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8 body parts you will want for your own: Super Cool Japanese demon anatomy

Want some super-human anatomy?

Super-strength and super-speed are so passé. What you need are some Super Cool bits of Japanese demon anatomy.

Check these out:

1)     SKIN: Ushi oni (Cow demon)
牛鬼 (

A nasty yokai who loves sinking ships and eating fishermen, the ushi-oni (also known as gyuuki) lives in the ocean.

He has many awesome body parts: claws like elephant tusks, muscles that never get tired, eyes that can see for miles…

But his Super Cool feature is his skin: when he’s swimming, his skin stretches out to form individual fins and flaps that help him to shoot through the water at top speed.

2)     STOMACH: Umi nyōbō (Wife of the sea)

A dedicated wife, the umi nyubou spends much of her time preparing pickled fish (for her children to eat) or gathering sea snake venom (to protect her family from attack by humans).

She has a Super Cool digestive system, with three stomachs: one for her, one for her husband, and one for her children.

She uses the stomachs like cupboards, storing different food for different people. How convenient!

3)     NOSE: Sagari (Hanging horse-head)
下がり (

Horse heads that hang upside-down like bats, sagari are said to be the ghosts of horses that died near trees.

They eat human blood, and can sense human auras using their Super Cool nose hairs.

These moustache-like tentacles can move independently and have also been known to shoot electricity like lightning.

4)     TAIL: Nobusuma (Flying squirrel)

A fire-breathing, clairvoyant squirrel, the nobusuma has sharp black teeth and spiky claws.

Able to fly, although it has no wings, the nobusuma can blow its body up like a helium balloon, but the power for lift-off comes from his Super Cool tail.

By slamming his tail onto the ground, the nobusuma can launch his body into the air. Newton’s Third Law of Motion in action!

5)     FINGERNAILS: Kokuri-babā (Hag of the Old Priest’s Quarters)

The kokuri-babā lives alone in an old temple and wears a white kimono made of hair.

She may look like a frail, old woman, but when she’s hungry, her Super Cool fingernails become as strong as pickaxes, allowing her to rip into old graves to find dead things to eat.

6)     TEETH: Gangi kozō (Zig-zag boy)
岸涯小僧 (

Zig-zag boy is an amphibian yokai who lives in rivers, surviving on raw fish. He has no friends and no family, but he does have one redeeming feature: his Super Cool teeth.

Incredibly pointy and stronger than steel, Zig-zag boy’s teeth allow him to rip into raw fish, tearing them apart. If he loses a tooth, another will grow back right where he needs it.

7)     LUNGS: Dorotabou (Rice paddy zombie)
泥田坊 (

The tortured ghost of a farmer who lost his land, the dorotabou rises from the mud to haunt his old fields.

Surviving on leaves, leeches and frogs, this mud-dwelling yokai has Super Cool lungs that allow him to breathe even when submerged in mud.

8)     EARS: Suiko (Water tiger)

A blood-sucking kappa with the fangs, claws and power of a tiger, the suiko lives in fast flowing rivers. He is an accomplished killer, but also has a softer side: the suiko likes to sunbathe, and he likes to chat.

His Super Cool ear is divided into three parts, allowing him to understand Bird Talk, Fish Talk and Human Talk as well as his native Yokai Talk.

Thanks to manga and yokai legend Shigeru Mizuki and his awesome reference Yōkai Daizukai for the inspiration.

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Selective genetics or ghosts reborn? Legend of the Samurai crabs

Defeated Heike warriors are turned into crabs as they are tossed from their ships. (Paintings by Kuniyoshi)

I’m doing some research for book 4 of the Takeshita Demons series (which I think will be set on the ocean) and I came across this awesome story:

Legend of the Samurai crabs

On April 24, back in 1185, two powerful Samurai clans fought to the death on the Dan no Ura bay of Japan’s Inland Sea.

The ruling clan, the Heike (house of Taira), was led by their child-Emperor, Antoku, and his grandmother.

The Heike had ruled for many decades, but now, massively outnumbered, they faced defeat at the hands of the Genji clan (house of Miyamoto).

This crucial battle was a turning point for Japanese history: the Genji clan’s victory at Dan no Ura marked the beginning of seven centuries in which Japan was ruled by warriors and Shoguns instead of Emperors and aristocrats.

But back to the battle…

For the Heike, surrender wasn’t an option. But when 3000 enemy ships attacked under cover of a storm, they were vastly outnumbered and underprepared.

Knowing a bad deal when she saw one, the Emperor’s guardian and gran took the child’s hand and together they jumped into the ocean, opting for death on their own terms rather whatever gruesome end would be on offer from the enemy.

The remaining Heike warriors, about 1000 ships-worth in all, followed their leader into the ocean or were thrown there by the enemy and left to drown.

Remembering bravery and loss

Now, every April, there is a festival to remember the Heike.

But the festival isn’t the only way these warriors are remembered:

Legend has it that the warriors still walk the ocean floor, albeit sideways.

The story is that when the Emperor jumped, he and his warriors were transformed into crabs, called heikegani, or Heike crabs (Heikea japonica in Latin; 平家蟹 in Kanji). But the transformation was not complete: the shells of these crabs are still marked with grooves and ridges that form the faces of the Samurai warriors.

Samurai crab

Genetics or ghosts?

There are three schools of thought on the Heikegani crab:

1) Artificial selection:
Theory 1 has it that local fishermen weren’t keen on eating the spirit of a brave samurai, so any crab with a shell that looked even vaguely like a samurai’s face was thrown back.

The result? Ordinary crabs were removed from the sea in favour of samurai crabs, and these samurai crabs went on to breed and produce more samurai crabs. Crabs that most resembled a samurai were most likely to live. Check out this explanation by popular scientist Carl Sagan.

2) Muscles and guts
This is the most boring of the arguments. Apparently there are at least a dozen other species of crab around the world that also have human faces on their shells. The theory here is that although the ridges and lines on the crab’s shell might seem to form faces, they are actually positioned to protect muscles and organs underneath the shell, and have nothing to do with samurai warriors.

3) Ghosts!
The crabs are indeed reincarnations of the drowned warriors, and these warriors live, even today, on the sea floor, ruling the depths of the ocean…

Which theory do you think is true?

Other posts you might enjoy:

Could Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak really make someone invisible?

How to write a synopsis: four big secrets and an example

8 cool myths about dogs, and why the inugami dog-god didn’t make it

How to keep your New Year Resolution: Papier mache daruma dolls


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Awesome fun with Kappa and Tanuki

Kappa and Tanuki celebrate Christmas - DCcardWant to see just how ubiquitous yokai demons are in Japanese culture?

Check out the awesome tanuki and kappa animations and resources the Tokyo-Mitsubishi bank put together as part of an advertising campaign for their DC card.

The ads feature a shape-shifting tanuki and a (traditionally) blood-hungry kappa. And they’re very cute!

(I can’t imagine any Australian bank advertising their credit card using a vampire or werewolf, can you?)

But seriously, if you’re into cute, or you’re interested in Japanese culture, you should check out the animations in particular (an example here). They are super-cute and the manga-like voice bubbles are a great resource for learning Japanese.

Cherry blossum viewing with Kappa and Tanuki DC cardYou can download short movies, desktop art, icons and stationary templates.

Don’t forget to scroll through the menu at the bottom of each page for extra options.