from left to right: the Kami-kiri (hair cutter), Nekomata (cat demon) and Kitsune (fox demon) and the Yuki-onna (snow woman)
Sometime during the Edo Period (18th – 19th century) of Japan, an artist by the name of Suekichi Hokusai created the Bakemono Zukushi handscroll. In it, 24 yokai and other mysterious creatures that haunted the people of Japan are depicted. Some fairly common ones that are included in popular ghost stories appear, like the Yuki-onna “snow woman” who shows up on snowy nights and asks you to hold her baby. Or the Rokurokubi “long-necked woman.” Some are more obscure, like the Kami-kiri “hair cutter” who sneaks up on people and cuts off their hair.
Rokurokubi, the long-necked woman, is pictured next to an Inugami (dog spirit)
What’s interesting to us about this scroll is that the yokai are painted in a style that borders sometimes on cuteness or humor. We might even guess that they were created more for entertainment, rather than horror. But despite the artist’s intent, today seems like as good a day as any to admire these beasts. You can view the original sized scroll over on Wikimedia. Happy Halloween!
Daichiuchi, a mallet-wielding monster with a bird-like face, next to Oyajirome, a beast with a bulging eye on the back of its head and a claw on its one-fingered hand.
Mi-no-kedachi, with its hairy body, next to Sara-hebi, a snake-like creature with the head of a woman
Akashita (red tongue) who hides in a dark cloud and Uwan, a creature that inhabits abandoned buildings. Both are hairy.
Ushi-oni is a sea monster with the head of a cow and the body of a giant spider or crab. Next to it is Boukon, a departed soul
Yume-no-seirei (dream ghost) next to Odoroshi, a red-faced monster with big eyes, black teeth, and long hair
Uma-shika is a one-eyed, horse-like monster with a horn. Nobusuma, which is actually a human male name, has a brown body, human-like face, spiky hair, claws, and sharp black teeth