Every country has its own mythology. Sometimes, that mythology is based around a specific theme or the inability to explain certain things in nature. Sometimes it relates directly to a country’s religion or other spiritual beliefs. Mystical creatures often played a huge role in these mythologies too, especially in Japan, where their mythology had a lot to do with all the things I listed above, including insanity. These are ten Japanese monsters that are so ridiculous that they often seem sarcastic.
An abumi-guchi is a stirrup that belonged to a dead soldier. It lies and waits for the fallen owner to return. Thus, it’s not even a real monster. It’s simply the result of no one cleaning up the battlefield after the fight is over. If you’re not the ghost owner coming back to find all the shit he dropped, it’s just breathing garbage. You can replicate this monster this by going into a dead person’s barn, gluing googly eyes on all the equipment and then worshipping that equipment for centuries.
The abura-akago is something reborn only when an infant licks some oil, as the abura-akago is the spirit of a person who stole oil, but was special enough to not die properly. It’s a spirit that will stay dead unless you’re negligent in raising your child. I hate to sound like I disrespect a legend, but it seems rather impractical to base your existence on whether or not a baby is going to do something idiotic.
The akaname comes into your bathroom at night and licks up the grime, meaning that you get a Japanese demon in every can of Lysol. It’s said to personify the fear of going into a dark bathroom, but I’d be hesitant to fear anything that’s main purpose was to clean up little, drunken, pee drops around the toilet.
This, along with creatures like the aoandon, all resemble traditional paper lanterns, which means that any Japanese person’s trip to a Bed, Bath and Beyond is a humbling and potentially terrifying experience.
There are a specific group of Japanese monsters called the tsukumogami, which are various objects that gain life, but only when they turn one-hundred-years-old. The biggest problem with this system of empowerment is that most things, at one-hundred, have been battered into uselessness by time. So, whatever sake glass (kameosa) or mosquito net (shironeri) that your family, out of some misplaced priority, has passed down from generation to generation, is going to be ruined with age. It will be just like an actual person at one-hundred – dirty, frail and probably gibbering about minorities.
My favorite tsukumogami is the jotai. The jotai is a possessed cloth hanging from a folding screen. I believe that this was made during a hypothetical era in Japanese history where uncreative people would invent monsters by screaming and then pointing at a random object whenever someone turned to see what the town wuss was raving about.
Sometimes, ancient Japanese monsters didn’t really have a defined purpose. Mostly they’d be around to drown children or suck the blood from passers-by. However, in the case of something like the uwan, they existed just to be assholes to people, even if their chances of encountering people were very, very slim. The uwan is a disembodied voice that haunts abandoned houses and temples, which, considering how many people visit rotting, old places, means that it usually haunts no one in particular. It’s named “uwan” because that’s what its cry sounds like and the best formation of words to describe it are “inefficient at an almost impossible level,” because it is.
People who are sort of unlucky walk next to something called a jubokku, a tree that extends its limbs to grab people that walk near it and drains the life out of them. People who are truly unlucky fall prey to the uma-no-ashi which was a tree that had a kicking horse’s leg dangling from it. Not a whole horse or multiple legs, just the one, swinging haphazardly and hopefully landing a blow or two, because if you’re too dumb to notice that one tree with the hoof striking the air, you deserve the kick.
The kawa-uso is a supernatural river otter, and this by far is the most ridiculous monster on the list. Have you ever seen an otter, Japan? They’re adorable!
The nurarihyon is a monster that looks like an old man. He will come into your house, drink your tea and act like he owns the place. He is hard to get rid of because he looks so human, and can be easily confused with the owner of the house, which is some kind of ancient Japanese racism against its own people. I have no frame of reference for this type of creature. The closest thing that I can relate to it is the scene in Rush Hour 2 when Chris Tucker accidentally punched Jackie Chan in the face, but totally made it okay when he explained it off as “ALL Y’ALL LOOK ALIKE!”
The shirime is a creature with an eye in the place of its anus. I understand that this one may seem like a deleted scene from a Human Centipede film, or what happens when you try to create a monster by asking a thirteen-year-old boy to write words and drop them into a hat, but it’s actually from an ancient poem. A samurai was walking by himself and encountered a stranger. He prepared to fight the stranger, until the stranger dropped his kimono and revealed the eyeball in his ass. The samurai fled, and the story ends.
I hate to call bullshit on a story written hundreds of years ago, but samurai or not, the human response to seeing a shirime is to chop it into dozens of pieces first, burn it until there’s no chance of its soul inhabiting a lamp, and deflect all questions with “It looked like it was ready to attack me.”