Every culture around the world has its own creature legends. From Bigfoot to the chupacabra, these cryptids reflect the unique nature of the cultures and environments that they come from.
We’ve been guilty of focusing too much of the cryptids of North America. Let’s begin to remedy this now with a tour of Japan’s legendary creatures, collectively known as Yōkai.
One of the most famous and enduring monsters of Japan is the kappa. This river-dwelling creature looks a little bit like the Loveland Frogman, but it has a much longer history.
Kappas are about the size of a child–and, perhaps ironically, they also eat children, too. Also cucumbers, for some reason. Kappas are reptilian in appearance, although some legends give them bird-like beaks or tortoise-style shells.
No matter the other descriptions, they always have a flat, round depression in the top of the head. This saucer-like depression is filled with water, and if it ever dries up or spills, they’ll be weakened or even die. So if you find yourself enjoying a nice dip in a Japanese river someday and a water demon pops up to sumo wrestle with you, just slap the water out of his head. You’re welcome.
Japan has its own version of Bigfoot in Hibagon. This ape-like creature is said to live on Mount Hiba, where is enjoys a gentle, forest-dwelling existence. It is smaller than Bigfoot, standing about five feet tall, and is less humanoid in appearance. In fact, it has been described most often as a large monkey or gorilla that walks on two legs.
It was first spotted by school children picking wild mushrooms on Mount Hiba, which sounds like a scene from a Studio Ghibli film. This happened back in 1970, and numerous sightings of the creature continued into the next decade.
However, no one has spotted the beast since 1982. Has the Hibagon merely gone deeper into hiding–or was it perhaps an ordinary, if oversized, ape that reached the end of its lifespan? Regardless, the nearby town of Saijo continues to celebrate their homegrown cryptid–and make a buck or two off the tourists with chocolate “hibagon eggs” that look like a Cadbury Egg crossed with mochi.
Japan also has their very own lake monsters. First, there’s Kussie or Kusshii. Taking the traditional pleisosaur-like form common to lake monsters, the creature is said to live in Hokkaido’s Lake Kussharo. The lake was formed in a massive volcano caldera, and it is quite acidic because of the volcanic gases. While fish find it difficult to survive in that environment, perhaps an ancient creature like Kussie managed to thrive.
In Kyushu Island’s Lake Ikeda, we find Issie. This creature comes with its own origin story, in which a mare’s newborn foal was stolen by an evil samurai. Driven mad by grief over her lost offspring, she jumped into the lake and turned into a monster. Issie has been spotted by tourists several times over the last four decades.