The Yokai Series
By Matthew Meyer
From women with extra mouths to elephant-dragons that feed on nightmares, unravel the twisted mysteries that shroud so much of Japan's lesser-known lore and mythology in this series of beautifully illustrated encyclopaedias
From the mists of prehistory to the present day, Japan has always had stories of fantastic monsters. There are women with extra mouths in the backs of their heads, water goblins whose favorite food is inside the human anus, elephant-dragons which feed solely on bad dreams, baby zombies, talking foxes, fire-breathing chickens, animated blobs of rotten flesh that run about the streets at night, and many more.
What are yokai? Put simply, they are supernatural creatures of Japanese folklore. The word in Japanese is a combination of yo, meaning “bewitching,” and kai, meaning “strange.” The term encompasses monsters, demons, gods (kami), ghosts (bakemono), magical animals, transformed humans, urban legends, and other strange phenomena. It is a broad and vague term. Nothing exists in the English language that quite does the trick of capturing the essence of yokai.
So let these four meticulously researched and intricately designed books by The Yokai Guy take a stab at educating (and occasionally scaring) you. Each yokai has a detailed description based on translations of documents hundreds of years old, and an illustration based on classical descriptions, woodblock prints, and paintings from throughout Japanese history.
The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits
Yokai live in a world that parallels our own. Their lives resemble ours in many ways. They have societies and rivalries. They eat, sing, dance, play, fight, compete, and even wage war. Normally, we keep to our world and they keep to theirs. However, there are times and places where the boundaries between the worlds thin, and crossing over is possible.
The twilight hour—the border between daylight and darkness—is when the boundary between worlds is at its thinnest. Twilight is the easiest time for yokai to cross into this world, or for humans to accidentally cross into theirs. Our world is still awake and active, but the world of the supernatural is beginning to stir. Superstition tells people to return to their villages and stay inside when the sun sets in order to avoid running into demons. This is why in Japanese the twilight hour is called omagatoki: “the hour of meeting evil spirits.”
This encyclopedia contains over 125 illustrated entries detailing the monsters of Japanese folklore and the myths and magic surrounding them.
The Book of the Hakutaku
Ancient legend tells of an encyclopedia called The Book of the Hakutaku, which was given to the emperor by a magical beast. This book contained information about all the spirits, gods, and demons in the universe. It was lost long ago, but parts of it were copied down. People have been collecting information about the spirit world in supernatural encyclopedias ever since.
Throughout Japan’s history, artists have gathered folklore from various sources and bundled them into illustrated, multi-volume encyclopedias. As demand grew, artists looked back into literature and history for inspiration. They copied monsters from ancient Chinese classics, reinterpreting them through a Japanese lens. They even invented new yōkai based on puns and reflecting contemporary societal issues. Today, the tradition of collecting and retelling yōkai stories remains strong.
This bestiary contains over 100 illustrated entries covering a wide variety of Japanese monsters, ghosts, and spirits. Some of them are native to Japan, while others have been incorporated into Japanese folklore from foreign cultures. Each entry is described in detail, including its habitat, diet, origin, and legends based on translations from Japanese texts.
The Fox's Wedding
Throughout history, people have invented supernatural explanations for mysterious phenomena. Strange sounds heard deep in the woods, pebbles falling from the sky, even universal concepts like good and bad luck—all were the work of spirits. Things understood in the modern world, like thunder and lightning, mental illnesses, and infectious disease were equally blamed on demons, ghosts, monsters, and mischievous magical animals. In Japan, one species in particular was frequently blamed for peculiar occurrences: foxes.
A fox's wedding is the Japanese term for when rain falls while the sun is shining. It is a sign that somewhere nearby, foxes are holding a wedding ceremony. The rain makes people stay indoors, and the foxes can celebrate their wedding unobserved by human eyes.
This compendium of Japan folklore contains over 100 illustrated entries covering ghosts, monsters, spirits, and of course foxes. There are horrific tales of murder ending in supernatural vengeance, adorable animals that you'll want to keep as pets, evil ghosts in search of victims, man-eating beasts, beast-eating men, demon priests, evil trees, haunted chickens, ghostly vegetables, vampires, babies, giants, and more. Each entry is described in detail, including its habitat, diet, origin, and legends based on translations from Japanese texts.