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Yokai (ghosts and supernatural)

Yōkai-themed Japanese prints remain among the hottest, highly desirable subject matter depicted in ukiyo-e. Yōkai, translated literally as the "supernatural", are often depicted as having animal features, such as wings or snouts, along with their humanoid forms. Yōkai can range from vengeful angry spirits to mischievous trouble-causing creatures, or even helpful and friendly to people. Among the most popular folklore of yōkai is their ability to shape-shifting. Also known as obake and bakemono these spirits can suddenly change forms from inanimate objects, and normal humanoids into vengeful spirits haunting the living.

Stories of Yōkai and other supernatural entities can be found in almost every Asian culture. In what likely began as a rich oral tradition passed down over generations, yōkai were often told to children as a way of teaching morality, right and wrong, and other popular Asian superstitions, much like the Western cliché, "the boy who cried wolf". 

Yōkai (妖怪, "strange apparition") are a class of supernatural entities and spirits in Japanese folklore. The word yōkai is composed of the kanji for "attractive; calamity" and "apparition; mystery; suspicious."[1][2] Yōkai are also referred to as ayakashi (あやかし), mononoke (物の怪) or mamono (魔物). Despite often being translated as such, yōkai are not literally demons in the Western sense of the word, but are instead spirits and entities. Their behavior can range from malevolent or mischievous to benevolent (friendly, fortuitous, or helpful) to humans.

Yōkai often have animal features (such as the kappa, depicted as appearing similar to a turtle, and the tengu, commonly depicted with wings), but may also appear humanoid in appearance, such as the kuchisake-onna. Some yōkai resemble inanimate objects (such as the tsukumogami), while others have no discernible shape. Yōkai are typically described as having spiritual or supernatural abilities, with shapeshifting being the most common trait associated with them. Yōkai that shapeshift are known as bakemono (化け物) or obake (お化け).

Japanese folklorists and historians explain yōkai as personifications of "supernatural or unaccountable phenomena to their informants." In the Edo period, many artists, such as Toriyama Sekien, invented new yōkai by taking inspiration from folk tales or purely from their own imagination. Today, several such yōkai (such as the amikiri) are mistaken to originate in more traditional folklore.[3]

Courtesy Wikipedia

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