Who’s That Yokai? 5 Pokémon Based On Japanese Folklore

The world of Pokémon is populated by a wide variety of fantastical creatures. One of the biggest appeals of the franchise is discovering so many of these cute, bizarre and awesome looking critters. But where do Pokémon come from? Many are based on real life animals, but some have a more interesting origin. Yokai are spirits and demons that appear very frequently in Japanese folklore, and many of these beings inspired some of the Pocket-monsters we know and love.

Drowzee – Baku

It might seem creepy that Pokedex entries for Drowzee often mention that this creature eats dreams. Well, the strange diet and tapir-like appearance are similar to that of the mythical Baku. These spirits are the protectors of mankind, and evil spirits fear them. They can be found included in good luck charms throughout Japanese history.


Whiscash – Namazu

Bearing a strong resemblance to a giant catfish and having a tendency to create earthquakes, Whiscash draws heavy inspiration from a very famous creature in Japanese folklore. The Namazu lives beneath the Earth and loves to cause destruction. Kashima, a god, has to restrain the Namazu with a stone to stop it from thrashing around. But, when he slacks at this task the fish is free to move and cause devastating earthquakes.


Exeggutor – Jinmenju

Often thought of as a funny-looking monster, it might be a surprise that Exeggutor is actually based on a mythical being. The Jinmenju is a tree believed to be found in secluded mountain valleys from Japan to China, and bears fruit that looks like human faces. These faces can’t talk, but they do constantly laugh. Sometimes if the tree laughs too hard then the fruits will fall off.


Dusclops – Chochin-obake

While some might think it looks like a mummy, the Dusclops Pokémon is in fact based on a hollow Japanese paper lantern. When such a lantern has been in use for 100 hundred years, the belief is that it will come to life as a Chochin-obake. The paper splits along a ridge to create a mouth, and an eye opens up in the top. Sometimes the lantern will grow arms and legs too, just like the Dusclops.


Mawile – Futakuchi-onna

Despite being a fairy-type, this Pokémon is anything but sweet. The Mawile is inspired by the myth of the Futakuchi-onna, a woman who has been transformed into a yokai as the result of a curse. This spirit takes the form of a regular human woman, except she has a second functional mouth on the back of her head. Her hair acts like tentacles and often feeds the second mouth. On Mawile, the hair and mouth are combined.