I discovered an abandoned green tea farm during the first part of this hike (click link below to see). Bears, boars and wild sheep roam these mountains. Japanese folklore tells us of other creatures as well… Ogre-like creatures called “Oni” were thought to lurk in the lonelier places. Modern Japanese typically think of Oni as horrible, beast-like creatures with fangs and horns. Though in old Japan Oni were much more frightening… Oni were once thought to be ghost-like spirits causing disease and disaster. The word Oni may derive from the Japanese word on (隠) meaning hidden.
Another frightening creature of folklore is the imp-like Kappa 河童 (river child). Kappa lurk in water though they are not above emerging from pools to chase down and kill humans who pass too close. Kappa prefer children which they eat by consuming a mythical ball called shirikodama (尻子玉) located inside the human anus. A Kappas power comes from liquid carried in a bowl-like depression atop his head. Though scheming to kill you a Kappa is nevertheless polite and Japanese folklore advises us to bow when we meet one. The Kappa will invariably bow back causing the water on his head to spill. Having thus lost his power the Kappa must then make a hasty retreat back to water allowing you a chance to escape! It clearly pays to be polite in Japan.
Tengu are another creature to watch out for. There are two types of Tengu: Yamabushi and Karasu. Yamabushi means mountain warrior and this type of Tengu takes the form of a fierce fighter. Yamabushi Tengu despise human arrogance and prejudice though they may befriend worthy humans. The crow-like Karasu Tengu (karasu means crow) is distinct for its raven-like features. This type of Tengu should be avoided as they are considered dangerous and aggressive creatures.
The forests and mountains of Japan are haunted by many other strange creatures of myth collectively know as Yōkai (妖怪). But for me the scariest of all must be the Yama-uba (山姥). This witch-like creature is Japans version of the bogeyman. The Yama-uba is a mountain hag able to change her appearance though preferring the form of a helpless old woman. She lured lost travelers deeper into the woods before killing and devouring them. The old woman of the forest is said to prefer dark places, hunts children and young women and carries an enormous killing knife. Her hideous mouth is said to stretch across her entire face.
Lost Tea Farm video link:
Copyright notice: All creatures images used in this video are in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
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