Japan’s native Yokai monsters can be almost anything—haunted trees, magical cats, transformed rats, or vengeful ghosts of slaughtered warriors. Or they can be food. Maybe animals who are sick of being overeaten. Or mysterious bugs that get into your system and infect you like a disease.
I put this series together for American Thanksgiving, to showcase some of Japan’s more bizarre yokai and as a cautionary tale for those tempted to over-indulge in their favorite foods. After all, eating a few soft-shelled turtles or savoring some salted horse meat is perfectly natural and fine. But consuming it by the hundreds invites ghostly revenge.
Click Each Title to Read the Full Story of Each Yokai
Sazae are a delicacy in Japan. The official English translation is “turban shell,” but they are more like a type of sea snail. And they are delicious. This tale of the Sazae Oni is something that would probably never associate with a sea snail—a shape-shifting supernatural seductress who boards and beds a ship full of men, then robs them of something very previous indeed.
This yokai disease starts as a small bump on your stomach, but soon enlarges into an angry red boil. The one day, the boil explodes into a giant mouth that speaks in your own voice and demands to be fed. This insatiable mouth will eat everything in the house unless it is stopped, slowly starving its host to death.
Being a connoisseur can be a good thing, but being a glutton is another thing all together. This is a tale of three friends who loved the taste of turtle flesh, and went from restaurant to restaurant like Edo period foodies eating all of the turtles they could. One night they spotted a new restaurant, but the chef has a little surprise in store for them.
Another tale of too many turtles. This one from a husband and wife who owned a popular turtle restaurant and who slaughtered and served up turtles by the hundreds. One day, the turtles decided enough was enough, and turned the tables. Illustrated Japan’s most famous artist, Katsushika Hokusai.
Choji was a man who loved salted horse meat. And he loved it a lot. He owned a herd of 300 horse, and ate them down to the last one. When he was about to eat on his final horse—an old, beaten down old thing without an ounce of edible meat on him—his gluttony was finally undone. Choji was treated to an excruciating feast.
A classic story—a man goes out drinking one night and brings home a slender, sexy woman. After a night of passion, they fall asleep exhausted. The next morning the man is shocked to find out that he is not in bed with a beautiful woman, but a giant mound of flesh the size of four woman. Somehow, over the night, he bedmate caught the yokai disease nebutori-the sleeping fatty.