Amabie: the Japanese Yokai That Can Stave Off Epidemics

As legend has it, in the 1800s a mythical yokai appeared off the coast of Kumamoto, Japan. The Amabie, as it was called, was described as a mermaid-like creature with long hair, a beak and 3 legs. It made several predictions related to bountiful harvests and, before disappearing back into the sea, left the locals with some advice in case of an epidemic.

(top image: the original edo-era tile carving, courtesy Kyoto University Digital Archives)

Freelance illustrator Shunsuke Sataka created this colorful, vintage style Amabie print.

According to records, “If an epidemic occurs, draw a picture of me and show it to everyone,” said the yokai. The advice was perfectly worded for our current, social media-driven world. The legend recently resurfaced in Japan and, sure enough, everyone began creating their own artistic version of the Amabie and posting pictures to social media.

Here are some of our favorites but you can see many more original artworks by searching アマビエ (Amabie) on Twitter or Instagram.

Manga artist Mari Okazaki’s Amabie has a divine presence

We love graphic designer Norio Nakamura’s interpretation!

Manga artist Keiichi Tanaka’s drawing of Amabie

Pattern-makers Tetetextile created a series of Amabie wallpapers for your smartphone.

Cartoonist Sensha Yoshida created this caricature of an Amabie

Illustrator Izumi Sakuan created this edo-era-inspired drawing of a fictional Amabie Festival in which a child dresses up as the yokai.

Horror manga artist Junji Ito‘s frightening rendition of Amabie

From the studio that created Chibimaruko-chan, one of Japan’s most beloved characters, comes this adorable Amabie.


  1. Professor Gizmo

    March 14, 2020 at 11:34 pm

    All wonderful, but Izumi Sakuan’s image is particularly great! 🙂

  2. bir bahadur bishowkarma

    March 24, 2020 at 12:22 am

    it is really nice, beautiful. we all family of an orphanage home will try to make some arts

  3. Zlatka Mitkova Georgieva

    March 27, 2020 at 11:56 am

    I was warned by Amabie Yokai about coming spreading of a kind of flue or virus. Next day I have told some of my colleagues to take some medicines for sustaining immunity in case of working more hours with computers as it has happened next few days in the education manner inviting most students and teachers to work in “electronic environment” through distant learning methods. (in Bulgaria /EU/)

    It was believed that many, many years ago some mermaids have had come out of the Black Sea settling on the coast living life of and with local people.
    Even one of my cousin was born somehow like a mermaid (legs stiffed and almost always tight to each other) and she unfortunately has lived a short life (not much longer than about 11 or 12 years) and has died many years ago.

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