It’s fascinating how Japanese mythical creatures come in uniquely different forms—from shape-shifting animals like mythical foxes to bitter spirits. Many Japanese myths have become part of popular culture. No matter the level of a creature’s impossible existence, each one will fuel your imagination.

1. Kitsune (Fox)

Known as a clever trickster, the Kitsune or fox is intelligent and people believe they have supernatural abilities. Some think that foxes are celestial beings that link with the deity Inari, the kami or god of rice. Inari is a god relating to general prosperity. You can see this type of fox in a Jinja or Shinto Shrine, a home for one or more kami. In addition, this fox can also be called a zenko or a good fox. The zenko have the power to ward off evil. Furthermore, foxes are sometimes guardian spirits or messengers to gods.

2. Yatagarasu (Three-legged Crow)

Crows are usually connected with death and darkness. Despite this, there are still people who view them as positive entities. A Yatagarasu or a three-legged crow is a symbol of the sun for a long time. It is a spiritual creature and a helper to Amaterasu, the sun goddess. Much like ikebana, the three legs of the Yatagarasu represent one characteristic. These are the sky or heaven, the earth, and finally, humankind. This means that all three look up to the same sun and connect like siblings.

3. Ryu (Dragon)

One of the most represented Japanese mythical creatures is the Ryu or dragon. Dragons are mythical creatures from many cultures. In Japan, dragons relate to water as kings and protectors of marine life. The dragon is frequently on fountains for purification before entering Shinto temples. Additionally, emperors and heroes commonly carve their emblems with dragons. Another one of its uses is to decorate temples. Thus, acting as a tangible symbol of obstacles humans go through every day. As a result, overcoming these obstacles may grant people enlightenment.

In Japanese culture, a dragon is a symbol of strength, courage, and magic. Unlike in western mythology, Japanese dragons are wingless but most are able to fly. They can fly because of the knot on their heads called the Chi’ih muh or the Dragon Pearl.

Japanese mythical creatures are spread all over Japan and possibly the whole world. They could be your neighbor in Japan or a Japanese friend you meet online. There are still plenty of other Japanese mythical creatures out there; some are depicted in movies and anime. One of which is Kurama, the nine-tailed fox most of you grew up with! Another mythical creature would be Haku, the river dragon spirit and force of nature in Spirited Away. All these myths bring color and beauty back to nature.