Yokai in sake

You're probably familiar with Yokai, supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore. They are described as malevolent or mischievous spirits who symbolize everyday troubles or unusual events. They can take the form of an animal, a human, or even an object.
Yokai, creatures of Japanese folklore

If you think you've never heard of them, you've certainly seen them in film or literature, without even knowing they were them.

Famous yokai
Among the best-known yokai is Zashiki Warashi, a childlike household spirit. He brings prosperity to the home and brings misfortune as soon as he leaves it. Then there's Ittan-Momen, a tsukumogami (or "Yokai object") made from a piece of cotton. It flies at night and attacks humans by suffocating them.the famous Japanese Yokai

Or how about Rokurokubi, an ordinary person during the day who, when night falls, has his neck stretched or his head detached and flies free to devour people while they sleep.

Yokai in sake
As you may have gathered, Yokai are burlesque and somewhat frightening creatures. But did you know that a number of them have a direct connection with sake ?


This Yokai is an aquatic creature with a turtle shell. He lives in rivers and ponds, is known for his strength and swimming skills, and has a real obsession with cucumbers. It is said that he likes to lure children into the water, a way of calling for caution near rivers during the summer.

Yokai Kappa

Its terrifying nature has been considerably toned down over time. Kappa is now depicted as a cute creature and is even the mascot of some sake brands.

Yokai Kappa
One of the most famous Kappa stories takes place in Chigasaki. While the beast was being stalked by villagers, a resident named Gorobe decided to help it save itself. In gratitude, Kappa later gave him a large tokuri of sake, a carafe that resembled a cornucopia, since the sake flowed out of it indefinitely. Gorobe, overjoyed by this magical gift, became an alcoholic and very lazy. Only when he saw his starving horse did he realize it was time to stop drinking and get back to work.


Here's a "Yokai animal" because this giant raccoon really does exist in its natural state. It's known for its ability to change shape, transforming itself into humans or even objects. Often portrayed as a prankster, the Tanuki is represented with a straw hat, a sake gourd and a bulging belly with which it can play the drum. He is a symbol of prosperity and commercial success.The yokai Tanuki
One of the founders of horror manga, Shigeru Mizuki, recounts in a book that an evil tanuki from the Nagano region, named Fukuro-sage, can transform food into sake thanks to his long stomach.

Shuten-doji, sake-drinking boy

According to the oldest accounts, Shuten-dōji was a mythical Yokai who hid in the mountains surrounding Kyoto. After the disappearance of several young women, the emperor entrusted a group of warriors with the mission of exterminating him.yokai shuten-doji
On the way, they met four deities who advised them to disguise themselves as priests to infiltrate the Yokai's lair. The ruse succeeded, and once inside, Shuten-dōji welcomed them with sake, his favorite drink. Then one of the warriors named Raiko, in turn, offered the demon the sake provided by the gods. This had the effect of putting him to sleep and making him vulnerable enough to see his head chopped off by the hero.

Less well known, but just as terrifying

Ozake no mushi, the worm of excessive drinkers : it transforms humans into heavy sake drinkers by taking up residence in their abdomen. When its host drinks too much, it releases a multitude of other worms that parasitize the body of their victim.

Kosho, lover of sweet sake : this Yokai with the body of a snake and the face of a child lodges itself between the heart and the diaphragm, a place where neither needles nor medicines can reach it.

Haradashi, exposing his belly : jovial, he likes to have fun with others and appears around sad and lonely people, especially those who drink sake.

Summer is the Yokai season
The hot, humid nights of summer create an atmosphere conducive to get-togethers with family and friends, during which Yokai stories are told. This Japanese tradition is said to bring chills and refresh the spirits. This is also the season when many festivals (Matsuri) take place.

The best-known of these is the O bon festival, a Buddhist celebration in mid-August dedicated to spirits and ancestors. During this period, the spirits of the deceased return to the world of the living to visit their families.Tokushima Festival
The Tokushima Yokai Festival, created in 2000, is entirely dedicated to this aspect of Japanese culture. It takes place in an old elementary school surrounded by valleys. Participants bring the stories to life in a variety of ways, including the Yokai Mikoshi parade, in which people wear a shrine with Yokai motifs, but especially the Yokai Walk, in which colorful creatures roam the school.

Fascinating, isn't it ? Don't forget to think about Yokai when you're drinking sake on a summer's evening...