Myths and legends of Japanese beaches ビーチ神話

Chills at the beach

Japan is an archipelago made up of a thousand islets and almost as many legends, demonic creatures, and adjoining ghosts! Take it for granted, the Japanese beaches are not all small havens of peace!




The story of the bakekujira or ghost whale has been told for centuries by Japanese sailors and fishermen. This ghostly animal of which we only see the skeleton is often accompanied by a myriad of strange birds and fish. The bakekujira is said to have appeared in Shimane Prefecture off Okino Island.

One stormy night, fishermen, intrigued by the presence of a cetacean of incredible whiteness, take a boat to approach it. Arriving very close to the animal swimming in sparkling waters, one of them throws his harpoon at it.



Illustration of bakekujira by Mizuki Shigeru


The Ponyo anime is inspired by the myth of the ningyo



Funayurei is the ghost of people lost at sea who have become vengeful spirits. Driven by a bitter grudge against the living, they attempt to sink the boats by filling them with water using a bamboo ladle, the hishaku. Funayūrei mostly appears during bad weather nights when ships face the wind, fog, and rain. Often described as white spectral forms, they can also appear as flames or umi-bozu. In this variant, the umi-bozu is a youkai using a barrel to flood and drag boats to the bottom of the water.



Kawanabe Kyōsai's Funayurei (19th century)


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