One thing about learning a foreign language like Japanese: words don’t always match up neatly, and it’s not uncommon to have a word or concept that can’ t be easily mapped to English. Take the word youkai (yoh-kai), the traditional ghosts, demons and spirits of Japan’s ancient past, which could be collectively translated as “folk monsters” if you like. The term youkai covers everything from magical shape shifting animals to ogres to the magical creatures Kappa and Tengu, and these beasties are quite common in Japanese popular culture. Other traditional creatures include the horrifying Kuchisake Onna (“Slit-Mouth Woman”) and my own favorite, Miss Hanako of the Toilet, an urban legend about the ghost of a girl who haunts the fourth stall of a certain girl’s bathroom at every elementary school in the country. If you’re interested in traditional scary monsters of Japan, we’ve got several excellent books for you to check out.
Traditional youkai spirits are hard to translate into English.