In Japan, the ghosts are called Yūrei (幽霊). The word means faint or dim and soul or spirit. And as well as language and cultures divides different types of ghost in different categories, so does the Japanese. Here are some of the ghosts of Japan.
Hauntings: There are a lot of creatures, entities that haunts in Japanese culture. But yūrei differs slightly from the others. They are for example the only ones haunting at a specific time, with the hour of the ox as a preference, which is from 2 to 2:30 am. This is when the veil between the dead and the living, the different worlds is at is thinnest.
The yūrei is also more geographical bound than other entities, and with a specific purpose for the hauntings. Unfinished business or vengeance, being the most common perhaps. The real tragedy is when a spirit can never find peace, because their unfinished business can never be fulfilled.
The Vengeful Ghost of Japan
The Onryō is probably the most well known Japanese ghost there is. Onryō (怨霊), basically means “vengeful spirit” or “wrathful spirit” in Japanese and is a very iconic image with her white kimono and long black hair in modern ghost stories.
This particular ghost of Japan is driven by rage and consumed by revenge. This Yūrei will do anything to punish those who wronged them in life. Mostly, the spirit never starts out as evil, and wasn’t an evil person when alive. But the circumstances around their life and particularly around their death made them bit by bit as time went on and anger built up.
This type of vengeful spirit are sometimes created from the basis of love, but the jealousy perverted the love so much, it turned to hatred. In both cases, their soul are unable to pass on to be reborn and lingers in the realm of between the living and dead.
Read more about the Onryō at the Moonmausoleum
In many cultures, ghosts are put in different categories. Such is the case with Onryō (怨霊 onryō,) It basically means “vengeful spirit” or “wrathful spirit” in Japanese and is a mythological spirit of vengeance from Japanese folklore. They also have ghosts, called yurei, but these differ in the will of the ghost. As opposed to the yurei, these ghosts doesn’t just get over their revenge thoughts.
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young woman who died. She went on a murderous rampage and she forever haunts the place of Yotsuya. The end.
The tale of Banchō Sarayashiki (番町皿屋敷, The Dish Mansion at Banchō) is a well known Japanese ghost story (kaidan). It was popularized in the kabuki theater tradition, and lives on in popular culture and folklore alike.
The Noble Ghost of Japan
Is sort of the same av an Onryō and often a Goryō ghost story follows the same pattern. It is a vengeful spirit, capable of so much destruction and with a single goal in mind. The main difference from the Onryō, is that the Goryō is mostly a noble man, not a female, and the main goal is often to restore his honour he lost in real life than revenge on those who wronged him.
This Japanese ghost known as Goryō was most often from the aristocratic or royal class when in life. The Kanji 御 (go) actually means honorable while 霊 (ryō) means some sort of soul or spirit. And it is especially the case when those people were martyred or wronged, loosing their honor etc.
The Sea Ghost of Japan
This is the Japanese ghost of those dying at sea. It literally means boat spirit and is the same as an Onryō, only out at sea. Often fishermen, sailors and the likes, people dying in shipwreck and want other to join them in the deep sea.
They are described as being surrounded by an atmospheric light, so you can see them, even when they turn up on dark, foggy nights, rainy days and under the full or new moon. They can be described as ghost haunting the rivers and lake as well. At times, these ghost are shown as scaly fish-like, and pictures of them might be confused with mermaids or mermen.
The Mother Ghost of Japan
This is the Japanese ghost of a mother who died in childbirth. It could also come if she died leaving very young children. This ghost differs a lot from the Onryō for example, for its purpose. It is not after revenge, but stays out of compassion, giving sweets and looking after her children she left behind.
Those seeing her will see what looks like a pregnant woman pass by. Or she will approach you, telling you to hold her child, only for you to realize there isn’t a child, just a bundle of rocks or leaves.
The Child Ghost of Japan
This is what happens when children becomes ghosts. They are not really depicted as dangerous, but at times mischievous. They would do pranks, leaving prints in the kitchen and the likes, but it also meant good fortune for them who saw them. But what are these Japanese ghosts? Strange otherworldly child-like creatures, or spirits of children?
It has been theories that they are the spirit of children that were killed when there were too many mouths to feed. It was back in the day a rather gruesome tradition to be killed by a stone and buried in the dirt floor room called doma or in the kitchen.
Fuyūrei and Jibakurei
The Wandering Ghost of Japan
These two Japanese ghosts are very similar to each other. They are both spirit with no purpose, wandering aimlessly around, earthbound, often just going in circle and in a loop. Unable to find peace.
The Living Ghost of Japan
This is a very peculiar one and a bit on the side from the other Japanese ghosts. It is when a part of the living soul or spirit leaves the body to haunt people or a specific place. Often across distances as well.
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