Japan: A freaky field guide to mythical beasties of Tokyo

Matt Alt penned a guide to Tokyo's legendary animals and mythical beasts (not to be confused with yokai). Chip Boles did the great illustrations that accompany Matt's explainer.


  1. I gotta say, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and then looking further into the creatures on my own. Two thumbs up.

  2. Not bad, but I’m disappointed at the omission of the Kappa.

    There’s a gilded Kappa statue on Kappabashi-dori, in the center of “Kitchen Town”, near Asakusa, Tokyo.

  3. I love kappa too, but they aren’t really considered in the same category as these mythical animals, many of which have religious significance; kappa are pretty much straight-up “yokai.” Think of them as beasts of a different (if related) feather! 

    -Matt (the guy who wrote the piece)

  4. I had an English illustrated children’s book when I was little about the Baku.  It came with a plush giraffe-lion-elephant looking toy.  I had no idea that the basis was Japanese until now.  I always just assumed it was some Teddy Ruxpin era creativity.

    Interesting that they’re found in the eaves of Buddhist temples…the plush has been sitting atop my bookcase just below the ceiling in the corner for years.  Just seemed like a good place to stick it.

    EDIT: One of the Catfish God evacuation route signs mentioned in the article: http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/emergency-road-sign-suginami.jpg

  5. The maneki neko is the one that I see the most here in Hawaii. The one at the karaoke studio I frequent is one that I want, rather than a gold coin it’s cradling a bottle of Asahi and is quite obviously happily drunk.

    I do see some of the others, but usually only at Shinto or Buddhist shrines and temples.

  6. One of the comments on the article page mentioned knowing all of these through D&D. I would also put forth pokemon, which borrows quite a few mythical beasts for it’s monster library: the dream-eating Drowzee, the phoenix Ho-Oh, and the money-grubbing cat Meowth just to name a few.

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