The rich folklore of Japan is comprised of many supernatural traditions, all woven into a colorful and terrifying tapestry of diverse spirits known collectively as yurei.

Some yurei are more fearful than others, but all represent the persistent belief that every human being has a soul, or reikon.

Souls become spiritual protectors of those they had loved in life and are satisfied as long as proper care has been taken for funeral rites. In the case of traumatic death or the absence of proper final rituals, the reikon can become a negative force.

Two female ghostly manifestations are known as Onryo and Ubume.

Onryo are women who in life were abused by their lovers. Although they seek vengeance on their tormentors, they rarely do actual harm.

Hatred and sorrow bind them to the world of the living, keeping them in eternal limbo and making them perfect fodder for ghost and horror films.

Ubume are women clad in robes of white with unbound, unkempt hair who have died either in childbirth or without providing properly for their children.

These ghosts become in limbo what they couldn’t be in life, acting as guardian angels for their forsaken children. They are known to leave clues of their presence, such as coins or small gifts that transform into dead leaves after discovery.

The most dangerous of the yurei are the Goryo — malicious and vengeful spirits who were members of the ruling class. They are known to have terrible powers ranging from the ability to destroy crops to causing natural disasters.

Funayurei, or ship ghosts, represent those who perished at sea. They seek both the company and creation of others of their ilk and are known to approach fishing vessels, pretending their ghost ship is sinking. A funayurei asks for a bucket and, according to legend, uses it to drown all those on board.

Child ghosts, known as zashhiki-warashi, live in fancy homes and usually appear as five-year-old children with bobbed hair and reddish faces. They are not dangerous, but rather bratty, demanding attention from the owners of the homes they inhabit. Despite their mischievous nature, these ghosts are considered omens of good luck and impending riches.

So, remember that we are all are being watched.

No good deed goes unrewarded and…no bad one unpunished.






M Dee Dubroff is the penname of this freelance writer and former teacher originally from Brooklyn, New York. A writer of ghostly and horror fiction, she has branched out into the world of humorous non fiction writing and maintains eight web sites covering a wide variety of topics. She also writes feature articles for several local newspapers. Her book entitled: A Taste of Funny, and her website, Eat, Drink And Really Be Merry ( feature many well researched and humorous articles on the subject of food and drink.