originally published in Otaku Magazine, volume 4, July 2008. Fans of contemporary Japanese horror, whether in film or manga, have likely run across the term Kaidan or Kwaidan describing certain tales within many volumes of translated works available. The term refers to century-old, traditional ghost tales reflecting core superstitions of pre-Westernized Japan. […]