top of page

One morning, you wake up and find a sharp but painless cut on your arm that seemingly appeared during the night. For a moment, your doughy head wonders how it happened – I don’t have a cat or any animal of that kind in my household. I don’t have anyone sleeping next to me. Did I happen to scratch myself while I was in dreamland? Well, it is neither bleeding nor painful. Nah, it is nothing serious, probably done by kamaitachi. Let’s wake up and wash my face...

In Japanese folklore, this sort of harmless yet distinct cut that appears without one’s knowledge is attributed to an imaginative species called kamaitachi (kama/sickle + itachi/weasel), a hybrid creature with weasel whose hands are sickles, who appears riding on the wind and cuts people with its hands leaving a visible but painless slit. Kamaitachi is one of the hundreds that are classified under the term yōkai, a word composed of yō (bewitching; attractive; calamity) and kai (apparition; spectre; strange; mystery; suspicious). In contemporary Japanese culture, yōkai is a handy concept to encompass virtually all the unaccountable, strange phenomena as well as monsters, spirits, ghosts, demons, supernatural entities and creatures. There are countless yōkai with elaborated characterisation which have been developed over long periods of time. They could be in humanoid figures, animals, plants, objects, hybrid imaginative creatures or architectures, while others don’t accompany discernible shapes. Some are naughty, malicious or mischievous, while others are friendly and helpful. Some appear as a bad omen, others as a good one. Some exercise supernatural abilities such as shapeshifting, while others don’t. There is even a kind that does neither harm nor good, just residing so comfortably and rightly wherever they appear.


bottom of page