The idea behind the book was to paint the images of 100 of these yokai and pair them up with descriptive text regarding the folklore around them in English. A project that was well executed and I am the proud owner of a copy of the book (it has subsequently been made available for general purchase on Amazon.
The book is generally presented as a two page spread, one page covering the text of the yokai, and the other a full page painting done by the books author. All the paintings are in the same style, and it is a style that suits the sometimes whimsical nature of the subject matter.
What does this have to do with a role-playing blog? Well one of the reasons I got it, apart from an interest in Japanese history and folklore, was to use it to breathe colour in my Legend of the Five Rings games. While not all of the creatures in the book of of use to a game such as L5R (some are just silly, as is normal for much of folklore,) some will definitely find their way to my gaming table.
There are several that disguise themselves as women, some are good natured and some just want to eat young men (great for populating a mysterious geisha house in the middle of nowhere.) There are various ghosts and spirits, many demons and servants of hell, and a lot of just playful supernatural wildlife.
Some of my favourite include;
- Tsurube-otoshi. Giant disembodied heads that lurk in treetops and leap on top of prey with sadistic glee to squash them and then eat them
- Jubokko - human eating trees that have developed from the sites of great battles and bloodshed. Snatching their prey in their long branches they suck every nutrient from the victim leaving only dried out bones to gather around their base. Very suited to L5R I think, especially in the Shadowlands.
- Wa-nyudo. Rolling flaming wheels with a fearsome shaved mans head for a hub that roll along looking to devour the souls of the wicked and take them back to hell
- And of course everyone loves kappa. Mischievous child like reptilians with a depression on their head that must remain filled with water and a love of cucumber
It's a great book, obviously put together from a love of the subject by the author. Great for those who are interested in the subject matter, though it isn't cheap. If you want it as inspiration for a supernatural Japanese game such as an L5R game or the like, then it definitely has its uses but may be stretching the worth slightly if you don't have a broader interest as I don't believe everything would be usable.
If you'd like to see more images, or find out more about the book or author, then you can visit their website at http://www.matthewmeyer.net/