Obake (jap. お化け) or bakemono (jap. 化け物) - yōkai, supernatural creatures, beings found in Japanese folklore. The name comes from the verb bakeru meaning: to change, take shape/form, transform, change appearance.

Bakemono translates as ghost, specter, spook, or mummy. These phantoms share the ability to change their form, appearance.

However, the term obake may be synonymous with the word yūrei, which means, among other things, the spirit of a dead person.

Bakemono can be animals such as fox (kitsune), raccoon (tanuki), badger (mujina), shape-shifting cat (bakeneko), but also plant spirits such as kodama or inanimate objects possessing a soul in shintō or other animistic beliefs.

Obake derived from household objects are often called tsukumo-gami.

A bakemono usually takes the form of a human or appears in a frightening form, such as hitotsu-me-kozō (a one-eyed bogeyman, a small cyclops), nyūdō (a ghost with a shaved monk's head, among others), ō-nyūdō (a large monster), or nopperabō (an oval face without eyes, nose, or mouth).

In everyday usage, all strange apparitions can be called bakemono or obake, making these words synonymous with the word yōkai.

Obake In Hawaii

Due to the large influx of Japanese immigrant populations to the Hawaiian islands, the term obake found its way into the Creole vocabulary of the local population.

Some Japanese stories about the creatures were carried over into the beliefs of the Hawaiian population: numerous kappa "sightings" on the islands have been reported, and a Japanese ghost face called nopperabō became well known in Hawaii under the name mujina.

This confusion was most likely caused by a short story by Lafcadio Hearn, entitled: "Mujina," in which he first introduces this character into Western culture. It tells of a badger (mujina) that took the form of a nopperabō.

Hawaiian folklorist Glen Grant was known for his "Obake Acts," a series of reports on supernatural occurrences in Hawaii. A large number of these incidents and reports were of Japanese origin or involved obake.


The word mujina is an ambiguous word. In some regions of Japan, it is synonymous with tanuki (raccoon). It can also be synonymous with anaguma or Japanese badger.

In L. Hearn's short story "Mujina" neither tanuki nor mujina are phantom animals. Besides the frightened protagonist, there are two characters: a crying girl and a soba noodle street vendor.

Both are typical nopperabō; they have no faces. So the title seems to refer to these scarecrows.



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