Bakeneko – 化け猫 29. March 2023

In Japan, there is a wide variety of cats that can be found everywhere. Like other animals (or even objects), cats develop supernatural abilities when they reach a great age (in this case, over 13 years) or gain weight (over 3.75 kg) and become a Yōkai. One type of Yōkai that cats can become is the Bakeneko. A telltale sign that a cat will soon transform into a Bakeneko is a tail that grows longer. In the past, many cat owners used to cut off their cats’ tails at a young age to prevent them from turning into Yōkai. However, in some stories, consuming their owner’s blood when he has just been murdered also causes them to transform.

The appearance

Bakeneko, like other Yōkai, have the ability to change their shape. They like to show themselves as a conventional cat or slip into the form of a human, with a preference for that of their owner. They are known to tie scarves around their heads and dance around in this form. Many even learn the human language, so that the imitation is hardly to be seen through.

The behavior

However, Bakeneko are a great danger for the house they live in and the neighborhood. They can eat things many times larger than themselves, and with their transformation into a Yōkai, their favorite food changes to human flesh. Usually, the owner is the first to suffer and disappear. But this tends to go unnoticed as the Bakeneko simply pretends to be him. If the Bakeneko doesn’t kill its householder right away, it can still tighten it with curses. Another power of the Bakeneko is the conjuring of fire. In some stories, they are fireballs floating in the air, in others, they carry the fire on the tip of their tail. Thus it happens again and again that they set whole houses on fire. As if that were not enough, they also possess the gift of necromancy. They can bring the newly dead back to life and control them like puppets for their own purposes.

The Legend

One story tells of Tasaku Genbei, who one day noticed that his old mother began to behave strangely. In contrast to the past, she had become withdrawn and avoided contact with other people. She also took her meals only alone and in closed rooms. During the same period, the family’s beloved pet cat also disappeared. One evening, Tasaku managed to watch his mother eating dinner through a crack in the door. However, he was startled to see a huge cat-like monster sitting on the bed in place of his mother, wearing his mother’s clothes and chewing on foul animal carcasses. Completely horrified, Tasaku drew his sword and severed the monstrosity’s head with one blow. On the spot, the creature transformed back into the missing house cat. Tasaku and the servants then began to search the house and finally found the neatly gnawed bones of the mother under loose floorboards.

Get your T-shirt here!

« Kitsune – 狐
Yuki onna – 雪女 »