Discovering Kyoto: Yokai Street
The more time one spends in Kyoto, there more shall be discovered. For long term stay travelers coming to study in Kyoto, work at a Japanese company, intern at a local firm or research at a Kyoto institution, this has been the case in the past. Sometimes our residents even discovered things our staff was unaware of. Short term stay travelers in Kyoto however, usually having more time on their hands, there is plenty to discover as well. Whichever be the case, there is one place we have never heard our residents mention discovering, so today we briefly introduce it here. A place so mysterious it keeps one of Kyoto city’s dark period in history, we are referring to the Yokai Street, just about a 20 minute walk away from SAKURA HOUSE KYOTO.
During summer in Japan, particularly during the Obon festivities when past relatives come visit the world of the living, it is common to gather at night with friends or family and share some ghost stories, sending shivers down the spine and keeping everybody cool from the season heat. Part of these stories may certainly include the “yokai”, these are supernatural monsters from the Japanese folklore, and they can either be good or bad. One thing is for sure, their unconventional appearance may make anyone jump from their seat.
The Yokai Street, also known as Taishogun Shotengai located in Ichijo Dori street and close to Kitanotenmangu Shrine, is a 400 meter long arcade of shops lined up, like most neighborhoods have. However, here, shops have their own handmade yokai monster at the store entrance to keep with the tradition and enchantment of this street.
Its history dates all the way back to the Koho Period (964-968) back when Kyoto was known as Heian-kyo. During this time, there was a massive cleaning all around Kyoto and in effect many old tools were thrown away. Belief has it that after a tool reaches its 100 years of creation, it starts to gain life, and if not disposed of properly, it can come back to hunt the owner. This was the case with most of the tools disposed of at this time and as tools were angered, they transformed into yokai monsters. Filled with rage they paraded through the night in what is known as the Hyakki Yagyo, or the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. The location of this parade was of course the current location of the Yokai Street. This parade also continues today every year with several neighboring participants and school children dressing up in their own handmade yokai costumes, resembling the amazing and amusing Hyakki Yagyo.
Also, for those too afraid to attend the parade, there is a yokai market taking place every year with yokai related goods available and some unusual antique items as well. The “Mononoke Ichi”, or “ghost market”, is a great way to get some unique souvenirs to take back home and impress the family or friends.
Other things to do in this street is visiting some of the shops and enjoying their interior and unique goods, like yokai shaped bread, mosnter masks and of course, delicious ramen shops.
Whether it be during a long term stay or a short term stay, we certainly recommend visiting this street both during the day and during the night, and most definitely advise to see the parade held around October each year, for the opportunity to get unique pictures and take a look at other aspects of the history of ancient Kyoto.