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Yokai are mysterious beings that are the causes of life’s daily annoyances and unexplainable occurrences, and are most of them are invisible to the human eye.They are generally based off of Japanese folklore and inanimate objects.The appearances of Yōkai vary, they can span from the Kappa (River Child), a creature about the size of a child that has a turtle shell and a bird beak, to Kasa-obake, an umbrella monster that has one eye, one foot and a long tongue. Although most Yōkai are invisible, some can be seen by humans so they can cause “Maximum mischief”.
“Yōkai (妖怪?, ghost, phantom, strange apparition) are a class of supernatural monsters in Japanese folklore.” - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y%C5%8Dkai
The Idea of Yōkai first came from the Edo period in Japan. At that time, they weren't called "Yōkai," but something more like phenomenon that surpasses human knowledge.Yōkai are normally blamed for ordinary things, such as randomly falling into water on the side of a river, or hearing footsteps behind you in the middle of the night.
“A yōkai can refer to a number of things, from a supernatural creature, being, ghost, demon, spirit, happening, monster, or even a human, animal, object or any worldly thing that exhibits or acquires supernatural power or appearance."
The Yōkai can be compared with ghosts or demons, due to the fact that they are invisible, and that some Yōkai are the spirits of dead humans. But there is one difference between Yōkai and ghosts/demons: MOST (not all, for there are some harmful in existence. For example, a kappa (to the right) is harmless unless angered or provoked) do not want to hurt/kill humans. Some are even shy, and avoid human contact.
“The word yōkai is made up of the kanji for "bewitching; attractive; calamity" and "apparition; mystery; suspicious".”
The idea of Yōkai were originally based off unexplainable phenomenon.
I can infer that this was the case because Japan was isolated from the rest of the world during the time Yōkai were created. perhaps Yōkai were a way to justify unexplainable occurrences that the people of Japan couldn't explain.
Most of these creatures are connected to Japanese culture, for example the classic Japanese demon,f the Namahage, has a less harmful Yōkai counterpart, the Oni.
“Men dressed as namahage, wearing ogre-like masks and traditional straw capes (mino) make rounds of homes, in an annual ritual of the Oga Peninsula area of the Northeast region. These ogre-men masquerade as kami looking to instill fear in the children who are lazily idling around the fire.”
-(Wikipedia - Japanese folklore)
Modern Use Today
I see Yōkai today in the hit anime, Youkai Watch. Youkai watch was a major hit in Japan, and now they are bringing it over to America. It is now airing on the channel “Disney XD.”