Japanese Language Blog

Supernatural Animals Posted by on Jan 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

Japanese folklore is full of supernatural animals that perform amazing deeds.

One of these creatures is called bakeneko (化け) or cat monster. Bakeneko are cats that have supernatural abilities and are able to shape shift into human beings. Many of the stories told about bakeneko are told orally and passed down through the centuries. Some of the stories involve the bakeneko as a ghost-like spirit that protects humans from harm, and others are about ravenous human corpse eaters.

Isonade (磯撫) is a giant fish with a large fin. Isonade is a malicious fish that has a barbed fin. Its barbed fin hooks boats into the deep sea and eats sailors for food. With one whip of its tail, it can drown an entire crew of sailors. It only appears when the winds are strong. Isonade was probably a folktale that was created by sailors. Isonade is a metaphor for the unpredictable seas and was used as a way to explain why people disappeared at sea.

An inugami () is a faithful dog-spirit that protects its master from the master’s enemies. However in Japanese folklore, inugami can be dangerous. When avenging their masters, they are obedient, but once they are done avenging, they can be impulsive and take possession of the master’s body. Once an inugami possesses its master’s body, it can cure any illnesses of the master. The downside of the possession is that the master may behave like a wild dog.

Namazu () is a supernatural catfish that causes earthquakes. According to Japanese folklore, this giant catfish lived underground and was the pet of a powerful deity. The deity was responsible for controlling the namazu. However when the deity wasn’t paying attention, the namazu would move its fins and cause earthquakes to occur. Namazu was a creature created by villagers to explain the occurrence of devastating earthquakes in Japan.

Tsuki no usagi (月の兎) are moon bunnies that make rice cakes on the moon. I thought I’d mention rabbits while we’re on the subject of supernatural animals because this is 2011, the year of the rabbit. Supposedly this year will be better than last year, which was the year of the tiger. Rabbits are considered easygoing, kind and auspicious animals, so this year is supposed to be a good year. The official New Year in the lunar calendar is in February 2011, so things will get better sometime then.

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