While watching the gameplay reveal trailer for GhostWire: Tokyo, you might have spotted a few ghostly enemies in the background. There’s a woman in a white kimono with a hood, a headless girl, a child in a yellow raincoat, a handful of Slendermen, and people wearing demon masks… and many of these enemies, known as The Visitors in the game, are recognisable figures from Japanese folklore and urban legends.
Japan has a wealth of ghosts, demons, and spirits to choose from, and there’s been a longstanding tradition of telling ghost stories in the summer – a practice which actually does very well at giving you chills when there’s no air conditioning to hand. There was even a huge craze for telling ghost stories back in the feudal period, where friends would gather around a mirror in the dark, telling ghost stories and gradually extinguishing the lights until the completion of the hundredth story would cause spirits to appear. And let’s not forget about modern ghost stories and urban legends, like Sadako from Ring crawling out of the TV, or the terrifying kuchisake-onna, who’s a confirmed enemy you’ll face in GhostWire: Tokyo.
So while we’re yet to see some of the truly weird folklore yōkai in GhostWire: Tokyo (looking at you, giant foot that randomly shows up in your house demanding a wash), let’s take a look at the ghosts and spirits that we’ve spotted so far. But a word of warning first: some of these ghost stories can get seriously icky, so turn away now if you’re squeamish!
Watch out for lost children in yellow raincoats, because in the world of GhostWire: Tokyo, they’re best avoided. After being separated from its parents, this Visitor isn’t inherently evil (rather, it’s more mischievous), but it’s capable of calling more dangerous spirits to its aid if threatened.
Shiromuku is actually the name of the traditional white wedding kimono worn by this Visitor, who’s hiding at the end of the street here. See that massive hood? There are quite a few stories about its intended function, and nobody’s really sure which was the original. One of the most common suggests that it’s designed to hide evil spirits lurking near the bride’s hair, which checks out in the trailer when she attacks with her long tangled hair flying in every direction. According to the PlayStation Blog, this particular Visitor is a powerful supernatural manifestation of deep regret and strong feelings for her intended husband.
The kuchisake-onna is one of the creepiest urban legends you’ll come across. She’s been around since the late 70s in Japan, and most stories about her go the same way. She appears to be an ordinary woman wearing a face mask, who’ll ask you if you think she’s pretty. If you answer in the affirmative, she whips off the mask to reveal that her face is sliced around the mouth much like the Joker’s, and repeat the question. No matter what your answer is, you’ll say the wrong thing, and she’ll attack your face too… in this case with a pair of oversized scissor blades. Eww.
4. Headless ghosts
The nukekubi is a type of yōkai that can remove its head completely. While the head is capable of flying around and doing its own thing, it tends not to stray too far from its body, because if the body is moved by someone else the yōkai will never be able to reunite its two halves. So far we’ve not seen any sign of this Visitor having a nearby floating head, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye out for one. Can’t be too careful.
5. Faceless spirits
These suit-clad, umbrella-toting enemies might bear a strong resemblance to Slenderman, but it’s possible they could be a variety of nopperabō, faceless yōkai that appear to be human until you see their faces, which are completely featureless and smooth like the surface of an egg. However, in the game these Visitors do seem to have mouths. Not that that makes them any less creepy.
6. Teru Teru Bōzu
This little Visitor looks fairly cute, though it seems from the trailer that it’s going to violently attack you anyway. It bears a strong resemblance to the teru teru bōzu, which is a little paper or cloth charm that children make and hang in the window to ward off rain.
7. This strange box monster
In Japanese folklore, pretty much any object is technically capable of becoming a yōkai, and there are plenty of ways that can happen. It could be a tool that’s broken or reached the end of its useful life and got angry about it. Or maybe it’s a family heirloom that’s one hundred years old, or a once beloved toy that got callously thrown away. A monster made out of boxes is a perfectly feasible addition to the ranks of existing yōkai.
8. These people in masks
We don’t know if these folks are on our side or if they’re enemies, but we do recognise that horned demon mask the main one wears. This seems to be a stylised version of a hannya mask, which are a staple of Noh and Kyōgen theatre plays featuring female demons. Although it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot in the gameplay trailer, you can just about make out the mask on another one of these characters, which is a distorted version of the typical young woman’s mask, recognisable by the eyebrows painted high up at the top.
9. Torii gates
Strictly speaking these aren’t ghosts or spirits, but there’s still an important link. You’ll see a lot of these vermilion gates in Japan at the entrances to Shinto shrines, essentially marking the boundary between the ordinary world and a sacred space. In GhostWire: Tokyo, they seem to function as a gate between the human world and the spirit world. You’ll be cleansing them of evil energies to prevent more Visitors from coming through.