Deepen your understanding of Japan’s people, places, and culture.


Spirits of the Countryside - Exploring the folklore and yokai of rural Japan

Michael Dylan Foster, USA

  • Travel, Landscape
  • Arts, Architecture, Design
Spirits of the Countryside

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The popularity of games such as Pokemon and Yo-kai Watch, as well as numerous manga, anime, and films, has brought international attention to the many monstrous, ghostly, or weird beings and creatures found in Japan.

This essay briefly introduces and describes three rural cities that have been shaped in some fashion by a profound connection to folklore, especially to the monstrous creatures generically known as yokai.
Tono in Iwate Prefecture was the subject of Japan’s first modern collection of folklore published in 1910.
Oga in Akita Prefecture, is famous for its rituals and festivals featuring a demon-deity called Namahage.
Sakaiminato in Tottori Prefecture is the hometown of Mizuki Shigeru, whose manga and anime reinvigorated rural yokai in the popular national imagination of the late twentieth century.

These three communities are beautiful places to experience a rural side of Japan often overlooked by visitors to Tokyo, Kyoto, and other more famous tourist sites.