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Ie no Yoshikuri
Creatures in Japanese Myth

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By Yoshikuri Nagayori

Tengu- Bird-like creatures akin to goblins. They are fond of mischief, but can be quite helpful on occasion. It was the tengu that supposedly trained Minamoto Yoshitsune during the Gempei Wars.

Kitsune- The fox spirit. Often times appears as an attractive woman that seduces men and bends them to her will, causing great trouble. Kitsune are also able to shift into other forms and sizes. They are said to be messengers of Inari, the god of food or goddess of rice.

Oni- Demons resembling humans except for three eyes, horns and sharp claws. Sometimes having skin of different colours. They collect the souls of those on their death beds, as well as other such mischief.

Tenuki (Badgers)- Although they look more like raccoons than badgers, this is the closest North American equivalent. Often quite stupid and gullible, tenuki get into all kinds of trouble. They tend to be on the mean and greedy side most times, but there are always exceptions.

Dragons- Quite like the dragons of Chinese myth; long bodies, no wings. Dragons have the shape changing ability, as well. They can be either malevolent or benevolent.

Ittan-Momen- A long, white cloth that surprises people in their sleep by wrapping itself around the victims head, suffocating him/her.

Kappa- Strange turtle-like creatures with bowls in their heads. They live in ponds and must always have water from the pond in their head bowl. They like to attack small children, animals and travelers. However, they can be befriended by wise men to whom they will teach the art of setting bones.

Snakes- Snakes in Japanese tales are generally viewed as reincarnations of people that died in a great state of jealousy or animosity. They are to be pitied and prayed for.

These are just a few of the more common creatures. There is also quite a large pantheon of gods and other kami (spirit).

Elements of Japanese Myth>>