Youkai of the Seto Inland Sea 瀬戸内海の妖怪

scary creatures

Demons, Ghosts and Spirits; Dantesque historical battles; pirates and brave warriors, Japanese myths and folklore... The Seto Inland Sea is at the heart of many legends, famous throughout the archipelago. In four chapters, Living in Japan makes you discover these extraordinary stories. To end this journey, let's explore the chilling stories of the youkai of the Seto Inland Sea.


At nightfall, busy in your house preparing the meal, perhaps you did not notice the funny old man who took his place around the family table. He smokes your tobacco and drinks your tea as if your house were his. And the strangest thing is that it doesn't bother you at all. There is a good reason for this: you are under the influence of the nurarihyon!

This yokai whose name means "slippery gourd" is an extremely powerful creature. The nurarihyon is indeed considered the supreme commander of all yokai. It is he who leads the night parade of the hundred demons, the Hyakki Yokô, in the streets of the archipelago.

And yet by its appearance, the nurarihyon does not chill you with dread at first sight. Under the guise of an old man, this yokai wears elegant outfits (a silk kimono or a Buddhist monk's robe called a kesa) and moves exclusively in a palanquin carried by servants.

Appreciating delicate and luxurious dishes, he likes to slip inside opulent residences to enjoy them at his ease.


Nurarihyon (1737). Illustration of Sawaki Sushi

wikimedia Commons


The umi-bozu, monks of the sea, are terrifying black-skinned sea creatures that ships seek above all else to avoid.

They are the spirits of monks thrown into the sea by an angry population. This gruesome end made them ghosts seek revenge on men.

The umi-bozu attacks ships that have the misfortune to cross its path. Its appearance at sea causes the waters and skies to rage; thus putting an end to the calm night.

Described sometimes as being the size of a ship, sometimes like a giant whose only head emerges from the waters, the umi-bozu is gigantic. Everything is then a question of appreciation! It can in any case destroy a ship with a single overpowered blow.

Sometimes in a more mischievous mood, he may choose to use a barrel to pour water in very large quantities on the boat and its crew. But to this, the man found a countermeasure by providing the umi-bozu with a bottomless barrel. The youkai may scoop relentlessly, but he will never be able to drown the sailors on board.


Umibozu. Kuniyoshi Print


Witch Takiyasha conjures up a gashadokuro. Print by Kuniyoshi.

Wikimedia Commons

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