Summer is the season for different kinds of ghostly activity in Japan. During the Obon festival in August, the ancestors are said to come back home to the human world. There is also a tradition of telling ghost stories that send shivers down your spine, thus keeping you cool during the hot summer nights. Many stories tell us about yokai, supernatural monsters, spirits and demons in Japanese folklore. They take different forms and cause all kinds of mischief to humans. They occasionally also bring good fortune to those who encounter them. In Japan yokai have been used to explain the unexplainable. The feeling when you're walking home at night and you feel that someone's following you although there's no one there? The strange sound of someone washing beans in the river stream? Yes, that's a yokai. Yokai have been an inspiration to several Japanese artists, from the woodblock print master Hokusai to the manga artist Mizuki Shigeru, who created the series 'Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro'. Also the shape-shifting tanuki raccoon dogs in Hayao Miyazaki's 'Pompoko' are originally yokai creatures from Japanese folklore.

The Unknown Side of Kyoto

Kyoto was the royal capital city and the center of Japanese culture and history for about thousand years (794-1867). Nowadays, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Japan and tourists from all over the world come to see the World Cultural Heritage sites, national treasures and cultural properties of Kyoto. As the cultural and historical capital of Japan, many historical relics and documents have been preserved. Not widely known, but Kyoto is also the home to several legends and ghost stories also known as kaidan. There are myriads of stories about for example, a bridge where the dead become alive, revengeful spirits who cause natural disasters or a noble man who acts as assistant at the court of Buddhist hell. The historical places where the stories take place can still be visited nowadays.

Yokai and Japanese Culture

Yokai are supernatural monsters, spirits and demons that appear in Japanese ghost stories and folklore. For the Japanese people, yokai are not just fantasy characters of the past, but they can still be seen in contemporary popular culture. From the woodblock prints of Hokusai to modern day manga, anime, novels and movies, yokai serve as inspiration to different kinds of cultural products. Japanese people have loved strange things since the ancient times. That is why yokai still remain popular. Japanese yokai combine entertainment and commerce and with the pictures and stories produced, artists keep on reinventing and expressing yokai in new and exciting ways, while also preserving the original themes. Although while being things of the past, yokai keep on living in the modern times through this kind of process of expression and reinvention.

The Story of the Tsukumogami and the Taishogun Shopping Street

In Japan, it was believed that if not disposed of properly, when household items and tools reach the age of a hundred years, they would become alive and come back to haunt their previous owners. According to the 'Tsukumogami Chronicle', a picture scroll set in the Heian Period (794-1192), major cleaning was done all throughout Kyoto in the Koho period (964-968) and in consequence, many old tools were thrown away. For this reason, the utensils got very angry and wanted revenge. The tools turned into yokai creatures called 'tsukumogami' and assembled at the mountains before heading off to cause mischief to the townspeople. Wishing for long lasting prosperity, the tsukumogami gathered to have a parade in the honor of the god of transformation, Henge Daimyoji, who had helped them to become alive. At night the creatures paraded from west to east at the Ichijo Street. This parade is known as the hyakkiyagyo parade (night parade of a hundred demons). In the end, Buddhist priests are called to eradicate the creatures and make them repent for their wrong doing. The story about abandoned tools transforming into yokai creatures reflects the worldview of the ancient Japanese people. Tools were to take good care of and not thrown away lightheartedly. This kind of thinking is also connected to modern day recycling, reusing of resources and conservation of nature. The story of tsukumogami takes place in the Ichijo Street, where the Taishogun Shopping Street is also located. That is why in 2005 Ichijo Street was named as the pathway of the night parade of a hundred demons, the Yokai Street. Every year Yokai Street hosts different kinds of yokai-related events.

Yokai tourism in Kyoto

Yokai and Kyoto are the perfect match. The former combining old and new and the latter preserving old traditions but at the same time transmitting new culture. The Taishogun Shopping Street aims to reveal the unknown charm of Kyoto. At the Taishogun Shopping Street (Ichijo Street), we are promoting local area revitalization and tourism based on the theme of yokai, with also laying emphasis on recycling and ecological thinking.

The Concept of Taishogun Shopping Street Yokai Street
yYokai costume paradez
Yokai fans from all over Japan take part in the yokai costume parade. During the event over a hundred yokai march the street of Ichijo at night.

yYokai Art Market - Mononoke Ichiz

Various artists sell yokai-themed original goods such as accessories, stuffed animals and comic books, which are only available at the Mononoke Ichi.

yMascot Character "Yagyodoji" z
Yagyodoji is a childlike yokai who has three eyes. He is considered to be the messenger of the god Henge Daimyojin, who is believed to be able to turn old tools into yokai creatures. Yagyodoji is the leader of the Hyakkiyagyo parade, the night procession of a hundred demons.
Yagyodoji story

Illustration book of Japanese Yokai

At evening, he will sneak into someone's house while they are busy. However, we cannot notice him action even he drink a tea and smoke a chigger.
He is sometimes said to be leader of the y?kai.

When you go up a hill at night, something the shape of a monk would suddenly appear, and if one looks up, it becomes larger the further one looks up. In that case, you should say "I have seen past the mikoshi-ny?d?" then ny?d? would disappear.
A water imp is living in every river in Japan. Kappa try to lure people to the water and pull them and eating their livers from anus. According to some literatures, they like "cucumber". Also they are good at to playing sumo wrestling. You should eat an offering before play wrestling with them to win.
It is one of the famous Japanese y?kai that old umbrellas turn into. Long time ago, lot of kasa-bake bathing in the river and flew away somewhere.

According to superstition, an old cat would have two tails. Also they can understand a human speech and good at putting the towel on head and dance like a human. Furthermore, they are able to control a dead body. So people tend to protect a corpse from them.

An old fox took the shape of one priest and preached about destruction of life to the hunter. After that, a fox killed a priest and kept taking his shape because he was afraid to be unmasked by them. That Priest is called "haku-sozu".
Most of people think that they gain the ability to stretch their necks to great lengths. However, according to some tales, their heads detach at the neck from their bodies and fly. That part is a spirit rope to connect them body and head. People thought this phenomenon is one of a strange disease.
It is running Kyoto at night. Stealing the souls of anyone who gets too close in order to bring them to Hell with him.
Nue is one of the famous Japanese chimera. According to legends, it is described as having the head of a monkey, the body of a raccoon dog, the legs of a tiger, and a snake as a tail. Long time ago, an emperor was troubled that Nue appeared and stood on a roof of his bedroom with wired sound.