Yokai (Japanese Monster) Profile: Okami (The Legendary Japanese Wolf)

Hey guys, Michael here!

Today I share with you another Yōkai profile! One that is NOT currently in our panel presentation on Japanese monsters. A gift for our friends at Tokyo In Tulsa. DC & I will be there again this year and this year we will be presenting two panels: “The Monster Guys present Yōkai: Classic, Creepy, and Outrageous Monsters in Japanese Culture” as well as “Bully-Free Zone: Answering the Bully Epidemic”.

In our recent yōkai panel at Anime Festival Wichita 9, we did not have time to go over the magnificent ōkami, or wolf. Which is sad, because wolves rock, right?

Well, here’s an extra Yōkai profile for you…


Unlike kitsune (foxes), tanuki (raccoon dogs), nekomata (two-tailed cats), kamaitachi (weasels), or other animal monsters, the wolf of Japan was not a mischievous or trickster creature. He was honest and no-nonsense. Much respect was given to the ōkami, and still is today, though as far as we know all species of wolves are extinct in Japan. (To great dismay.)

(It is notable that wolves, particularly the Honshu wolf, have become cryptids. Although they were said to go extinct in 1906, there have been many sightings on the species after that date, some with substantially more evidence, but none of it has been proven just yet. *Insert suspenseful piano music here* Do wolves still roam Japan, or is it only haunted by their ghosts!?)

There is one tasty wolf legend that I would like to share with you, particularly because it has a classic fairytale duality.


The yama-inu (mountain dog) is a ghostly wolf that is said to haunt lonely mountain roads

Okami, Japanese legend

This guy=screwed. Photo credit, © Matthew Meyer. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

(Again, what is with Japan’s abandoned roads? If you attend our Yōkai panels, you know what I mean.).

Many people report that if you feel like you are being watched while going over one of these roads, it is because a yama-inu is stalking you. At this point, there is only one thing that can save you from the beast.

Ready for it?


No, really. That’s it. Don’t trip!

Legend says that if you trip or fall while being watched by the yama-inu, the wolf spirit will pounce on you and tear you to shreds. However, if you stand fast it will respect you and leave you alone, very much like an actual wolf.

Here’s where the duality comes in:  the yama-inu’s other name okuri-inu, which means “escorting dog.”

If you pray to the yama-inu, or if you happen to be a lost person or a small child, the yama-inu will not stalk you but rather guide you out of the mountain road.

Pretty nifty, eh?

Just don’t forget to pay your respects to the kami and say thanks for, you know, not being ripped to shreds.

Want to learn about some more Japanese monsters and spirits?

Come visit us (DC & Michael McGannon, a.k.a. – The Monster Guys) next weekend! We will be speaking in our hometown, downtown, at Tokyo in Tulsa 2013. I think this year at TnT is going to be an absolute BLAST. Drop by for some laughs, awesome cosplay, the American debut of the Japanese all-girl metal band, DESTROSE, and, of course, famed showers of tootsie rolls from The Monster Guys!

Discover more about DC & Michael McGannon recent series of dark fantasy/adventure novels at www.MonsterHunters-TheBook.com. Book 1: The Varcolac’s Diary and Book 2: Witch Moon are both available now!

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